Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
May 31st 2013 -Volume 3, Issue 31-22nd of Sivan 5773
Lessons of the Lashon
One of the most unfortunate aspects of the passing of the previous generation, of my grandparents is the loss of their keen insights and sensitivities that were so obvious to them, yet are lacking in our modern world. This past week marks the yartzeit of my grandfather and as memories of him and his pleasant loving ways flow through my thoughts I recall many of the lessons he taught me in his simple loving way.
There was one lesson that I remember which as children he would drill into us regularly. Whenever we were eating over his house -which is generally the activity we engaged if we were in feeding range of my grandmother- and there was something we did not like, perhaps the oily latkes or the _____weeks old leftovers that she insisted were still good, As children we learned very rapidly that we could never say "uchh the food is bad"or "eeww it looks disgusting" for my grandfather's reaction was like lightning. A frown would quickly come over his usually smiling face and he would scold us and say "Never call food disgusting." "If you don't like it say I don't like it but don't speak badly of food." Perhaps it was a reaction due to the lack of food he may have experienced during the war years, but I believe he was also training us to a perspective and sensitivity about how we should speak and the import of watching the words that comes out of our mouths.
This week's Torah portion also brings us an incredible lesson in the laws of watching the words that we speak. We are introduced to the unfortunate saga of the twelve spies of the Jewish people who were sent out to tour the land before the nation's arrival. (Upon reflection, I'm sure they had wished that they had taken me as a tour guide- a tragic mistake that some people surprisingly make sadly enough, and that can lead to dire resultsJ... ourholylandtours.com- "the tour that will never have you bad mouthing Israel"- and now back to your regularly scheduled E-Mail). Upon their return and after their praise for the land they began their speech of impending doom
They brought forth to the Children of Israel an evil report on the Land saying
"It is a land that devours its inhabitants! All the people were huge .. And we were like grasshoppers in our eyes and so we were in their eyes."
The wondrous fruit that were so large was used as a tool to terrify the people as to the unnatural size of the inhabitants. The deaths and funerals they witnessed on their mission which God had miraculously provided so they would be inconspicuous (according to the Midrash), were viewed to be signs of a disease ridden country. And the people mourned. That fateful Tishah B'Av became the national day of mourning for opportunities missed and of lessons that had to be learned. The lesson of the spies ...
"And the men who Moshe sent to spy the Land and who returned and spoke evil of the Land died in a plague before Hashem"
This rather harsh punishment The Medrash tells us is because they should have learned from the lesson of Miriam in the previous Parsha, the Torah portion juxtaposed to this one, which shares with us the incident of the Lashon Harah/Evil Tongue of Moshe's sister Miriam who wrongfully accused Moshe of being "holier than thou" in his separation from his wife. For speaking evil about the greatest of all men she is punished with divine Tzoraas (a spiritual/ physical malady resembling leprosy) and is sent out of the camp until she is healed .The Spies are accused of not having learned the lesson of Miriam and her punishment for speaking Evil.
What is troubling however is it seems that there should be a difference between the two. I think many of us can agree we should not speak Lashon Harah about great people or even not such great people. But about a land? About sticks and stones? About my grandmothers week old To'ta Parikash (Hungarian stuffed peppers which seemed to breed in her fridge-oops there I go again) It doesn't seem like anyone will get hurt.
The answer I believe reveals the essense of the Torah's concept of Lashon Harah. The Sin of Lashon harah is not necessarily a Sin about speaking gossip or slandering and hurting another. The greatest damage of Lashon Harah is to the one who speaks it. For in speaking and examining others and the world in a negative critical light, one trains oneself to becoming a negative person. And there is no greater damage that one can cause to himself then that.
Miriam was punished not because she hurt or harmed Moshe. Moshe was the humblest of all men. It was because she bred negativity and death within herself. The Spies in the same vein should have learned it makes no difference if we are speaking about a person or a land or the food on your dinner plate, it is the perspective of viewing things with the eyes of Lashon Harah that leads to destruction.
The counter force to Lashon Harah is an Ayin Tovah, A Good Eye and that is also the perspective my grandfather always shared. "Itz vet Zein gut" "It will be good" was always on his lips. The ability to look at the world as the wonderful place that is a blessing from Hashem and that the things that may seem bad or disgusting on our plate of life is only from our perspective but never inherently bad, is one that I sorely miss and that the world could surely use. May we all merit to avoid the pitfalls of negativity and Lashon harah and rectify the sin of our nation so long ago by seeing the positive in all that we encounter.
Have the best Shabbos ever!
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
This weeks Insights and Inspirations is dedicated in honor of our newest Olim to Karmiel the Strugano family of five from Los Angeles. Mazel Tov on coming home J. We are excited to welcome your new home... May your Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael and Karmiel truly be an Aliyah -an uplifting advance for your family and may it be filled with bracha, simcah and mazal...
RABBI SCHWARTZES QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"When all other sins lie dormant, as it were, in Heaven, Lashon Harah "says" to G-d "You can't let them get away with this sin".."- Chafetz Chaim
RABBI SCHWARTZ YOUTUBE LINK OF THE WEEK
Pause Before You Post
RABBI SCHWARTZES TOUR GUIDE COURSE QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Where is Prime Minister Begin buried?
(a) On Mt. Herzl in the burial plot allocated for leaders of the State (chelkat Gedolai Ha'Umah)
(b) Mt. of Olives
(d) Har Ha'Menuhot
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Museum of Underground Prisoners-Jerusalem-Located in the Russian compound and formerly a women's hospital the British after WWI transformed this building into Bevingrad (named after the foregin minister of Britain) or the prison which housed over 500 jewish and arab prisoners before the State of Israel. The prisoners were put to work making coffins for British soldiers they had killed. Although there was a gallows most prisoners were not given the death penalty in Jerusalem rather in Akko. Weekly the great Rabbi Aryeh Levin would visit and give the soldiers strength and inspiration. Today one can visit this cool prison and hear about the story of the battle for our State, the breakout from the prison and the heroism of our soliders who gave their lives to create the new state of Israel.
Answer is B-unlike many of Israel's prime ministers Menachem Begin declined to be buried with the rest of the political leaders of Israel in the national cemetery in Har Hertzl. He didn't like them and they didn't like him to much either... instead he chose to be buried on Har Ha'Zeisim next to the two people that he considered to be the true "Gedolai Ha'Umah, his fellow Irgun/Etzel soldiers Bazinai and Feinstien who were captured and sentenced to be hung by the British in the Jerusalem prison and instead planned to blow themselves up taking the British with them "Samson Style". Their plan however changed when they realized their Rabbi would be present at their hanging and instead they blew themselves up alone in their cell-cheating the British of the pleasure of their execution.