We dedicate our learning today for all who need quick refuah, parnassah- successful livelihood and ‘Yiddishe nachas’. May Hashem answer all our prayers l’tovah! May we all come closer to Hashem b’ahavah ub’simcha. Amen.
We humbly ask everyone- please continue to daaen for the health unity of Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael. May we all be blessed to be conscious of our holy missions in life and let us guard our tongues and ears from 'lashon hara' - evil talk and slander.
Love and blessings to you all from Yerushalayim Have a wonderful Shabbos and a very healing Iyar b'ahavah ubivracha Sholom
תּוֹרַת יְהוָה תְּמִימָה מְשִׁיבַת נָפֶש
עֵדוּת יְהוָה נֶאֱמָנָה מַחְכִּימַת פֶּתִי
The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:8
Says the holy Rebbe Moshe Alsich, this parsha is to be learned as a manual for healing the soul of its wounds. (רבי משה אלשיך הקדוש , also spelled Alshech, (1508–1593), known as the Alshich Hakadosh (the Holy), was a prominent rabbi, preacher, and biblical commentator in the latter part of the 16th century, in the holy city of Tzfat.)
The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that this is also revealed in the very name of the parsha - תזריע - 'when a woman will give forth seed'. Even though much of the parsha is about the afflictions and the טומאה of 'tzara-at', it's really all about seeds of healing.
The Talmud teaches that man is able to recognize all afflictions, except for those of his own! (Mishana, Nega'im 2:5) The greater one is, the greater the danger of not seeing his own afflictions. Therefore Hashem in His compassion brings on signs to alert man, that he is 'off' and that he needs to do 'tshuvah'. Initially, these signs are very subtle. in the Talmud we find a discussion about the minimal definition of suffering: "Mar, the son of Rabina, said: Even if his shirt gets turned inside out. Raba (or, as others say, R. Hisda, or again, as some say. R. Isaac, or as it was said, it was taught in a Baraitha): Even if he puts the hand into his pocket to take out three [coins] and he takes out but two." (Bavli, Arakhin 16b) The Baal Shem Tov explained, that if one understands that having to put his hand back in his pocket, is a sign from above to help him correct his ways, and he does his 'tshuvah', then he needs no further afflictions. But usually we disregard such small matters and we continue in our faulty ways, thus necessitating more severe heavenly signs. It may happen that not only do we not always recognize our faults, sometimes we even justify them. It is possible that one might even consider his transgressions to be a mitzvah.
How seldom does my heart say “what have I done?” How rarely do I recognize that the soul which You have placed in me is טהורה pure; but with my own actions I have defiled her. Who will heal her of her illness?
To awaken us from our deep sleep, to arouse our thoughts, Hashem would bring on tza'ra'at an affliction that could show up on one's garments, on the walls of one's home or on one's body. Though this no longer happens in our times, hashem still comes to us in these holy verses to get us back on our feet, to heal us by revealing the truth of the afflictions of our souls.
Physical illness may be healed with medicinal herbs and plants. But afflictions of the soul, of the נשמה can only be healed from within and only by the one who is afflicted. This is seen clearly in the Torah’s use of the word המטהר – (ha-me-ta-heyr) - the one comes to purify himself, in the passage . The Kohen assits him in his purification, but it is primarily a process of self-purification. The holy Alsich points out that we should not overlook the fact that the word המטהר – (ha-me-ta-heyr) - appears eight times in the passage which teaches us the rituals of purification for the one afflicted with tza'ra'at. Only after the מצורע the one afflicted with tza'ra'at' has healed because of his sincere desire and efforts to do tshuvah, to 'cleanse and purify himself', only then are the sacrificial rituals performed.
Hashem gives Himself to us in His perfect whole Torah, to teach us דעת “daa’at” knowledge- to ‘know’ how to ‘connect' with Him, with one another and with ourselves; to be attentive with mind and with heart as to ‘how are we living our lives’ day and night. And we pray that we shall not rest from examining our paths, and that we shall continuously seek to heal our souls of the ills which our transgressions have hung over our neshamot souls. It's all for the sake of bringing us closer to Hashem; all for the sake of awakening us to cry out for the complete and ultimate redemption, MOSHIACH NOW!
