SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Introduction (Continued)
Such great Torah personalities as the Brisker Rav and Rav Aharon Kotler marveled at the Chofetz Chaim’s greatness in Torah. They felt that his tzidkus, outstanding piety, caused people to overlook his ge’onus, genius in Torah. When we open his works on halachah, Sefer Chofetz Chaim and Sefer Mishnah Berurah, we gain a bit of insight into how wide-ranging his knowledge was. We also gain insight into the Chofetz Chaim’s ameilus, his incredible effort in searching for every source of every law, leaving no stone unturned in his quest to clarify the halachah.
In today’s segment, the Chofetz Chaim writes:
Therefore [i.e. because of the many misconceptions people have regarding lashon hara] I have gathered my strength, with the help of Hashem, to compile all the laws of lashon hara and rechilus in a single sefer. I gathered these laws from wherever they are scattered through Shas and the poskim (codifiers) — especially the Rambam, Smag and Sefer Shaarei Teshuvah by Rabbeinu Yonah, z”l, who show us the way in these halachos …
I have called the sefer “Chofetz Chaim,” based on the verse” Who is the man who desires life, who loves days of seeing good? Guard your tongue from evil …” (Tehillim 34:13-14)
Each section of Sefer Chofetz Chaim is comprised of two sub-sections: the halachos, which the Chofetz Chaim named Mekor Chaim(Source of Life), and the sources of the halachos, which he named Be’er Mayim Chaim(The Wellsprings of Water of Life).
The Chofetz Chaim did not choose these names at random. When the first man was created and Hashem blew life into him, the Torah states, “And man became a living being”, which Targum translates as “a speaking being.”
What defines us as human beings is our power of speech. This is what distinguishes us from animals and all other creatures. To whatever degree we refine our way of speaking, we have given more meaning to our humanity. A person who uses his power of speech to lie, make fun of others, speak badly of others or for vulgar language is lowering his level of humanity. It is, in a sense, as if he is saying, “I’m really not much different than the other creatures of this world.”
Let us be careful how we speak so that we will be more elevated, spiritual and happy people.
IN A NUTSHELL
Sefer Chofetz Chaim is truly a “source of life,” because the power of speech is what defines us as human being.
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