The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014
Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology
The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious
: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain
April 14, 2014
Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time
: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic
: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships
: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin
: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate
: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure
April 11, 2014
Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden
: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does
: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer
: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You
April 9, 2014
Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?
Samuel G. Freedman
: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau
: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau
: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
April 8, 2014
Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease
Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear
April 4, 2014
A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children
Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet
Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds
Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves
April 2, 2014
Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?
Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities
It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene
Jewish World Review
Nov. 16, 2005
/ 14 Mar-Cheshvan, 5766
Person to Person, Part II
Rabbi Mordechai Becher
To purchase the book from which this column is excerpted, please click HERE.
One who is devout and sensitive in matters relating to the Divine, but is remiss in his treatment of other people, is neglecting half of the human purpose in the world
"Do not take revenge nor bear a grudge" (1) is a commandment related
to the mitzvah (religious duty) of love. If one is able to realize that he and the person who
offended him are both part of a greater whole, taking revenge becomes
absurd. It would be like punishing your right hand when it hits your left
thumb with a hammer.(2) Maimonides considers the desire for revenge
one of the most negative of character traits, the result of attributing too
much importance to matters which, in reality, are trivial:
One who takes
revenge on his friend has transgressed a Biblical prohibition... And even
though he does not receive a punishment from the courts it is an exceedingly
evil character trait. Rather, it is appropriate for a person to forgo his
honor in all matters of this world, because they are all, in the eyes of the
wise, trivial and inconsequential and are not worthwhile to take revenge
And similarly, one who bears a grudge has transgressed a
rather he should erase the matter from
his heart and not keep it. Because as long as he remembers
the matter in his heart, he may come to take revenge
bearing a grudge] is the correct attitude that will enable the
survival of society and human interaction. (3)
Another understanding of the prohibition against revenge is that
when something happens to cause us distress, we are obligated to look
inward at our own faults to discover the cause, rather than looking at
others and blaming their faults:
The root of this commandment is that a
person should be aware that everything that happens to him, whether it
is good or bad, has been caused by G-d, may He be blessed, and nothing
will be done by a man to his brother unless it is the will of G-d. Therefore
when someone hurts him or insults him, he should realize that it is G-d's
decree to punish us for our transgressions. And he shall not plan to wreak
vengeance against his brother, because he is not the cause of the evil,
rather it is his own sin which is the cause of the evil. (4)
The intent of this approach is not to excuse the perpetrator of an
evil act, but to have the victim focus on productive reflection rather than
destructive thoughts of vengeance.
There is some disagreement as to whether this prohibition, in the
strictest legal sense, applies only to financial matters, or whether it
includes matters of personal injury and insult as well. (5) Since one may be
transgressing a Biblical prohibition, it is appropriate to be very careful
not to take revenge in these areas either. The Talmud notes that it is also
an act of piety to be forgiving in matters of personal offense, not to seek
revenge or bear a grudge. (6)
These prohibitions in no way curtail a person's right to self-defense. If
one is physically attacked, the Torah not only allows, but in fact, obligates
him to defend himself. If the attack is not violent or life threatening, a
verbal attack, for example, one is still permitted to respond at the time of
the incident, since in the words of one of our greatest 20th-century sages,
the Chafetz Chaim, "A person cannot be a stone
"(7) It is, nevertheless,
considered an act of great piety and humility if one is able to remain
BUT NAMES WILL NEVER HURT ME
In Jewish tradition, an entire set of laws governs how we speak about,
and to, other people. These are known as the laws of Lashon Hara, the
"Evil Tongue." They include prohibitions against any speech that may damage
another person or cause emotional distress. Insults, lies and breaches
of confidence are all forbidden. When discussing the existence of these
laws, a student of mine once reacted with shock and derision. "That's
ridiculous!" he said, "How can you control human nature? Speaking about
other people is as natural as breathing!"
Judaism maintains that, on the contrary, speech is very much under
our control, that we can determine what we say and how we say it. The
laws of Lashon Hara help us appreciate the incredible power of speech
that has inspired people and saved lives, but has also caused death and
destruction. As the verse in Proverbs states, "Death and life are in the
power of the tongue." (9)
We bear tremendous responsibility for what we say, even beyond any
tangible impact on the subject, (10) because when we speak about someone
in a derogatory fashion we corrupt both ourselves and our listeners. (11)
Even if what is said is true, (12) and even if it will not cause any measurable
damage, (13) it is still forbidden to speak negatively about another person,
because this is a misuse of the power of speech. Our tradition defines
the human being as a "speaker." (14) Lashon Hara is a sin that corrupts and
perverts the very essence of the human being, speech. (15)
It is significant that the verse most often repeated in the Torah teaches
us a law about the ethics of speech. Virtually every time G-d speaks to
Moses, the Torah writes, "G-d spoke to Moses, to say
"(16) The Talmud
notes that the Hebrew word for "to say" (le'emor) seems to be unnecessary.
The redundancy teaches us that unless one is told "to say," anything
a person hears should be kept in confidence:
"G-d called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting
" From here we see that one whose friend has told
him something is prohibited from speaking of it to others until
given permission to do so. (17)
It is commonly assumed that nothing is confidential unless we are told
otherwise, but Jewish law teaches us precisely the opposite; we should
treat everything we hear as confidential unless told otherwise.