Have a wonderful Shabbos b'simcha!! b'ahavah ubivracha Sholom
The month of אייר Iyar - Parshat Tzaria-Metzora: Teachings From Previous Years
▪ Metzora – Motzi ra – Lashon Hara – Evil talk: Collected Teachings ▪ Respect and Honour – Parshiot Tazria and Metzora and Counting the Omer ▪ Yom HaShoah ▪ Two Stories about 'LASHON HARA'
THE MONTH OF IYAR: "HE MADE THE LETTER 'VAV' וKING OVER HIRHUR"
This week we learned a beautiful teaching about the month of Iyar which began yesterday, and also relates to the parsha as we will see further on.
In the Sefer Yetzirah – The Book Of Creation it says concerning the month of Iyar: "He made the letter 'VAV' ו king over hirhur – impulsive thought." I always wondered what was meant by the phrase "He made the letter … king over..." Each of the twelve months of the lunar year has a different letter that is designated as the letter king of the month. Rav Gedalayh Shor z"l in the sefer Or Gedalyahu explains, that each month has a specific gateway, a specific gateway through which the special Divine light of the month comes down to our world. The letter that is designated as the 'king' of the month is the dominant holy energy that is particularly potent during the month. It is with the 'king letter' that we can improve our mastery over the particular attribute that is associated with each month. Nechama Nadborny, in her book The Twelve Dimensions of Israel, refers to these attributes as "the twelve varieties of soul experience," which for the month of Iyar is hirhur – thought, particularly the thought of the heart.
Thought of the heart – hirhur, is different from thought of the mind – machshavah. Thought of the heart is impulsive, it beats inside of us and is motivated by the animal soul. In general the word hirhur suggests negative thoughts. During the month of Iyar we work to achieve mastery over our impulsive thoughts – we try to improve them so that at the very least they should not conflict with the desires of our divine souls. The Talmud says that the power of the yetzer harah – the evil inclination, is so immense that were it not for Hashem providing us with help, we would not be capable of overcoming it. What is the help that Hashem provides us with?
"He made the letter VAV king over hirhur." It is with the letter VAV that we can overcome our negative hirhur thoughts. The letter VAV is known as ot emmet – the letter of truth. Practically speaking this means that whenever we find ourselves entertaining negative thoughts, we can utilize the power of the VAV, the power of truth to re-focus ourselves, to quiet the noise of our impulsive thoughts. To do this, meditate on the deepest truth of your heart; think about whether or not your impulsive thought is 'true' to your deepest truth. If it isn't, it will quiet down and will, at least for a while, stop bothering you. For example sometimes we go crazy running after something that we think we want or need, our minds become totally preoccupied with fulfilling our desire, so much so that we find it hard to concentrate on anything else. Meditating on your deepest truth, on the deepest truth of your being, will/can give you tranquility.
The letter VAV is shaped like the spine and represents the drawing down of Hashem's light from the spiritual realm into the physical realm. Meditating on the VAV is to meditate on connecting ourselves with Hashem, with Hashem's truth and bringing it down into our hearts, into the chamber of hirhur – the chamber of bewildering and impulsive thought. This is the help that Hashem is providing particularly in the month of Iyar. Iyar is the month of transition from Pessach to Shavuot, the month for preparing our vessels to receive Hashem's light, the light of Torah. When we align ourselves with the truth, everything else about us is balanced and we can have tranquility of the heart.
The underlying theme of this week's parsha teachings is the importance of self-improvement in thought, speech and action, in particular the importance of not speaking badly about another – lashon hara, and about examining our deepest thoughts. The following teachings are selections from previous years. The above teaching on the month of Iyar and the letter VAV provides us with a powerful tool for implementing the values of this week's Torah reading.
The prohibition against “lashon hara” is found in Vayikra 19:16 טז לֹא-תֵלֵךְ רָכִיל בְּעַמֶּיךָ, לֹא תַעֲמֹד עַל-דַּם רֵעֶךָ: אֲנִי, יְהוָה.
16 Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people; neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.
Interetingly, this verse is preceded by the commandment to judge righteously: טו לֹא-תַעֲשׂוּ עָוֶל, בַּמִּשְׁפָּט--לֹא-תִשָּׂא פְנֵי-דָל, וְלֹא תֶהְדַּר פְּנֵי גָדוֹל: בְּצֶדֶק, תִּשְׁפֹּט עֲמִיתֶךָ.
15 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment; thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor favour the person of the mighty; but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.
