SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM
Preface: Negative Commandments
In the Midbar, the tribes of Yehudah, Yissachar, and Zevulun camped on the eastern side of the Mishkan, near Moshe Rabbeinu, Aharon and his sons. That is why those three tribes produced many outstanding talmidei chachamim.
On the other hand, the tribe of Reuven camped on the southern side of the Mishkan, near Korach (who was from the family of Kehas). That is why scores of leading judges from Shevet Reuven joined Korach in his shameful challenge to Moshe and Aharon’s leadership.
It is very, very important to associate with good people who are involved with good things. It is important to avoid associating with those who unfortunately have loose tongues and pay little or no attention to the laws of shemiras halashon. As the Chofetz Chaim makes quite clear, when a person is a baal lashon hara and speaks badly about others on a regular basis, he is sinning countless times, and in a way that makes it very difficult to ever achieve complete teshuvah.
In a famous incident, the Chofetz Chaim was once traveling by wagon with some horse traders who had no idea that their companion was the famed author of Sefer Chofetz Chaim. For a while the Chofetz Chaim said little — until the conversation turned to a particular trader whom these men obviously disliked.
The Chofetz Chaim respectfully told the men that such talk was absolutely forbidden. They responded by telling him to stay out of their affairs. The Chofetz Chaim replied, “If you persist in speaking lashon hara, I will have no choice but to ask the driver to stop so that I can get off this wagon.”
The men did not take him seriously and resumed their sinful conversation. The Chofetz Chaim asked the wagon driver to stop, and he disembarked.
If someone associates with a group of people who regularly speak lashon hara, he transgresses, “Do not be a follower of the majority for evil.” This can prove to be a great test. No one wants to be considered an outcast. And no one wants to become the object of ridicule: “What’s the matter? Are you some sort of goody-goody that you can’t join our conversation?” “Look wh became a tsaddik it’s ‘Mister Speak-No-Evil!’”
Yes, it can be difficult, but the rewards — in this world as well as in the next — are indescribable
In this segment, the Chofetz Chaim also informs us that if someone comes before a beis din (rabbinical court) and as a lone witness offers negative information about someone, he has transgressed, “A single witness shall not stand up against any man for any inquity or for any sin.”
According to Torah law, the testimony of a lone witness is invalid; we need a minimum of two witness to offer testimony in court. Therefore, when one witness alone stands up in court and speaks disparagingly about someone, all he has accomplished is to give that person a bad name.
IN A NUTSHELL
Do not associate with baalei lashon hara.
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