Important Notice!

B”H

Beloved Friends!

It’s with utmost sadness that I have to inform you the following.

As from today, I will no longer be posting (reprinting my Email Subscriptions) regarding the lessons of SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM and SEFER SHMIRAS HALOSHON, due the fact that I will not dispose of an Internet connection, only Heaven knows until when.

In order that you will not be affected, below you will find the different Email addresses in order to Subscribe and be able to keep up with your studies on this very, very important topic.

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Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbat!

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A Lesson A Day – Sensitivities

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM

Sensitivities

      To cause outright animosity between Jews is to speak rechilus; to effect a minor degree of ill feeling between Jews is to speak Avak Rechilus. An example of the latter is where one relates that someone spoke about the listener in a manner which is neither derogatory nor harmful, but which may cause the listener to be disappointed with that individual. The classic example of this is where Hashem spoke critically to Avraham of Sarah for her having expressed incredulity upon hearing an angel (disguised as a wayfarer) say that she would bear a child. Hashem said, “Why did Sarah laugh, to say, ‘Shall I in truth bear a child, though I have aged?’ ” (Bereishis 18:13). In fact, Sarah had said, “And my husband is old.” (V. 12). Talmud Yerushalmi (Pe’ah 1:1) states that to repeat such a statement would be to speak avak rechilus. Now, to say that a man of ninety-nine is old is neither derogatory nor damaging. However, it is a bit discomforting for a person of advanced age to hear that his spouse speaks of him as an “old man;” therefore, to report such a remark is to speak avak rechilus.

SEFER SHMIRAS HALOSHON

More Points to Ponder

      One should ponder the severe retribution, both in this world and the next, which is liable to result from arrogance. The Talmud states that arrogance causes one’s properties to become ruined (Succah 29b) and one’s resources to become depleted (Sotah 5a). The Sages further state (ibid.) that regarding an arrogant person, Hashem says, “He and I cannot dwell together in the world.’’ Rabbi Elazar said: “Whoever is arrogant will not awaken at the time of the Resurrection” (ibid.). This last punishment is measure for measure. Instead of pondering the fact that he will ultimately be laid to rest in the earth, the arrogant person acts as if he will enjoy prominence forever, living a life of stature in which he will always be a notch above everyone else. Because of his sinful attitude, when his body will become part of the dust of the earth, it will lack the power to come back to life. When everyone else will return to life, he will remain asleep, underneath the feet of the people above whom he had glorified himself.

      Furthermore, arrogance makes one repulsive before Hashem, as it is written, “Despicable to Hashem are all who are arrogant of heart” (Mishlei 16:5).

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Dcompanion – Be Prepared

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM

Laws of Loshon Hora 10:15_16

Be Prepared

       A successful public speaker knows that proper preparation is the key to delivering a good speech. A lecturer cannot come unprepared to deliver an address and expect his thoughts to be organized and his words eloquent.

       The Chofetz Chaim tells us, “Come see, my brother, how carefully one has to weigh each word [before speaking negatively l’toeles] when someone has wronged him, because when he speaks he stands in great danger of transgressing the sin of loshon hora. Clearly, it is regarding this that we can say, ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue’ (Mishlei 18:21). If one will not consider carefully before he speaks exactly how he is going to present the matter, he will surely stumble, G-d forbid. For at that moment, his anger will get the better of him and it will be impossible to exercise proper caution.”

       When someone, without proper forethought, tells others how someone has hurt him or is planning to hurt him, his emotions quickly override his intentions to speak only l’toeles.

       Once one has decided exactly what he wants to say, he should carefully examine his presentation in the light of the seven requirements of constructive speech. He should analyze each thought. Does it contain anything inflammatory? Are there any exaggerations? One should consider possible questions which the listener might ask and how to respond. One should be prepared to respond quickly, without stumbling, for once the speaker begins to stumble, it will be hard for him to regain control of the conversation—and that is when loshon hora can begin. Furthermore, if the speaker will not prepare himself well, the listener may elicit information that should not be offered.

       If these precautions seem excessive, imagine the precautions a person would take if he were working in a lab where deadly viruses are studied. That is how situations involving potential loshon hora should be treated, for as Shlomo HaMelech declared: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

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A Lesson A Day – Seeking Assistance

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM

Seeking Assistance

      When seeking a person’s assistance, be it financial or otherwise, one may not mention that he knows of others who received similar assistance from this individual – unless the individual is known to appreciate the publicizing of that fact.

      This rule is based on the concern that a person may not want his charitable acts to become public knowledge, as this could bring about an endless barrage of requests for his assistance. By mentioning his having made a contribution to a certain person, one reveals that the recipient shared the information with others – which may cause the donor to be upset with that recipient.

