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A MATTER OF SPEECH

by David Schulman    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

On Tishah B'Av, we mournfully commemorate the greatest of tragedies that occurred to the Jewish people. One of the tragedies that we commemorate is the destruction of the second Beit HaMikdash (Temple), destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 CE.

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On Tishah B'Av, we mournfully commemorate the greatest of tragedies that occurred to the Jewish people. One of the tragedies that we commemorate is the destruction of the second Beit HaMikdash (Temple), destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 CE. The Talmud states that one of the reasons for the destruction of the second Beit HaMikdash was that the Jewish people expressed sinat chinam (baseless hatred) towards one another. One of the instigators of sinat chinam is the greatest violation of speech, lashon hara (slander and gossip).

Violation of speech is a huge sin. One reason is that it represents a waste of words. Hashem gave everyone a certain number of words that they may speak in their lifetime. Every word, whether spoken constructively or not, goes up to the Heavens. It would be such a shame to have to appear before the Heavens on the Day of Judgment, knowing full well that constructive speech could have been spoken instead of the garbage which often comes out of our mouths.

Another reason why lashon hara is a huge sin is because it is bitul z'man, a waste of time. We are given so much time in the world. Why not use the time constructively? The only purpose that lashon hara can serve is to hurt someone else's feelings and causing baseless hatred amongst the Jewish people.

During the three weeks leading up to Tishah B'Av, we exert a little more energy in our Torah study so that Hashem will have mercy on us. By speaking lashon hara, this whole purpose can be destroyed. The Talmud states that lashon hara is equivalent to the three cardinal sins: sexual immorality, murder, and idolatry (Tractate Peah 1:1). How is this so? Lashon hara leads to immorality because it is a sin and sins lead to other sins. It is equal to murder because the speaker is killing the victim's reputation. It is equal to idol worship because when one speaks lashon hara, one does so because he feels that he is more important than the victim. No person is better than anyone else. Only Hashem stands out above us all.

Lashon hara is not something that Jews should refrain from speaking. We must refrain from speaking lashon hara. When all Jews start making steps to refrain from lashon hara, then perhaps Hashem will take bigger steps in the effort of rebuilding the Beit HaMikdash.

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David Schulman, a recent graduate of Yeshiva Atlanta, will be studying in Israel this fall.

You are invited to read more Parshat Devarim articles.

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