The commentators ask why are these two mitzvot juxtaposed? One of the lessons that I learned [I think it was in the Malbim or possibly in Rav Hirsch’s commentary] is that often when one thinks that he has not been given a fair judgement in court or in life, he is tempted to speak lashon hara [bad mouth] against the ones he thinks treated him badly. He feels like he is a victim and so he lashes out with his tongue.
When Hashem confronted Adam over eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam spoke lashon hara against Chava, blaming her for what he himself did. Oh how often do we say or think ‘it’s not my fault, I’m a victim of ….’ and we have so many ways to fill in the blank, don’t we?
Lashon hara is a great spiritual poison, whether you are speaking it, or listening to it, or accepting it or even thinking it. Whether it is about another or even about yourself it is very bad for our souls. Reb Shlomo explained that according to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, there is nothing wrong with speaking lashon hara, after it is the truth. But according to the Tree of Life it is totally wrong to speak or listen to lashon hara. Tree of Knowledge lashon hara talk is all about the past; being trapped in the past. Tree of Life is about the freedom to improve your life and the lives of others by doing tshuvah.
Suppose one had a very difficult childhood and now as an adult he feels that he is not achieving as much as he would have liked to, or that he has not managed to grow as a person, neither psychologically nor spiritually. And along the way on the journey of his life he has even developed some negative character traits. Though he really would like to be free he feels enslaved to his jealousy, lust and pursuit of honor, which he blames on the bad deal he has been dealt in life. Though he may have been or actually was a victim in the past, so long as he continues to live in the lashon hara of the past, he is thinking like and remains a victim. He is eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Good and Evil. Until he will connect himself to the Tree of Life, he will remain a slave, and will fail to manifest his highest self.
Hashem is the only completely free being. Reb Shlomo zt”l taught that to be free you have to be connected with Hashem, it is He who gives us the gift of freedom. To be free is to be free to be the most beautiful person that you can be. To be free is to be in touch with your holy Divine soul and allow it to shine and permeate in every aspect of your life. Through Torah and Mitzvot studied and done with love and fear of Hashem we connect deeply with Him, we are filled with joy and our souls manifest themselves in our lives.
How do we re-connect with the Tree of Life? This is where tshuvah comes in. My friend Reb Cliff explains: “instead of thinking 'life is happening TO YOU, think "life is happening FOR YOU!" Instead of seeing yourself as a 'victim' of circumstances, learn to see everything as opportunities for tshuvah, opportunities to make your life better and returning to the home of your soul!" Yes it is true that we have to deal with harsh and unpleasant experiences in life. But we must remember, even when we utterly do not understand why these occurred, they are prompts to do tshuvah, to make things better, to come closer to your real self and to Hashem.
We have to learn how to do all this. Getting out of Mitzrayim, getting out of victimhood thinking, is a lifelong step by step journey. Sometimes we may move one step forward and fall back two, THE MAIN THING IS NOT TO GIVE UP. Each moment is an opportunity to learn more. Find friends who are supportive; be a supportive friend. Don’t stop caring about your soul, or about others. Love and seek Shalom – for yourself and for others. Be strong in your connection with Hashem and you will be free and able to love more and more people.
May we all be blessed to help one another achieve this. Amen.
CONCERNING THE 'TUMMAH' OF THE METZORA AND LASHON-HARA
1. Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon saying: 2. When a person will have, in the skin of his flesh a spot of intense whiteness or an off-white spot, or a snow-white spot, and it forms on the skin of his body [like] the plague of 'tzara'at' he shall be brought to Aharon the Kohen, or to one of his sons, the Kohanim. 3. The Kohen shall see the plague in the skin of the flesh ... the Kohen shall see it and declare him to be 'tamei'. (Vayikra 13)
As we have already learned the 'tzara'at' that the Torah is talking about, is not the leprosy we know of today. Rather, the Talmud explains that this condition of 'tzara'at' was a physical manifestation of a spiritual disease. The Talmud tells us further that this 'tzara'at' did not occur for a very long time in history. Eventually when we became less attuned spiritually, Hashem stopped giving us such overt physical signs to mend our ways.
The Rabbis in the Talmud teach that the affliction of 'tzara'at' would come about because of the transgression of speaking lashon-harah, evil talk about another and because of 'spilling innocent blood' [murder, embarrassing someone in public, taking your anger out on someone]. Relish Larkish says, "Read the word "Metzora" as "motzee-rah", speaking out evil talk. [Eyrechin 15b.]
