SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Preface (continued)
From verses in Tanach and teachings found in the Gemara, we see how important it is to correct bad midos. Anger is compared to idol worship, and we are told to be kind and compassionate. Yet, there is no mitzvah in the Torah that specifically prohibits us from showing anger or cruelty.
R’ Chaim Vital, famed talmid of the holy Arizal, explained that the Torah does not include avoiding anger and cruelty as part of the 613 mitzvos because developing good midos precedes the mitzvos. Good midos are the foundation of Torah. Without good midos, it is impossible to observe the mitzvos properly and to be elevated by them.
Yet, Hashem did see fit to include not one but two prohibitions against speaking lashon hara as part of the 613 mitzvos.1 This, says the Chofetz Chaim, underscores what we have already said, that lashon hara is more damaging than other forms of bad behavior. Evil speech is terribly damaging to the people who are the victims of such talk and terribly damaging to the Jewish people as a whole, for it empowers the Satan in a way that other sins do not.
There is another reason, says the Chofetz Chaim, why Hashem saw fit to include two mitzvos lo sa’aseh in the Torah against speaking lashon hara. Through speaking lashon hara, a person can transgress virtually every mitzvah in the Torah that is bein adam lachaveiro (between man and his fellow)! And he can also transgress quite a number of mitzvos bein adam laMakom (between man and Hashem). No wonder Talmud Yerushalmi states that just as the study of Torah equals all others mitzvos combined, the sin of lashon hara equals all other sins combined!
In Sefer Shemiras HaLashon, the Chofetz Chaim offers his own explanation of Talmud Yerushalmi’s statement. Mitzvos other than Torah study are physical in nature. For tzitzis, one dons a garment, a lulav is held in one’s hand, a shofar is blown, etc.
Targum Onkelos translates “And man became a living being” as “And man became a speaking spirit.” The power of speech is a function of the neshamah. (This is why animals cannot speak.) Torah study, in which the power of speech is used, is a “neshamah mitzvah.” This is why it equals all other mitzvos combined.
And speaking lashon hara is a “neshamah aveirah.” This is why it equals all sins combined.
In the lessons that follow, the Chofetz Chaim will list the 31 mitzvos that one can possibly be guilty of when speaking lashon hara.
Sefer Chofetz Chaim is a book of laws. The Chofetz Chaim saw fit to list these 31 mitzvos as an introduction to these laws, so that we will approach the study of this sefer with an understanding that we are about to embark on a journey of utmost importance.
Living by the laws of Sefer Chofetz Chaim can change a person’s life, in this world and the next.
IN A NUTSHELL:
The sin of lashon hara is equal to all sins combined and can cause one to transgress many, many mitzvos.
-A project of Mesorah Publications –