Do The Walls Have Ears?
Chazal (our wise Sages) teach us azoy: “A majority commit theft, a minority commit adultery, and all commit loshoin horo.” Shoin, who knew that a number of you can find yourselves in the ‘all’ and ‘minority’ categories at the very same time, if you chap. And that’s taka why they were referred to as our ‘wise’ sages. They chapped reality: notwithstanding the myriad medroshim written about the perils of loshoin horo (slanderous, maligning talk), it never ceases to exist. It seemingly never will. And let us then begin parshas Metzoirah by sharing with you what a few have to say about this fellow who was diagnosed and proclaimed to be a metzoirah. Ober ershtens, what the hec is a metzoirah? According to many, he was a person who slandered, spoke ill of, and otherwise maligned another person. Typically more than one.
Decades back, ich veys, let’s say five, we used to chant these words to a shtikel tune…’loishon horo lamed hey, go to gihenim (hell) the easy way.’ Back then we paid little attention to the meaning of the words but still chanted them repeatedly. It was catchy. So much so, teachers of younger grades still teach it to their students. We’ve heard different variations of this chant. Has this chant on the negative aspects of speaking and listening to loshoin horo been remotely successful in reducing the amounts being spoken by anyone on any given day? A necthiger tug (not)! The bottom line: everyone speaks it, hears it and spreads it! It’s seemingly in the DNA of kimat every person. Get over it! Very reputable Toirah personalities and a few we meet in the Novee, too were guilty.
And we open with this thought why? Davka because the heylige Gemora and others will try telling us that Metzoira, our parsha this week, and last week’s parsha of Tazria, though generally focused specifically on tzora’as (some form of leprosy), and the carrier of the tzora’as – AKA: the Metzoirah, were really all about loshoin horo (slanderous talk), a topic never overtly mentioned in the heylige Toirah. In other words: the root cause of the form of leprosy described in these parshas, was loshoin horo. Ober, and oib azoy (if tzora’as was taka sent down to alert its recipients to change their ways, to stop speaking and spreading it) whatever happened to tzora’as? Why did the RBSO suspend it? Do you know anyone, bazman hazeh (in our times) that has been afflicted? And while tzora’as, as described in the parsha is gone and forgotten, loshoin horo, ever powerful and resourceful, remains fully intact and operational. Shoin, more on that below.
We often refer to ‘yitzyas mitzrayim’ (Exodus), kriyas Yam Suf (splitting of the sea), and kabolas Hatoria (Revelation) as seminal moments in Jewish history. And zicher they were. The Yiddin, free after 210 years were being chased by the Mitzrim who had a change of heart and mamish before their eyes, the sea split. Over at Har Sinai, but weeks later, they were witness to the essence of the RBSO descending in a pillar of fire and smoke. The RBSO Himself came down and delivered the Aseres Hadibrois (Ten Commandments). What could be more amazing and transformative? That was then. This week in parshas Metzoira towards the very end of the parshas, which for the most part describes the diagnosis of and treatment plan for an individual, or a house that has been stricken with tzora’as (whatever that is), the heylige Toirah will be discussing yet more seminal moments. There too are very real; they are avada of a very different variety, if you chap. The very same word -seminal- takes on a whole new meaning in our parsha and deals with the real seminal flows and moments. Back in 2014, the last time this parsha was read as a singleton (more typically it’s read with its sister parsha of Tazria), we delved deep into discharges, accidental and not. We went with the flow, if you chap. The heylige Toirah discusses the disposition of the person -male and female- that has experienced seminal emissions, voluntarily and not, menstrual cycles and more. Grada, the Oisvorfer just reviewed that post earlier this week and it was admittedly mamish an incredible piece. Readers who were not yet Oisvorfer Chasidim (followers) should stop here and go to archives immediately by clicking here. Legacy readers too will mamish enjoy. It will take you directly to that very informative post. Grada it was so gishmak that serious thought was given to repeating it in its entirety. After all, haven’t we concluded that the heylige Toirah does in fact repeat many concepts that it deems important? We have. Would it be so giferlich if we repeated these concepts? And what could be more important than various discharges and emissions that kimat all can relate to? Shoin.
Ober, earlier this week, a chaver dropped by and was giving the Oisvorfer mussir (chastisement). He suggested that given the very large and ever growing appetite for the weekly review -with readers around the world mamish- the Oisvorfer’s weekly reviews should include an inspirational message. Readership wants more he stated, not less. Grada everyone likes more and whomever coined the expression “less is more” was mamish an idiot. Kimat always, more is better than less. And the bottom line is: more is more and not less! Shoin. In any event and in direct response to the chaver who shall remain nameless (his first name is Shlomie), who also admitted that he has not read the weekly review in many many months and therefore would have no clue as to how inspirational or not the weekly reviews are, I say azoy. First, catch up on the readings you have missed. Then, if you think the review needs some tweaking and is efsher lacking in some take-away inspiration, avada your comments will be taken into consideration. Shoin, where were we?
