SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM
Preface: Positive Commandments
A verse in Sefer Yechezkel1 refers to a beis haknesses (shul) or beis midrash (study hall) as a mikdash me’at, a miniature Beis HaMikdash.
Is it any wonder, then, that to interrupt one’s prayers in shul to engage in pointless conversation is a particularly grave sin?
Is it any wonder that to engage in lashon hara during prayer is even worse?
In fact, to speak lashon hara in a shul or beis midrash at any time is a very severe sin.
The Torah states, “and fear My sanctuary.” This mitzvah, to show special respect for the Beis HaMikdash, applies also to a mikdash me’at, a shul or beis midrash.
In Mishnah Berurah, the Chofetz Chaim writes that engaging in mundane conversation in shul “may transform it into a place of idol worship, G-d forbid.” To speak lashon hara in shul is a particularly terrible sin …
… for in doing so, one shows lack of regard for the Shechinah; also, there is no comparison between someone who sins in private and someone who sins in the palace of the King, in the King’s Presence. This evil is compounded when the sinner causes others to join in his sin…
In this segment, the Chofetz Chaim paints a picture of a distinguished member of a shul who, in full view of the congregation, is engaged in a conversation spiced — or better said, poisoned — with lashon hara. He continues his sinful talk even as the Torah reading begins.
The Chofetz Chaim enumerates the man’s sins:
He has spoken lashon hara.
He has been guilty of chillul Hashem by engaging in conversation in view of everyone as the Torah reading is in progress.
Even if he misses one word or one verse, he has sinned grievously. The halachah states that it is forbidden to leave a shul while the Torah is being read; to do so is a disgrace to the Torah. To engage in conversation in shul during the Torah reading is an even greater disgrace.
If this happens on Shabbos, it is a disgrace to the sanctity of Shabbos.
He has transgressed “and fear My sanctuary.
If the victim of one’s lashon hara is a person over the age of 70 or a talmid chacham of any age, then one has transgressed, “You shall rise in the presence of an elder and show esteem for a sage.” On this verse, the word “zaken” is an acronym, “this one who has acquired wisdom,” and refers to any talmid chacham,whether young or old.
Quite a frightening collection of sins. Let us make sure that we will not be that man.
IN A NUTSHELL
We must be especially careful not to speak lashon hara in a beis midrash or beis haknesses, and not to speak about a talmid chacham or elderly person.
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