In Biblical times, a person who spoke lashon-harah would first be afflicted with 'tzara'at' on the walls of his house. If he learned his lesson from this then it would stop there. But if not, then the 'tzara'at would move to his garments, and if he continued to speak lashon-harah, then it would move to his body. The consequence of being in this state of 'tummah' was most severe in that the "Metzora" had to remain isolated outside all three camps, as it says "Ba-dadd yeishev mi-chutz la-machaneh," he must stay isolated outside all [three] camps; he was not even allowed to associate with other people who were tamei, until he returned to being "tahor".
It is very interesting and very unusual that the Torah devotes two very large chapters to this topic, a total of 116 verses [out of a total of 859 verses in 'sefer Vayikra' the book of Leviticus]. The Netivot Shalom takes this as an indication that the transgression of 'lashon harah', speaking with an evil tongue, is much deeper than any other transgression that involves a prohibited physical 'action' only.
Making a firm resolution to stop 'doing' what is wrong can put an end to transgressions that involve physical acts alone. But transgressions that emanate from 'middot ra'ot' - bad character traits, and involve our 'hirhurim' - thoughts, can only be corrected by uprooting the 'evil root' that they emanate from. Even if one manages to be completely 'self-disciplined' such that he does not transgress in any way, nevertheless, as long as he has not yet uprooted the evil within, he has yet to accomplish his purpose in being here. So says Reb Mendele Vitebsker in his sefer "Pri Ha'aretz".
The Zohar classifies all creation into four levels of creation, each one being higher than the other. These are: 1. "Domeim" - the inanimate creations, such as rocks etc. 2. "Tzomeyach" - that which grows, such as plants and vegetation. 3. "Chai" - that which is alive, animals etc. 4. "Medabeyr" - the one who speaks. We are classified as the "medabeyr" in the creation schema. On the verse "and He breathed into his nostrils the 'nishmat chayim', a breath of life", the Targum Onkelos translates as "ruach memallelah", a spirit that speaks. The highest expression of our essence lies in our speech.
Speaking 'lashon harah' is therefore very different from other transgressions; when speaking lashon harah we are transgressing with our most essential human characteristic. To call our attention to the importance of 'guarding our tongues' the Torah devotes a very large amount of text on this topic.
ASPECTS OF 'FIXING' LASHON HARA AND ANGER:
"Netzor L'shoncha Mey-ra" – Guard Your Tongue From Speaking Evil: Learning The Laws of Lashon hara
Great Rabbis in our generation have taught that the most powerful spiritual tool for improving ourselves and for improving our relationships with others and with Hashem is the daily study of the laws of 'lashon harah'. The Chafeytz Chayim wrote a great book called "Shmirat Halashon", which is also available in English as Guard Your Tongue, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin.
DEVELOPING A GOOD EYE
The Ishbitzer teaches that the 'Metzora' may have become leprous because of problems with anger. The best advice for this is to develop an 'ayin tovah', a good eye! There are three levels in this: First, he should desire that Hashem should bring down a flow of goodness to the world and to all of Israel. Second, even if as a result of his friend receiving abundant blessings, it were to mean that he himself would have less, nevertheless he should have a 'good eye'. Third, even if Hashem were to bring blessings to his friend only, and he himself would net get any part of it, nevertheless he should find peace and tranquility in that Hashem is blessing his friend.
This is the meaning of "tov ayin hu yevorach," - the one who possess a good eye, he shall be blessed! [Proverbs 22:9]. In other words he is blessed by having a good eye, even when he is not the recipient of the material and/or spiritual blessings. Nevertheless he will be happy that his friend was blessed according to his desires.
Joshua ben Perachya said: Provide yourself with a teacher; acquire for yourself a friend; and judge everyone favorably. Mishnah, Avot 1:6.
"There are three kinds of friends in the world. An ordinary friend sees only what you are; for that you don't need a friend. Then there's a friend who sees in you what you can be. But in the presence of a real holy friend you already are!" Reb Shlomo Carlebach ztz"l
We need good friends, friends that are striving for the best and the highest in them and in their relationships with Hashem and people. With higher and deeper levels of friendship, we are less likely to speak lashon harah, and the more we are capable of helping a friend. We are [more] open to accepting words of guidance and criticism from a good friend because we trust that hey mean well. The Lubavitcher Rebbe ztz"l explains why in the case of the Metzora, it was only the 'Kohen' who was allowed to declare whether or not the person with 'tzara'at' was tamei or not. The Torah allows only the Kohen, who is commanded to lovingly bless Hashem's nation each day, to tell a fellow Jew that he is tamei and that he would have to be outside the three camps. The Kohen would also communicate to him that he truly loves him and that he would work with him to help him do his 'tikkun' so that he could come back home.
