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WORDS COUNT

by Yogi Robkin    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

The focal point of this week's double Torah portion is the disease known as tzaraat. The Talmud (Tractate Eruchin 16a) explains that this punishment was meted out by Hashem primarily to those who were guilty of speaking lashon hara, literally translated as bad language (in other words, gossip).

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The focal point of this week's double Torah portion is the disease known as tzaraat. The Talmud (Tractate Eruchin 16a) explains that this punishment was meted out by Hashem primarily to those who were guilty of speaking lashon hara, literally translated as bad language (in other words, gossip).

In a recent talk in Atlanta, Rabbi Yissocher Frand of the Yeshiva Ner Israel in Baltimore, explained that people have a natural tendency to want to defame and make unholy those things which are holy. As such, we can easily see why lashon hara presents us with such a challenge. Speaking lashon hara is often an attempt to make known the faults of others, in order to sway people's opinions from good to bad and from esteem to shame. Because speaking about others comes so naturally to us, it takes a person of great piety, self-restraint, and discipline to scrupulously refrain from speaking lashon hara.

One such man was the saintly Chofetz Chaim. Although this great Torah scholar and leader met and spoke with hundreds of people a day, he made it his personal mission to never speak or listen to any lashon hara. On one occasion, the Chofetz Chaim went to visit a wealthy businessman for a possible donation to his yeshiva. When the Chofetz Chaim walked into the businessman's office, the man was busy preparing a telegram. The two began to talk and the Chofetz Chaim realized that the discussion was beginning to lead to a certain individual and that lashon hara might ensue.

Suddenly, the Chofetz Chaim arose and looked at the telegram on the businessman's desk. "It looks as if you have carefully thought out every single word here, for you've rewritten this telegram several times," said the Chofetz Chaim.

"I certainly have," said the businessman. "Every unnecessary word here will cost me extra money."

The Chofetz Chaim was amazed at this and noted, "If only everyone was so careful when choosing what should come out of their mouth! Don't they realize that every unnecessary word they speak will cost them dearly in the World to Come!"

May we learn from the example set by the Chofetz Chaim and proclaimed by King David: "Who is the person who desires life, who loves days, that he may see good therein? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking guile!" (Psalms 34:13).

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Yogi Robkin, a native Atlantan, is a senior at Yeshiva Atlanta and will be spending next year studying at the Yeshiva Shaarei Mevaseret Tzion in Israel.

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