      When reference to the recipient is made to bolster one’s own request and not to cause animosity, it is categorized as avak rechilus.

SEFER SHMIRAS HALOSHON

Arrogance

      Among the root causes of loshon hora is arrogance. The arrogant person views himself as a man of wisdom and stature, and he looks down upon everyone else. It is therefore only natural that he will ridicule others. The arrogant person is also filled with jealousy and enmity toward anyone in his community who is accorded greater honor than he. He tells himself, “Were it not for him, I would be the recipient of all that honor!’’ This attitude brings him to delve into the other person’s history until he finds something derogatory to say about him, be it true or false, so that he can heap scorn and shame upon that individual and lower his stature among people.

      The Talmud states (Sotah 42b) that four groups will not merit to greet the Divine Presence: flatterers; liars; [habitual] speakers of loshon hora; and scoffers. Arrogance can cause a person to belong to all of the above groups. He will speak disparagingly of his fellow so that the person will be shamed while he will be honored; he will scorn and mock him; he will falsely boast of personal qualities which he does not possess; and he will flatter the wicked and refrain from reproving them, so that they will not hate him and seek to diminish his honor.

      Therefore, one who wishes to purify his soul of arrogance should forever ponder the shamefulness of this bitter sin. How can man be arrogant when he was created from a putrid drop and will ultimately go to a place of dust, worms and maggots? One should also ponder the severity of this sin, which is one of the 365 negative commandments, as it is written, “… and your heart will become haughty, and you will forget Hashem, your G-d” (Devarim 8:14); and “Take care, lest you forget Hashem, your G-d” (ibid. v. 11).

      When a person persists in seeking fame for himself, the opposite occurs. His reputation gradually becomes diminished and he becomes an object of disgrace in the eyes of others.

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Dcompanion – A Necessary Review

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM

Laws of Loshon Hora 10:14

A Necessary Review

       We have learned in the previous segment that if someone has been hurt by another party and he can reclaim his loss or prevent further hurt by telling others of the incident, he is permitted to do so. The Chofetz Chaim begins this segment by stating:

       “However, one must be extremely careful with this license, that none of the seven conditions mentioned above be omitted. For if he will not be extremely careful, he will easily be trapped in the snare of the yetzer hara and through this license, he will be counted among those whom the Torah considers baalei loshon hora. Because of this [danger], I will review all seven conditions with a bit of additional comment.”

       The Chofetz Chaim then reviews the seven conditions:

       1. One must have first-hand knowledge of the negative incident. Otherwise, says the Chofetz Chaim, one cannot be certain that the alleged perpetrator is really the guilty party! If one has second-hand negative information to relate l’toeles, he must make it clear that his words are based on hearsay.

       2. One must be certain that he is interpreting the facts correctly. The Chofetz Chaim states that this is probably the most difficult condition of all (where one has been hurt personally) because people’s perceptions are usually subjective. He warns, “One never sees himself as guilty; each man thinks that his way is correct. If he stumbles in this [and speaks against someone who is, in fact, innocent], then he is guilty of hotzaas shem ra (slander), which is worse than loshon hora.”

       3. If there is a chance that the culprit will heed rebuke, and it is likely that rebuke will not make matters worse, then one must first speak to the subject privately and attempt to convince him to right the wrong on his own.

       4. There can be no exaggerations and no detail may be omitted if it casts the culprit in a somewhat better light. Sometimes leaving out a small positive point of the story makes the culprit appear worse than he actually is.

       5. One’s intentions must be purely l’toeles, for a constructive purpose. In cases where one has a personal interest but the negative information is necessary to protect others, he should speak to a rav for guidance in how to proceed.

       6. If one can effect a solution without resorting to loshon hora, he must choose that route. The Chofetz Chaim adds here that if it is possible to omit certain negative details and still accomplish the constructive purpose, then those details should be omitted.

       7. One must be certain that the report will not cause the culprit any damage which is not sanctioned by halachah.

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A Lesson A Day – Praise

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM

Praise

      When sincerely praising an individual’s generosity in the presence of others, one should not do so in a way that may cause his family or business partner to be upset with him for having been charitable at their expense. Acknowledging a major donation in the presence of the donor’s spouse or offspring may arouse feelings on his or her part that the family’s money is being mishandled. If the recipient had good intentions only, he would be guilty of speaking avak rechilus.