PARSHAS METZORA- Purification
Parshas Metzora continues with the taharah – purification of the one who had been afflicted with tzara'at.
And Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: This shall be the regarding the person with tzara'at on the day of his purification; he shall be brought to the Kohen. The Kohen shall go out beyond the encampment. The Kohen shall see; and behold! The skin-eruption of tzara'at has healed from the person with tzara'at. The Kohen shall command, to take for the person undergoing purification two live, birds that are tahor, cedar wood, crimson thread and hyssop. (Vayikra 14:1-5)
Thus begins the process of 'taharah' – purification of the Metzora. As we have learned the Metzora had to leave the encampment until he was healed of his tzara'at. Now that he was healed he was required to go through a fascinating eight day purification period that involved the bringing of numerous sacrifices, Mikveh, shaving off all the hair on his head, including the beard and eyebrows. His purification and his returning to the encampment was a gradual one. The first set of sacrifices, haircutting and Mikveh took place outside the encampment. Afterwards the Metzora was allowed to return to the encampment, but still could not return home, he had to remain outside his tent for seven days. On the seventh day he would again cut his hair, wash his garments and go to the Mikveh. On the eighth day he brought three more sacrifices, and the Kohen would atone for him before Hashem and he was thus tahor. Now he could return fully to the community.
The entire taharah process of the Metzora is rich with symbolic meaning. It is a lengthy and involved taharah, with many stages to pass through before the Metzora can once again fully participate in his home and communal life.
Often we think that it is not so bad to speak lashon-harah and we even find justification for doing so. After all we are telling the truth, are we not? - so and so did do what they did, and what 'they' did was bad and by telling others about it then .... then . . . and the justifications go on and on. But the truth is otherwise! Lashon-harah is very very destructive.
The Gomorrah says that speaking lashon-harah brings harm to three people, to the one he is a speaking about, to the one who is listening and to his own self. Lashon-harah can destroy an individual, a family, a community and even a nation. It is with good reason that the taharah process for the Metzora is so involved, lengthy and gradual. This person who had done so much harm had much to learn and to heal.
Rashi explains the symbolism of the birds, the cedar wood, the crimson thread and the hyssop that were used in the initial stage of the taharah. The cedar wood, coming from a tall tree represents haughtiness of spirit. The crimson thread (dyed with color taken from worms) and the hyssop represent humility. Rashi teaches that the underlying cause of tzara'at is haughtiness of spirit, and that the cure for tzara'at lies in lowering himself like a worm and like a hyssop.
In other words the underlying cause of speaking and listening to, lashon-harah is haughtiness of spirit! We see or hear of, someone doing something bad, or even simply not doing what we think they ought to do, and we think that we are better than them! That is why, instead of helping them correct their ways we hurt and destroy them with words. We even justify this. But the truth is that underlying all this there is a haughty spirit.
The Chiddushei Hari"m zt"l says that similarly the crimson thread and the hyssop represent the cure for the one who has humbled himself too much. For sometimes we need atonement for our humility. For example, if a poor person approaches someone asking for a favor- for example he asks that he should raise some money for him, and he says, "Who am I? I am not worthy enough to do this great mitzvah, I don't have enough honor in the community to undertake this task." If this poor person were to insult him he would do great battle with him, nevertheless, when he is asked to help him, he thinks that he is not important or good enough to provide the help. For such humility we need atonement!
Pride and humility, both have positive and negative sides. We need to know how to make use of each appropriately. We need to know how and when to be like the cedar wood and how and when to be like the worm and the hyssop. Hashem created us to live in community because it is our job to help one another, not to destroy one another with lashon-harah. Hashem wants us to be both humble and proud. In order to accomplish all that we are meant to, we must develop a healthy sense of self and purpose without being of haughty spirit - thinking that we are better than the next person.
Respect and Honour – Parshiot Tazria and Metzora and Counting the Omer
As we count the Omer – we remember why this period between Pessach and Shavuot is observed in mourning. Originally the seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuot were entirely joyous. What happened? There had been a major plague in which twenty four thousand of Rabbi Akiva's students perished. The Talmud teaches that it was because they hadn't treated one another with respect.