As we sit here today in 2016, the gantze sugya (subject) of tzora’as (whatever that is), who gets it, what it looks like, who does the diagnosis, how to get rid of it, and so much more, remains mamish shrouded in mystery. Though the heylige Toirah devotes kimat two entire parshas to this subject -and avada if the RBSO gave it that much shrift in His heylige Toirah- the topic must have relevance- believe it or not, many prominent figures and kimat all the commentators, including the RambaN and others, aren’t totally buying in to what was conventional wisdom about tzora’as. The heylige Gemora and others tell us that tzora’as was a spiritual disease though somehow manifested physically. How that works, ver veyst? How was it that a disease which had non-physical etiology and a non-physical cure, could manifest itself physically? Ver veyst! For generations the rabbis convinced us, or tried to, that tzora’as was a form of leprosy. Grada they must have relied on the a few stories the heylige Toirah recounts about individuals being stricken with tzora’as or leprosy. We will get to them soon. Ober, most agree that real leprosy presents only physically; one afflicted is easily distinguishable. Today, Rabbi Art Scroll, a noted achroin (latter day commentator), and others, tell us that tzora’as, as described in the heylige Toirah is not leprosy, at least not the leprosy we would typically associate it with. It’s not? What is it? Ver veyst? Says the heylige Gemora (Eirichin 15b) azoy: a metzoira (a person stricken with tzora’as), for whom the parsha is named (exactly why a parsha was named for a person who spoke loshoin is a topic we should taka discuss one day), was an individual who spoke and mistama also spread loshoin-horo (slanderous talk) and that the word metzoira is mamish composed of the words ‘Moitze-Rah,’ or, motzi-shem-rah (a person who spoke disparagingly, slanderously or slightingly of another). Seemingly, tzora’as was sent down by the RBSO onto a person’s clothing, body, or even house for abusing his speech and mouth. Later we will learn that were one deserving of tzora’as, the RBSO would first afflict the house, then one’s clothing and finally, were the person still gossiping about others with negative speech, one’s body.
Grada, the heylige Toirah, in other parshas, provides several veiled examples of distinguished people who spoke loshoin horo and were mamish punished with some physical form of leprosy. Back in Shemois (4:6-7), Moishe made a disparaging reference to the Yiddin, how they would not believe his words (regarding the coming redemption), and guess what? The RBSO struck his arm with physical tzora’as which looked somewhat or mamish like leprosy. In a few weeks, we will read how his sister Miriam, following a remark she made about her own brother Moishe and his kushite wife (Bamidbar 12 1-15), was also stricken and how Moishe davened for her to be healed. Shoin, even great people like Moishe and Miriam spoke some, what chances do the rest of us have? Zero! Hence our great sages recognized this as fact, hence the quote we opened with.
Taking on the yetzer horo (evil inclination) by promising to curtail, or, mamish stop badmouthing anyone, is a herculean task and typically a losing battle. The yetzer horo to spread gossip, is overwhelming and overpowering. The juicier the gossip, the stronger the desire to break it and spread it. One has a better chance of avoiding overeating at the shmorg. Perhaps an even better chance of standing firm, but avoiding forbidden fruit, if you chap. Seemingly there was, in certain cases, a connection between speaking ill of others and a form of physical tzora’as (whatever that is).
One thing is zicher: it’s an abuse of one’s speech and mouth ober, be aware, it was not curable via the services of a speech therapist, even a good one. Tzora’as sent down from the RBSO -efsher to warn the person about his bad behavior through a public shaming of sorts- required the attention of another specialist. And since most agree that the metzoirah received his tzora’as for slanderous talk, they also believe that it’s a spiritual disease which cannot be properly diagnosed or treated by a regular doctor (not even a specialist). Instead, when one was stricken, only the koihen was empowered to properly inspect, diagnose (after a second look), declare the carrier a metzoirah, quarantine, and, later examine again to see if the tzora’as was in remission or gone, before allowing the metzoirah to rejoin his brethren in the camp. How all that worked, ver veyst? We can only imagine how busy the koihanim were on a daily basis inspecting potential metzoiroim and declaring them guilty. Grada, with each diagnosis came new business opportunities; the purification process required the metzoirah to bring a few offerings. Shoin, koihanim too needed to make a living. The RBSO is avada great: avada He chapped that many will fall prey to loshoin horo and shoin…the koihanim were busy all day accepting atonements.
Earlier we mentioned that tzora’as could be visited upon a person’s house and that the RBSO in His benevolence did not immediately strike the gossipmonger’s body as a first step. Instead, the RBSO sent a warning shot of tzora’as by afflicting the house. The house was hit with some form of leprosy? Ober, we must try and chap, just how and why a house become affected with tzo’ra’as? How was this shayich (possible) and what sins could the house have committed to become so afflicted? Ober the Oisvorfer has mamish an original thought, or so he thinks: Zicher we have all heard the expression ‘the walls have ears’, ober, who knew that walls could also speak? Nu, efsher pshat is taka azoy: efsher we can kler that a house could taka become afflicted, as can people and their clothing, davka because the walls taka have ears. Those walls may not have spoken but they did listen to some juicy gossip (loshoin-horo) being spoken inside or even outside the house. Why not? Is the RBSO not capable of afflicting the walls of a house? Did he not deliver diamond encrusted Mun to the Yiddin daily for 40 years? Is listening to gossip so giferlich? Maybe!
