(As explained in Day 31, this segment is based on Sefer Shemiras HaLashon, Shaar HaZechirah ch. 7)
Itzik the Baker was trudging home after a long day of hard work. As he approached the town’s main street, he noticed something on the ground sparkling in the light. He bent down to pick it up and found that it was a small, beautiful, colored stone.
“What luck!” he thought. “I’ve been meaning to bring home a present for my five-year-old daughter, but I’ve been too busy to take care of it. Now I have something for her. This stone is so pretty — my daughter can make a necklace and hang it from her doll’s neck!”
As he stood there thinking, one of the city’s gem dealers passed by and noticed the stone in Itzik’s hand. “Where did you get that?” he asked the baker.
“I found it,” he replied, “and I’m bringing it home as a gift for my five-year-old!”
“Are you joking?” the dealer retorted. “That’s a precious gem — it’s priceless! In fact, the king’s servants are searching for such a gem to place in the king’s crown!”
Itzik brought the gem to the king’s palace. The king was elated to receive it and rewarded Itzik by making him one of the wealthiest citizens in the entire kingdom.
Said the Chofetz Chaim: A young child learning the holy Torah is much like Itzik the Baker and his precious gem. The child has, at best, a superficial understanding of what he is learning. Yet, even without much understanding, the kedushah (sanctity) of the Torah that he learns is awesome; his neshamah becomes united with it, and in the merit of his study the world exists.
The Torah study of a mature Torah scholar is of even greater kedushah, because the scholar applies his mind to it, focusing on its meaning, learning it in great depth. Yet, forbidden speech such as lashon hara can bring tumah (impurity) upon his Torah study so that its power is weakened, to the point that it does not sustain the world as a child’s does.
The Chofetz Chaim concludes:
The minds of the great Sages of yesteryear were constantly attached to Hashem, to yiras Hashem and His mitzvos, and their speech was always with great purity and sanctity. If by chance they occasionally spoke an improper word, surely they engaged in teshuvah immediately. Nevertheless, such forbidden talk did harm to the sanctity of their speech in general, so that it did not have its full power …
Then what should we, whose attachment to Torah is on a much lower level, say? If we contaminate our mouths with lashon hara, rechilus, machlokes, etc. what sort of kedushah can come to rest on the Torah learning that will later issue forth from this mouth?
The Manchester Rosh Yeshivah, Rabbi Yehudah Zev Segal, said that he was especially careful to always speak the absolute truth, because people would come to him requesting his blessing for children, shidduchim, health issues, etc. Rav Segal reasoned that if he wanted his berachos to have power, he had to be very careful with his words at all times.
All of us want our words of Torah and tefillah to have their maximum power. It is therefore crucial that we be very careful with our speech at all times.
IN A NUTSHELL
If lashon hara, however minor, could damage the power of the Torah study of the Sages of the Talmud, then surely it can do great harm to our own Torah study and tefillah.
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