In chassidut there is a very deep teaching about the meaning ofכבוד – kavod, honour and respect. Everyone wants respect and it is so important. Respect is affirmation. We need to respect ourselves, we need to discover and affirm the truth of our essence and existence. We need to affirm our faith that we are created "b'tzelem Elokim" – to believe and meditate on this until we 'know' that each one of us is created in the image of G-d, that each one of us is important.
Our Sages have taught: Rebbe Elazar Hakapar says: Ha'kinah v'ha'ta'avah v'ha'kavod motzi'in et ha'adam min ha'olam. [Avot 4:28] ..... jealousy, lust and pursuit of honour, draw the man out of the world.
While honor is important, pursuit of honor can be extremely dangerous. Some people give away huge sums of money just for honor, marriages break up over honor and some even murder for honor, heaven forefend.
Why is it so important? Why is self-respect so important? Reb Shlomo zt"l taught us many times the teaching of the Ishbitzer Rebbes concerning the suggestion that Hashem should not create man, made by the angels Uzza and Azael. Hashem had invited all of creation to contribute in the creation of man. By suggesting that Hashem should not create man, Uzza and Azael contributed negativity to man. Consequently we have to constantly struggle to appreciate and value each person, including ourselves.
We so much need one another's respect to help us overcome the dangerous negativity of Uzza's and Azael's inner voices that say 'get out of my way, who needs you?' or 'no one needs me'. Without respect we fall into despair thinking that we are just animals, maybe even the worst of animals.
The 'frierdiger Rebbe' (Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak זצ"ל – the second last Lubavitcher Rebbe) taught that the highest honor of a person is that those around you feel worthy and honored in your presence. It is worth meditating at length on this until it is ingrained in our consciousness that our highest and deepest respect manifests in honoring others! If we do not honor the other, if your brother or sister does not feel elevated in your presence, the כבוד –kavod, the glory of Hashem is not revealed; simply because we are not honoring the 'tzelem Elokim' in them and in so doing we are not recognizing or connecting with the Oneness of Hashem.
In parshat Shmini (in the lesson that was sent out last week) we learned from the Yid Hakadosh that in loving every one of our brothers and sisters and honoring all mankind we merit the manifestation of Hashem's glory. Each time we truly value and love one another, we are manifesting Hashem's honor.
Much of parshat Tzaria and parshat Metzora is about respecting one another, more particularly, the spiritual damage we cause to ourselves and others when we do not respect the other and how we are to heal from tzra’at. Rav Steinsaltz points out that the Biblical figures who were afflicted with 'tzara'at' were all people of distinction.
The accomplished individual who for one reason or another could not recognize his faults, the one who could no longer hear the inner cries of his soul, the devout one who loses respect for those who are not as observant and goes so far as to allow himself to speak badly about them- such people would become ritually quite impure with 'tzara'at' and they would have to leave the camp for at least seven days, sometimes longer until they were 'healed' of their Divine affliction. These parshiot of Sefer Vayikra, which are read during the weeks of the Counting of the Omer, remind us and teach us to think about how we are relating with one another and how important it is to be humble and respectful.
In five weeks, G-d willing, we will be celebrating Shavuot, "zman matan Torateinu" – the season of the giving of our Torah. At that time, when we all stood at Mt. Sinai, we were like "one person with one heart." We actually achieved that and we have to achieve it again, every day – NOW!
This coming week, b’ezrat Hashem, we will be celebrating Yom Ha'atzma'ut. We are all aware that anti-Semitism continues to raise its ugly head and it seems to be getting worse week by week, may Hashem protect us. Let us be proud, strong and united Jews – like we were at Mt. Sinai, כאיש אחד בלב אחד-like one person with one heart.
Earlier this week we observed Yom Hashoah - the Holocaust Memorial day. The lullaby song B'shem Hashem that Reb Shlomo zt"l used to sing was composed in honor of Yom Hashoah. He had been invited to sing at a Yom Hashoah memorial, and the organizer of the event had requested of him to compose a new song in honor of the 'six million'. The words of this song are taken from the Kriat Shma Al Hamittah – the Shma prayers that are said before going to sleep. Reb Shlomo said that he had been thinking about what it was like for a father or mother to put their children down to sleep for the night in the ghetto, how they must have been gathering every bit of strength they had left, to lovingly reassure their little ones that tomorrow would hopefully be a better day, to reassure them that we are never alone.
