SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Introduction (Continued)
Some may claim, says the Chofetz Chaim, that it is better not to study these halachos. They might say: “Don’t our Sages teach that it is better to let someone sin unintentionally than to point out his error, if you are sure that he will continue to sin in any case?1 So why learn the laws of lashon hara? Everyone knows that it is nearly impossible to avoid speaking lashon hara — unless you want to be a hermit and not speak to anyone!”
The Chofetz Chaim convincingly refutes this claim with the following points:
The rule that one should not try to correct someone who will definitely ignore the rebuke does not apply to a sin that is stated explicitly in the Torah. Since the Torah explicitly prohibits lashon hara, we are required to alert everyone to the gravity of this sin.
The Gemara states that no one is innocent of the sin of avak lashon hara (statements that either hint to lashon hara or might lead to lashon hara). The Chofetz Chaim states that this is only said of the average person. However, someone who studies the laws of lashon hara and strives to live by them can avoid even avak lashon hara. It is reasonable to assume that the Chofetz Chaim was speaking from experience; he was so knowledgeable of the halachos and so careful to apply them that he probably avoided even avak lashon hara at all times.
At the very least, studying these halachos will ensure that we will not be in the category of a baal lashon hara, someone with a loose tongue who has no regard for the mitzvah of shemiras halashon and speaks whatever comes to mind. Our Sages state that such a person’s evil speech is equivalent to the Three Cardinal Sins (idol worship, immorality, and murder) and that he will not merit to greet the Shechinah.
We may add one more point. Shemiras halashon should not be seen as something difficult, which we do because Hashem has not given us a choice. We can apply to shemiras halashon what the Mishnah says regarding Torah study: “If you do this” you will have the best of both this world and the World to Come.
What does the expression “If you do this” imply?
Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian explained: If someone were to ask you, “I’ve never tasted wine in my life — what does wine taste like?” you might respond, “Well, it’s a little sweet and a little sour.” Of course, this tells the questioner very little. There is only one way to really know what wine tastes like — by tasting it.
Similarly, there is only one way to understand how beautiful life can be when one lives without luxury while devoting himself to Torah study: “If you do this …”
And only one who lives by the rules of shemiras halashon and carefully avoids lashon hara can truly appreciate how wonderful life is when we speak only good of our fellow man.
IN A NUTSHELL
We are required to learn the laws of shemiras halashon and can surely live by them, if we will only try.
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