Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Don’t be a Talebearer: Become the master of your tongue

Reb Shlomo’s teachings on Mitzva 236, “DON’T BE A TALEBEARER”Lashon Hara means don’t go around spreading rumors about another. It also comes from the word for drugstore, man, and perfume. There is a good smell and an evil smell. Don’t walk around with an evil smell while with your people. If I walk around saying, “This one did this, this one did that” I am really contaminating the air. It only takes one person to contaminate a whole city. When someone is spreading a lie, that is another transgression, but here we are talking about the truth. Even if a tale is true, spreading it could still be destroying the world. If someone says bad things about someone else he transgresses this mitzva. It is a very grave sin which could kill a lot of people. You can tell people so much evil about a person that they will literally kill him.There is truth, and there is the truth of the truth. One Shabbos Rav Kuk hailed a cab and got in.

That’s all you need for a good rumor. Rav Kuk, the Chief Rabbi of Israel travelling in a cab on Shabbos. What was the real story, the truth of the truth? The English had caught somebody they said was a spy. At one o’clock Rav Kuk heard that they were going to shoot him at two o’clock. There is no question that he should take a cab to the police station to tell them not to shoot him.Why did the Vilna Gaon excommunicate, put a cherem on the Chassidim? People told him two stories that were true, but were only half the truth. First they said the Chassidim ate on Tisha B’Av, the day of the destruction of the Holy Temple, which is a fast day. The truth is that year Tisha B’Av was on a Shabbos and the fast was postponed to Sunday. So it was true that they ate on Tisha B’Av, but it was okay. The other story they told was that on Simchas Torah they saw the Chassidim dancing around a woman, which they shouldn’t do. That story was also true, but the truth of the truth tells more. It so happened that the Baal Shem Tov was dancing so much that he fainted. He was lying on the floor, and his daughter Udele brought him a pillow so he would feel better as he lay there resting. In the meantime he told the Chassidim, “Don’t stop. Keep dancing.” So Udele was standing in the middle next to the Baal Shem Tov and the Chassidim were dancing. It is true they were dancing around a woman, but it also wasn’t true. People are so into telling the truth about someone else when it could be the dirtiest lies in the world.

There are three levels of talebearing. Imagine someone says, “Shlomo told me he doesn’t like you.” It is a lie, but it is possible. That is not so horrible yet, because he only quoted what I said. Imagine he would tell you, “You know, Shlomo is rotten to the core.” That is not reporting what I said, but what he thinks of me. That is worse, even if it is true. The lowest level is if it is not true. It is possible that what he said really struck something inside you, so if it is true it is not so terrible. If he made it up, that means he is really at the bottom of evil. How does he even come to think of such a thing? These are the three levels. The first level is to report what a person said. If it is true, it is bad; if it is not true, it is very low. The second level is to spread rumors not about what he said, but about what he is. If it is true it is very bad, but if it is a lie, that is the third level, the lowest a person can go.The G’mora says something hard to believe. Serving idols, committing adultery and killing are very bad, but speaking evil is worse than committing all of them. It says when you talk evil about another person, you have to know you really don’t believe in G-d. You can walk around with tallis and t’fillin and wear a big shtreimel, but if you can utter an evil word about somebody else, you really don’t believe in G-d. It is heartbreaking to know.The Rambam says something strong. There are some people who don’t want to say lashen harah, evil speech, so they say something good, like “he’s such a great scholar, and the way he knows Talmud is great.” Someone else says, “What? Moishe knows the whole Taimud?” The man made somebody else say it,and then he says, “I didn’t know I thought he does.” He wants someone to say something bad about Moishe, but he is so holy he doesn’t want it to be him. He says something good, and the other says something bad. Maimonides says not to kid yourself. G-d knows what you are doing.The term lashon harah applies only if no one knows about something. Anything which is public is not on the level of talking evil because it is not disclosing secrets. Also, if somebody does something in public, discussing it is not lashon harah. If it is done in public then the person doesn’t care if people know. The law of talking evil is only about something which is not known. For instance, suppose I smoke a cigarette on Shabbos in America, then I come to Israel, nobody knows me, and I want to start life over again. If someone comes to Israel and says, “In New York I saw him smoking on Shabbos,” that is lashon harah, because people didn’t know about it.You are not permitted to live in the same neighborhood with someone who talks lashon harah, and you are definitely not permitted to sit at the same table. The G’mora says that people who speak evil cannot behold the face of G-d, cannot have a revelation of G-d. G-d cannot reveal Himself to them. This is a deep rabbinic question. The G’mora says that G-d says about anyone who speaks evil, “he and I cannot live together.” Maimonides says you have to move out of the neighborhood, and he quotes a G’mora which says that even G-d doesn’t want to live in an evil-speaker’s neighborhood. So to speak, G-d has to move out; G-d can’t stand it. That means one person can destroy the whole city.What are you supposed to do if, G-d forbid, you already spoke lashon harah? The first thing is, you have to cleanse your tongue, have a little deodorizing of the tongue. The best cleansing is to use it for good things, so you should study Torah day and night, uttering holy words. You have to learn to control your tongue, and another way to do it is to refrain from saying something you want to say, even if it is not evil. The Vorker Chassidim would often decide that for half an hour a day, or even five minutes, they wouldn’t speak. Keep your tongue quiet, but don’t start with a whole day, because we are not on that level. Get to know where you are. For ten minutes, twenty minutes, half an hour, really say only the most important things. Become the master of your tongue.Why does a person talk evil about somebody else? What is his sickness? In what part of his kishkes is he sick? According to the Maharal, what is sick is that he can’t keep a secret. He sees someone do something wrong, and he can’t keep it to himself. A person who has no vessels to keep a secret is not a whole human being. What is the holiness of a human being? The holiness is that a human has a body which shows and a soul which is secret. Life depends on the secret of the soul being in the body. That is the essence of human life. What is the essence of the world? G-d, who is not showing. Someone who can’t keep a secret cuts himself off from his soul, cuts himself off from G-d.The more real something is, the less you can prove it and the less you can see it. The more real something is, the more important it is to you. The most important things in your life are things you cannot put your finger on, things which are completely secret. If you talk evil, that means you are not from that secret world. You are an outsider to life, a complete outsider to the world, and a complete outsider to your own soul. You and your soul don’t even live in the same neighborhood. I’m permitted to live in the same neighborhood with a murderer. Even if I know, G-d forbid, that someone is a murderer, I’m still permitted to live near him. Killing is not completely anti-G-d. G-d gives life, you destroy it. Okay, you are a little bit anti-G-d. The most anti-G-d is the person who cannot keep secrets.What is the holiness of G-d? Why do you feel close to G-d? G-d keeps secrets. Everybody loves G-d because He really keeps secrets. G-d has a million ways of telling everybody what I do and what I don’t do, but He keeps it all secret. The holy Apter once said that the person who taught him the most about G-d was a prostitute in Brod, Poland. Since the Apter was so holy, people would stand in line to put a little money on his table and ask him for his blessings. That woman also came and put her money on the table. The Apter said that if she had just asked for his blessing he would have given it to her, but he thought to himself, “What a chutzpa! She has nerve putting money that she makes that way on my table.” So the moment she put the money on the table he tipped up the table and said, “I don’t want this dirty money on my table.” She said, “G-d didn’t tell how I made the money. Why do you?” The Apter said, “Nobody else ever taught me the way she did.” Evil talk, even just hearing it, is the beginning of all hatred among people and wars among the nations. I want you to know, every time one person yells at another person, you bring war into the world. And each time a person says words of love to another human being, he brings peace into the world

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