B'shem Hashem Elokei Yisrael – In the Name of Hashem, G-d of Yisrael Mi'meenee Michael – the angel Michoel is on my right side Umi'smolee Gavriel – and the angel Gavriel is on my left side Milfonai Oriel – in front of me is the angel Oriel Umey'achorai Refael – and behind me is the angel Refael V'al roshi Shechinas E-l – and above my head is the Holy Shechinah of E-l.
May we always be protected; may the light of Hashem always guide us and may we always know that we are in the presence of the Shechinah.
Two Stories about 'LASHON HARA'
The Chafeytz Chayim Learns a Lesson
Reb Yisrael Meir Hakohen of Radin, known as "the Chafeytz Chayim" *, was on the train back home to Radin. Opposite him sat an elderly simple yiddeleh. The Chafeytz Chayim asked him whereto he was traveling. "I'm traveling to Radin to meet the 'tzaddik hador' - the greatest tzaddik of our generation." "Who is this great tzaddik that lives in Radin? I live in Radin; I didn't know that the 'tzaddik hador' is living in Radin!" said Reb Yisrael Meir. "Why, it is the Chafeytz Chayim, Reb Yisrael Meir Hakohen is the tzaddik hador," said the yiddeleh. "Listen, I know this man personally and I can certainly tell you that he isn't such a great tzaddik," said the Chafeytz Chayim.
Hearing such a brazen remark our simple yiddeleh immediately slapped the Chafeytz Chayim across the face and said, "How dare you talk thus about the holiest man of our generation!" The Chafeytz Chayim accepted what happened and didn't reply; he remained quietly in his seat for the rest of the journey.
The next day our holy little yiddeleh came to the house of the Chafeytz Chayim to visit the tzaddik hador. As soon as he saw the tzaddik he fainted, realizing that this was the very same man that he had slapped yesterday on the train! When they revived him he cried and begged to be forgiven. "But," the Chafeytz Chayim said, "you don't need to be forgiven, and indeed I need to thank you for teaching me a very important lesson."
"I taught you an important lesson?" He was astonished. "Yes, you taught me that one should not speak lashon harah even about one's self!”
▪ Reb Yisrael Meir became known as The Chafeytz Chayim, the one who desires life, because of the book he wrote on the Laws of Lashon hara, entitled Shmirat Halashon – The Guarding Of The Tongue. This sefer was widely accepted and we study it unto this very day. King David said, "Mi ha-ish h'chafeytz chayim, oheyv yamim lir-ot tov? Netzor leshoncha meyrah, usfatecha midabeyr mirmah." (Psalms 34) "Who is the person who desires life, who loves the days and wants to see good? Guard your tongue from speaking evil, and your lips from speaking falsehood."
AND ANOTHER STORY ABOUT LASHON HARA
About twenty something years ago when I was teaching at the Solomon Schechter Academy in Montreal, the following exchange took place at a parent-teacher conference. Helen, the mother of one on my students in grade six came in to discuss her daughter's progress. Before saying anything else, she said, "Sholom, you know your friend Joel is driving us nuts!"
My friend Joel was the director of Youth Emergency Services at the Jewish Family Services in Montreal and Helen was one of the social workers in his department. "What's wrong?" I asked her.
"Every two minutes he says "Stop, that's lashon hara!" And he either asks us to leave his office if we don't change the way we talk, or he walks out! He has even walked out of meetings! What does he expect of us? We're social workers, how could we not talk lashon hara?"
My friend Joel is a very special guy. I knew that he was intensely studying the laws of lashon hara at the time and now I realized that he was actually applying them not only in his personal life, but also at work. I chose not to say anything other than "don't worry I'm sure it will be okay," and we proceeded to discuss her daughter's progress.
About three months later ther was another parent-teacher conference. this time when Helen walked she said, "You know sholom, the office has been transformed. It's amazing, not only have we learned to not to talk lashon hara, we have all learned to talk differently. The entire atmosphere at work has changed; each one of us has become more conscious and considerate, not only at work but also at home. You remember how upset we were three months ago? Now we are thankful that Joel was so obstinate about it all."
May we all be fortunate to have friends who will inspire and even goad us into being careful not to talk lashon hara.