SEFER SHMIRAS HALOSHON

Loser of Two Worlds

      A scoffer is liable to suffer retribution in this world for his sinful behavior. As the Talmud states (Avodah Zara 18b): “Whoever scoffs will have affliction visited upon him, as it is written, ‘And now, do not scoff, lest your retribution intensify’ (Yeshayahu 28:22). Said Rava to the rabbis, ‘I ask you not to engage in scoffing, so that affliction not come upon you.’ ” The Talmud further states (ibid.) that scoffing causes one to be denied his material needs.

      Scoffers bring punishment upon the entire world, as the Talmud (ibid.) states, “Whoever scoffs brings about destruction in the world.’’ It is forbidden even to sit in the company of scoffers, as it is written, “Praiseworthy is the man … that sat not in the company of scoffers” (Tehillim 1:1).

      The Vilna Gaon writes in his famous letter:

      To the verse, “All man’s toil is for his mouth” (Koheles 6:6), the Sages comment (Midrash Koheles ibid.) that all the mitzvos and Torah study of a person are not sufficient to negate that which he utters [sinfully] with his mouth. They further state: “Which craft should man pursue in this world? He should strive to emulate a mute [and avoid evil talk] (Chullin 89a), and press his lips together like two millstones [which grind against one another]”.

      Therefore, one must distance oneself from scoffers so that he will not learn from their ways; rather, he should sit where Torah is being spoken. Praiseworthy will he be, in this world and in the World to Come.

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Dcompanion – The Art of Self-Defense

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM

Laws of Loshon Hora 10:13

The Art of Self-Defense

       The tongue is an awesome weapon. It can destroy people’s lives and reputations. It can create divisions between people and tear apart entire communities.

       But there are times when even gentle, respectful people have to resort to words as a weapon: in self-defense.

       People sometimes inflict real harm on others — sometimes financial, sometimes physical or emotional. There are many situations where the desired course is to forego our presumed rights in a dispute or to overlook the hurt which we have suffered — for the sake of peace, and so that we may rise to the lofty levels which the Torah seeks of us. But this is by no means a blanket principle, because the Torah does not want us to become victims of exploitation or abuse.

       When a strong self-defense is called for, the Torah places the weapon of words at our disposal, with careful instructions on how to use them.

       The Chofetz Chaim explains:

       We have learned in the previous segment that if someone has wronged me, I am forbidden to tell others of his misdeed for the constructive purpose of influencing him to correct his behavior. This is because we must assume that my true intention, at least partially, is simply to derive satisfaction from having others know of the wrong which was committed. However, says the Chofetz Chaim, I would be permitted to tell others what happened if this will help to have the wrong corrected. For example, if someone steals from me, and I can influence him to return the money by speaking to his parents or rav (rabbi) and convincing them of my case, then in most instances, the Torah will allow me to pursue that course of action.

       Another example would be in the case of verbal abuse or physical harm. If someone has hurt me in such ways, and is likely to continue doing so, I can tell my story to those people who are in a position to convince the abuser to stop.

       The same would apply if I were to learn that someone is planning to harm me and I can thwart his plans by speaking to the appropriate party. The words spoken in an effort to enlist help in these situations are permissible, though they denigrate the abuser. Halachah permits them in the guise of self-defense, as a shield and not a sword.

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A Lesson A Day – Rechilus When Attempting to Avoid Rechilus

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM

Rechilus When Attempting to Avoid Rechilus

      It is forbidden to tell someone, “I’d rather not tell you what so-and-so said about you,” for this is implying that “so-and-so” said something negative about the listener. If the speaker honestly – though naively – intended to avoid speaking rechilus, he violated only the rabbinical prohibition of “avak rechilus.” However, if the implication was intentional, then the remark is classified as outright rechilus and he has transgressed the Scriptural prohibition.

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Scoffing

      One of the root causes of loshon hora is scoffing. Some people are accustomed to scoffing at anything, and attach themselves to people who are of their own kind. It is natural for such people to scoff at others who are outside their circle and to speak degradingly of them. Therefore, one who seeks to cleanse his soul should ponder the terrible sin of such behavior.

      Our Sages teach that scoffers are one of four groups that will not merit to greet the Divine Presence (Sotah 42a). In addition to his own sins, a scoffer is guilty of causing others to join him in his ridicule. It is well known that to cause others to sin is an extremely grave offense, and prevents the perpetrator from being granted Heavenly assistance to repent (Avos 5:18).

      Aside from all of the above, to idle one’s time away, even not in a sinful way, is to waste precious time that could be used for studying Torah and accruing reward for the World to Come. According to one Talmudic opinion, the verse “… for he scorned the word of Hashem” (Bamidbar 15:31) applies to one who squanders the opportunity to study Torah.

      How ashamed, then, should one be to have spent hour upon hour in the company of scoffers! Moreover, were they to restrain themselves from speaking the forbidden, they would thereby merit eternal life, for, as the Midrash states, for each moment that a person refrains from speaking the forbidden, he merits a hidden light that no angel can fathom.

