SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM Preface: Negative Commandments
Name the greatest threat to world peace and security in these times.” A straightforward challenge with a fairly predictable response — or so one would think.
The Chofetz Chaim offers his own insight into what causes destruction. His answer is the real answer, because terrorists and evil regimes are powerless unless Hashem allows them to carry out their evil plans. And it is we, the Jewish people, whose actions determine what will be decided in Heaven.
The Mishnah states: “Know what is above you (— an Eye that sees, an Ear that hears …).” R’ Chaim Volozhiner offered an original explanation: Know that whatever happens Above is because of you. It is our actions and words on this earth that determine whether the world will earn Hashem’s mercy or the opposite, G-d forbid.
In today’s segment, the Chofetz Chaim states:
Whoever spreads gossip about his fellow Jews is guilty of a lo sa’aseh (negative prohibition), as it is written, “Do not go as a gossipmonger among your people.” What is a gossipmonger? One who brings reports from one person to another, saying, “This is what So-and-so said about you, this what I have heard that So-and so did to you …” Though the report is true, he is destroying the world.
As mentioned above (Day 3), when Jews speak evil of each other, this gives the Satan the ability to speak evil of the Jewish people before Hashem. The result, says Zohar, is death and destruction in this world. When the Chofetz Chaim writes “he is destroying the world,” he means it in a very literal sense.
The Chofetz Chaim lists the other primary mitzvah that deals with lashon hara “Do not accept a false report,” which, our Sages teach, also includes the sin of speaking lashon.
To refrain from speaking lashon hara can be a very great test. The test of not listening to lashon hara can be even greater. It is very easy and can be very tempting to sit back and listen as someone tells a funny story about someone that makes the person appear foolish.
At Mount Sinai, Hashem declared that by accepting the Torah we would become a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Through Torah, we are to become noble, refined, exceptional individuals, people whom other nations will look up to and admire.
To become such a person, a Jew must carefully guard the two pathways to his neshamah, his eyes and his ears. He must not view what is forbidden and he must not listen to what is forbidden. And he must carefully guard his power of speech, which defines his essence as a human being.
IN A NUTSHELL
The sins of speaking and listening to lashon hara are stated explicitly in the Torah and bring death and destruction to the world.
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