SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Preface
Our opening lesson spoke of Hashem’s deep love for every Jew. In this lesson, the Chofetz Chaim quotes the verse “‘I love you,’ says Hashem … ” and he describes the various ways by which Hashem refers to His beloved people: “My children, My portion, My inheritance.” It is obvious that, indeed, Hashem loves us very, very much.
It is because Hashem loves us so much that He cautions us to rid ourselves of bad midos. Evil habits such as speaking lashon hara lead to quarreling and bitterness. A home that is free of lashon hara and rechilus (evil speech that causes bad feelings between people) is a happy, peaceful home — and Hashem wants very much that we should be happy.
Some people derive pleasure from speaking lashon hara. Those who live by the laws of shemiras halashon and carefully guard their tongues know that the pleasure of refraining from evil talk far outweighs
the fleeting pleasure of relating an exciting piece oflashon hara. This is in addition to the spiritual reward for refraining from lashon hara, of which the Vilna Gaon (quoting the Midrash) said: “even Heavenly angels cannot fathom it.”
The complete verse in which the Torah forbids Lashon reads, “You shall not be a gossipmonger among your people, you shall not stand aside while your fellow’s blood is shed — I am Hashem.” The second part of the verse teaches that we are obligated to try to rescue someone’s life if we possibly can, and if we don’t try, then we have sinned.
What is the connection between the two halves of this verse? The Chofetz Chaim explains: Lashon hara can be deadly, like shedding blood. As an example, he cites the story of Doeg HaAdomi, whose slander resulted in the murder of an entire city of Kohanim.
While such cases are extreme, lashon hara can and has destroyed lives in a different sense. Families, friendships and entire communities have been ruined because of lashon hara and the bad feelings that it caused.
In fact, the Chofetz Chaim’s son, R’ Aryeh Leib, wrote that this is what impelled his father to author this sefer. In his words:
It seems to me that one particular episode aroused my father’s pure spirit to compose this work. When he was about twenty-four years old, a dispute erupted in our town between some members of the community and the rav. Ultimately, the rav was forced to leave the town and took a position elsewhere. As I recall, the rav passed away a few years later. It was said in our town that within a few years, the rav’s opponents fell victim to Divine punishment on this world.
It was not long after this that my father involved himself with the study and writing of the laws of lashon hara.
IN A NUTSHELL
Living by the laws of shemiras halashon is the key to a peaceful, happy home and life.
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