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A Lesson A Day – Definition

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM

Definition

      One who does not exercise proper caution in matters of speech may find himself inadvertently fanning the flames of hatred. It is forbidden to mention an incident or other piece of information which might remind the listener of a situation where he was wronged by someone. To relate such information is to speak avak (lit, the dust of) rechilus. The speaker transgresses even though he has no intent of causing the listener to recall the wrongdoing; the Sages hold the speaker responsible for not having exercised proper caution in mentioning that which might reawaken ill feelings.

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Choose Your Company

      Scripture states: “Withdraw yourselves from the man whose life’s breath is in his nostrils, for with what is he deemed worthy?’’ (Yeshayahu 2:22). Zohar comments (Parashas Tetzaveh):

      With these words, the Holy One, Blessed is He, commands and cautions man to guard himself from those who have turned away from the path of good to that of evil, who have contaminated their souls … And how is man to know whose company he should seek and whose he should avoid? By gauging an individual’s anger, one can determine what sort of person he is. If when anger comes upon a person, he guards the sanctity of his soul and does not allow it to be uprooted and replaced by that “foreign god” [that is anger], then he is a person whom it is fit to be near. However, if he does not guard the sanctity of his soul, allowing it to become uprooted so that the “other side” can dwell in its place, surely he is a person who rebels against his Master, and it is forbidden to seek his company …
He is the person who “tears apart his soul in his anger” (Iyov 18:4); he tears apart and uproots his soul because of his anger, and allows a foreign god to dwell within himself.

      Regarding such a person it is written, “Withdraw yourselves from the man whose life’s breath is ‘in his nostrils’,” [meaning,] whose sacred soul is torn apart and contaminated by his anger .1

      Thus, it is imperative that one rid his heart of anger so that he will be saved from Gehinnom and will merit entry into the World to Come.

      1. In Scripture, the term “charon af” denotes outwardly displayed, flared-up anger. The expression metaphorically refers to flaming nostrils (see Rashi to Shemos 15:8).

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Dcompanion – Ulterior Motives

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM

Laws of Loshon Hora 10:11-12

Ulterior Motives

       We learned previously that one of the seven conditions of toeles is that our intentions be purely for a constructive purpose. In this segment, the Chofetz Chaim examines some of the difficulties in meeting this condition. Suppose that you were cheated in a business deal. You wish to publicize the matter, not so that you can reclaim your money, but to influence the cheater to mend his ways. In such a case, you would not be allowed to report this information l’toeles (for a constructive purpose), though to your mind, all seven conditions have been met. The reason for this, explains the Chofetz Chaim, is that when a person’s misdeed has affected you personally — whether through embarrassment, physical harm or financial loss — it is inconceivable that your intentions in relating the incident are entirely pure. You will undoubtedly derive satisfaction from having the misdeed publicized, so that the person will be shamed and scorned for what he has done to you. And this removes the report from the category of toeles and makes it forbidden.

       On the other hand, if you had seen someone else being cheated, and you knew that the cheater would not listen to rebuke, you would be permitted to publicize his misdeed to prevent others from being cheated or from following in the cheater’s ways.

       The Chofetz Chaim comments that given the above, it should be obvious that we must refrain from speaking against someone who indirectly hurt us by failing to fulfill his interpersonal obligations; for example, he has refused our request for a loan or charity contribution. Unfortunately, writes the Chofetz Chaim, this type of loshon hora is all too common. For example: A fundraiser travels to a city and is not given the reception he expected. Upon leaving the city, he may feel justified in criticizing the community’s leaders or the community in general for what he perceives as stinginess or lack of hospitality. To his mind, there was no excuse for the way he was treated, and he rationalizes that it is a “mitzvah” to publicize this. He is absolutely wrong. The fact that he was the one who was affected by the community’s behavior disqualifies him from speaking about what happened.

       We may add that in this example, the fundraiser failed to take into account the many factors which may play a role when one is faced with a tzedakah request. A person could be experiencing tough times. He may have just given to a similar cause. He may be very involved at the moment with a specific cause and is channeling most of his resources in that direction. Or, the fundraiser may simply have made a poor presentation. Instead of considering these possibilities, the fundraiser has condemned a community.

       The Chofetz Chaim writes: “If because of this, he disgraces an entire community, he has committed a dreadful sin. Loshon hora is forbidden even when the information is true, as we have already written, and even when one speaks against a specific individual. Certainly it is forbidden to speak against an entire community of Jews, who are steadfast in their belief in Hashem — surely this is a great sin.”

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