Home
In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

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

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

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

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

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

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Nov. 16, 2005 / 14 Mar-Cheshvan, 5766

Person to Person, Part II

By Rabbi Mordechai Becher


To purchase the book from which this column is excerpted, please click HERE.
Printer Friendly Version

Email this article

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


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | "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 for them …

And similarly, one who bears a grudge has transgressed a Biblical prohibition … 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 … [Not 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 silent. (8)

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 to say…" 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 law. (25)


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 …(27)


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.



NOTES

References to books of the Talmud refer to the Babylonian Talmud unless otherwise noted.

(1)Leviticus 19:17
(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 loc.
(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.
(10) 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, 1:1.
(15) Ibid. 3:6.
(16) Genesis 2:7, Translation of Onkelos, ad loc.
(17) Maharal, Netivos Olam, Nesiv Halashon, Chaps.1,10.
(18) See Exodus 6:10, 6:29, Leviticus 6:2, 6:13, Numbers 1:48, 3:5; Total occurrences — 78.
(19) Yoma 4b.
(20) Leviticus 19:16.
(21) Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of the Intellect, 7:1-2.
(22) Ibid.
(23) Leviticus 19:14.
(24) Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Homicide 12:14.
(25) Ibid.
(26) Avodah Zarah 6b.
(27) Ibid.
(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.