What happens to a person that but listens and says nothing? Taka not a stupid question, ober, says the medrish azoy: The sin of loshoin horo is not limited to but its speakers. If one refrains from speaking up when he should, davka when one has the opportunity to soften the blow by introducing exculpatory positive attributes about the loshoin horo victim and does not, he too is guilty. He is guilty of passively abusing his power of speech by not using it to correct the slander. And say our rabbis: this form of speech abuse is very bad and punishable by a tzora’as visit. Something to taka think about. How many times has each of you had the opportunity to good-mouth mamish a chaver on the spot but instead sat there and either joined the badmouthing or said nothing? Shoin, many are taka guilty.
Says the heylige Zoihar (you avada know, that we don’t mess with the Zohan and zicher not with the Zoihar) azoy: Loshoin horo is not good. Shoin, that we avada know ober he adds azoy: “the more one speaks it, the more comfortable he is, and it becomes a habit that is difficult to break. At that point, people forget and ignore mamish, all the rebuke we hear, the exhortations to curtail it, and even the warnings about its devastating effects on all parties.” Mistama he did not say this in English but you chap the point. Wait: he says more (on Vayikro 46) azoy: “Just as a person is punished for speaking evil (gossip, slander, yada yada), so too, is a person punished for not speaking up when the opportunity arises.” Pshat could be azoy: Hear something bad? Say something good instead! One who remains silent while the loshoin horo flows unabated, has sinned. Veyter.
Says the RambaM (Hilchois Deois 7:3) azoy. Our wise sages said: There are three transgressions for which a person is punished in this world and has no share in the world to come. They are: idolatry, illicit sex, and bloodshed. And then he adds…ober, loshoin horo is as bad as all three combined! OMG!! OMG!! Wait, he said more: “Whoever speaks with an evil tongue is as if he denied the existence of the RBSO. Loshoin horo kills three people. The speaker, the listener who accepted what was said, and avada the person about whom the loshoin horo was spoken. The good news: there is finally something worse than illicit sex!
What taka happened to tzora’as as a warning against, or, as punishment for loshoin horo? Why did the RBSO do away with it? Say the RambaN azoy: Tzora’as was only prevalent when the Yiddin were on heightened spiritual level. A time when even the slightest of sins, would bring about an outbreak of tzora’as. When was that time? Likely never! If such a time existed, it was but for a fleeting moment, maybe over at Har Sinai when the Yiddin accepted the Ten Commandments. Ober in our times, when the Yiddin are sinners mamish, and with loshoin horo ever rampant, and when the consequences of sin are more typically dealt with on Yom Kippur when we beat our chests and say a few hundred ‘Al Cheyts’ – meaning please forgive me for I have sinned- tzora’as, as a form of punishment is no longer with us. Efsher the RBSO had rachmunis (mercy) and did not want to see kimat all of His Chosen People be stricken with and be walking around with some form of leprosy. Efsher He did not want to publicly shame so many, ver veyst. The bottom line: most people gossip out of jealousy; that will never ever stop. The RBSO chaps that; He created man, empowered him to speak and shoin. Ever since, man has abused that power.
And listen to this…according to one opinion as cited in the heylige Gemora (Sanhedrin 71a): no house was, or, will ever be stricken with tzora’as. The Gemora goes on to explain but the bottom line is that it’s possible that we are but meant to study the laws of tzora’as in the hope that such study will encourage us to at least curtail the copious amounts of loshoin horo we speak.
Interestingly enough, in the course of our illustrious Jewish history a healthy number of rabbis spoke ill of one another, and cursed each other out daily to anyone that would listen. Many books have been written about the public disputes between rabbis of different communities. They include much personal ridicule and worse between illustrious rabbis whom we quote and whose seforim and medroshim we read ad hayoim hazeh (until today). This practice of people slandering and bad mouthing one another continues. Few are exempt. Only the tools they employ have been modernized. Shoin, efsher rabbis are exempt from the laws, they preach, ver veyst.
There is one good piece of news for the victim about whom all the loshoin horo is being spread: Says the Choivas Halvovois: when a person speaks ill (loshoin horo) about another, his mitzvas and any credits he may have accumulated, are transferred over to the victim of his slanderous words. The bad news: the victim does not always keep them, they can revert back should the speaker do real tshuva. To date, this has likely never happened.
Avada it’s not the Oisvorfer’s job or intention to give mussir, he too needs some (major) improvement in this area.
A gittin Shabbis-
The Oisvorfer Ruv