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Parshas Acharei Mos/Kedoshim - Stopping the Bloodshed                                 12 Iyar 5778

04/27/18 08:29:08

Apr27

Research shows that in 2017 the number of smart phones in the world was 2.5 billion; in the United States there were approximately 280 million smart phones - roughly four out of five Americans are using a smart phone. I know two people who only use a conventional cell phone, known as a “dumb” phone. There many adjectives we use to describe people in general. Judaism is no exception. Often, we refer to a person as a ‘tzadik,’ a righteous person, but rarely do we call an individual ‘Kadosh’ - a holy one. The two people I know along with others who choose not to have a smart phone are not only Tzadikim; they are Kedoshim. Chazal explain that the way a person becomes a ‘kadosh’ is by sanctifying himself with items that are permissible: ‘Kadesh Atzmecha B’Mutar Lach’. Jewish life recognizes and uses technology to help us grow in Torah, but, unfortunately, many advances in medicine and science could be used be used for good or bad.

We think and are taught that technology helps us to be more efficient and helpful. While it is true that the cell phone has made life more convenient, it has not necessarily made us into more efficient people. When the vacuum cleaner came on the scene, people no longer had to take their rugs outside, hang them over a fence and smack the dust off with a pole for fifteen minutes every other week. Fast forward…now we only need to vacuum for ten minutes…every day! With any invention, we need to not only look at the benefits;, we also must consider the detriments. I am not implying that we only consider using something if it benefits us and has zero negatives. There will always be a negative side to everything, but we must control the ill consequences that can harm us and society.

Putting aside the obvious dangers of the Internet, there looms the destruction of society through social media. A few months ago, all who attended “screenagers” were educated on the hazards of the smart phone and how vulnerable we ALL are. However, I would like to focus in on one aspect of our world of instant communication: the usage of Whatspp groups and similar platforms of group chatting and sharing. Throughout the Jewish world, last Shabbos was dedicated to Shmiras HaLashon - watching our speech. Now I know what most of you reading this are thinking: “The Rabbi is going to give us mussar. He’s going to talk about how bad Loshon Hora is and will discuss the punishments that result from speaking Loshon Hora”. I hate to say it but (I include myself in this rebuke) I don’t think just saying we must guard our tongues works anymore. We are so immersed in gossiping, it is totally out of control. We can place partial blame on the misuse of technology. We tend to be embarrassed when chatting with a group to speak up and say to a friend or a group that the ongoing conversation harbors on Lashon Hora. The halacha ‘once was’ if a group of friends was speaking lashon hora, someone in the group would try to change the subject. z If that didn’t work, they would excuse themselves. Someone (in a different city) told me he was part of a WhatsApp group and found the content to be questionable. The person found it difficult to ‘leave the group’ which is an option because the other members would then comment on how that person thinks he is better than we are. The truth is that that person is better, but the social pressure is so great that it does not allow for people to do the right thing even though everyone else knows it is true.

The one successful approach Chazal suggest in combating any prohibition is not saying ‘it is forbidden’ but rather to learn about the Mitzva. One of the obstructions that exists in resisting evil speech is the lack of knowledge of the basic Mitzva. Let us all begin right here and now.

Last week’s parsha referenced Loshan Hora, but this week we clearly read about the Mitzva of Rechilus - literally a peddler - but figuratively defined as gossiping and spreading inappropriate information. In the second of this week’s double parshios, the Torah states in Vaikra 19:16 “Lo Seilech Rachil B’Amecha, Lo Sa’Amod Al Daam Rei’Echa, Ani Hashem”: “Do not go around as a gossiper among your people. Do not stand still over your neighbor’s blood (when your neighbor’s life is in danger). I am God”. It is interesting to note that this passuk and the verses that precede and follow it contain two parts. In some cases, we see a direct correlation or continuation from the first to the second half. Our verse has a strong connection as well. I will share a few commentaries that make the link.

The holy Zohar indicates that whoever violates the first part of being a gossiper has automatically violated the second one of killing someone. The Chizkuni, on the other hand, says the first causes the second to occur. A person creates an enemy through his gossiping against his friend, and that, in turn, causes the other person to rise up and kill him. Yehuda Ben Itar explains that Rechilus, which is a form of Lashon Hora, is as harsh as a sword that can kill. The Ba’al HaTurim says the word Rachil in Hebrew is spelled ‘full’ meaning with a letter ‘yud’ which is extra. The extra ytside of Am Yisraelud (which has a value of ten) represents the Ten Commandments. If someone violates this Mitzva of being a gossiper, it is as if he violated the ten major commandments. The Shelah HaKadosh teaches that the Ten Commandments contain all six hundred thirteen Mitzvos. Therefore, by speaking Rechilus a person violates the entire Torah, thereby deserving others to stand by watching his blood and letting it be.

The Netzi”v flips the verse completely upside down. True, one is forbidden to speak and be a gossiper for something that is evil and creates bad will. On the other hand, if a person has something good and positive to say about someone, do not stand idly by and let his blood be shed. Rather, stand up and say something positive in order to save him from having his blood spilled. The Yerushalmi in Peah 1:5 rules that it is permissible to speak Lashon Hora against someone who quarrels with everyone and creates havoc for the Jewish people. This is learned out from the words “Do not gossip among your people,” but someone who acts outside of Am Yisrael does not deserve to be protected.

  1. us all take upon ourselves to learn about some of the laws of gossiping and realize that nothing good comes from it. If we all try a little, it will make a big difference in each of our lives and in the lives of others.

 

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

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Tue, July 23 2019 20 Tammuz 5779