Even worse than revealing secrets and breaking confidence is spreading
dissent or hatred by being a "gossipmonger" (18) one who tells others
about negative things that someone has done to them or said about them.
(In Hebrew, the term for this is rechilus.) Even if what he relates is true, the
narration creates acrimony. (19) Such a person thrives on the ill feeling and
damage that he causes with his tale-bearing. In the words of Maimonides,
he "destroys the world" (20) through his speech.
The laws of Lashon Hara teach us to speak with great care and kindness
and to avoid making negative statements about others. They direct
us to be truthful, seek peace and value silence. As Mark Twain once said,
"You always regret what you say much more than what you don't say."
STUMBLING BLOCKS AND REBUKE
You shall not place a stumbling block before the blind; you
shall fear your G-d I am G-d. (21)
This verse refers to someone who is blinded by ignorance or passion
and cannot "see" what is the correct thing to do. (22) The Torah prohibits giving
advice that is not in the best interests of the person, thereby "misleading
the blind." (23) It also forbids us to cause anyone else, Jew or non-Jew, to
do a sin. (24) Being the causative agent is a Biblical prohibition; even aiding
and abetting the performance of a wrong deed is forbidden by Rabbinic
Not only may we not participate in someone else's incorrect actions,
the Torah expects us to actively discourage others from doing the wrong
thing and encourage them to do what is right.
You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall reprove
your fellow and do not bear a sin because of him. (26)
Maimonides states this obligation the following way: One who sees
that his friend has sinned or is going in a path that is not good, it is an
obligation to turn him toward good and to inform him that he is hurting
himself with his evil actions
In order for the rebuke to be effective, it must be delivered gently,
with respect and love. (28) Words of rebuke spoken in anger are counterproductive;
they will not be accepted, (29) and may even provoke the person to
do something worse. In fact, according to Jewish law, if a person feels that
he cannot control his anger, he is exempt from the obligation of rebuke. (30)
The Talmud states that rebuke should generally take place in private
and even in private it is prohibited to embarrass someone. (31) Publicly
embarrassing someone must be avoided at all costs; it is considered
the equivalent of murder. (32) The Talmud goes so far as to state: "It is better
to throw oneself into a burning furnace than to embarrass someone
in public." (33)
The commandment to reprove applies to cases of personal conflict
as well. The verse quoted above teaches us that if someone is offended
or hurt by another person, he should not hide his negative feelings, ("You
shall not hate your brother in your heart") but should communicate his
hurt to the other person ("You shall reprove your fellow"). In this way,
the other person has an opportunity to apologize, explain or deny the
wrongdoing. If the animosity is kept hidden, it will often grow and fester
and may one day break out in negative, damaging action ("Do not bear a
sin because of him"). (34)
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes inspiring articles. Sign up for our daily update. It's free. Just click here.
As a senior lecturer and outreach expert with Gateways Seminars, Rabbi Mordechai Becher has helped thousands of people reconnect with the beauty, wisdom, and relevance of their Jewish heritage. Often asked to recommend "just one book" that would explain the essentials of Jewish life and thought, he decided to write it himself, Gateway to Judaism:
The What, How, and Why of Jewish Life, from which this column was excerpted. (Sales of this book help fund JWR).
Comment by clicking here.
References to books of the Talmud refer to the Babylonian Talmud unless otherwise noted.
(2) Horeb, Chap. 89, para. 581.
(3) Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws
of the Intellect 7:7-8.
(4) Rabbi Aharon of Barcelona, Sefer
HaChinuch, Mitzvah 241.
(5) Yoma 22b-23a; Commentaries ad
(6) Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan, Sefer
Chafetz Chaim, Be'er Mayim Chaim,
Prohibitions 8, 9.
(7) Yoma, ibid.
(8) Sanhedrin 72a.
(9) Sefer Chafetz Chaim, ibid.
(11) Proverbs 18:21.
(12) Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan, Chafetz
Chaim, Laws of Lashon Hara, 3:6.
(13) Pesachim 118a.
(14) Chafetz Chaim, Laws of Lashon Hara,
(15) Ibid. 3:6.
(16) Genesis 2:7, Translation of Onkelos,
(17) Maharal, Netivos Olam, Nesiv Halashon,
(18) See Exodus 6:10, 6:29, Leviticus 6:2,
6:13, Numbers 1:48, 3:5; Total occurrences
(19) Yoma 4b.
(20) Leviticus 19:16.
(21) Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws
of the Intellect, 7:1-2.
(23) Leviticus 19:14.
(24) Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws
of Homicide 12:14.
(26) Avodah Zarah 6b.
(28) Leviticus 19:17.
(29) Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws
of Intellect, 6:7.
(30) Maimonides, ibid.; Sefer Yereim, 223
(31) Rashi on Talmud Erchin 16b.
(32) Shabbas 34b.
(33) Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, Keser Rosh
(Siddur Hagra), 143.
(34) Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws
of the Intellect 6:8; Chafetz Chaim,
Introduction, Be'er Mayim Chaim, 14.
(35) Erchin 16b.
(36) Bava Metzia 58b.
(37) Sotah 10b; Tosafos ad loc. "Noach."
(38) Ibid. 6:6.
(39) Exodus 20:
© 2005, Mesorah Publications, Ltd.