Parshas Emor
May 9, 2009 - 15 Iyar 5769


Voices From the Ezras Nashim

This has been an extremely busy work week for me and so here it is Friday morning and I am just sitting down to put a few thoughts together. There are thoughts of two subjects playing a tug of war in my brain. First, a friend sent an email this morning with a drasha by Abraham Twerski about loshen hara and second, another friend when advising me about a personal situation I was facing a few weeks ago commented “don’t engage.” It seems to be that the connection between loshen hara and don’t engage is one to be explored.

Loshen hara, gossip or evil speech is considered in Judaism as a most harmful act. There are sources that say that three people are injured when there is loshen hara—the speaker, the listener and the one spoken about. The Chofetz Chaim is well known for his discourse on loshen hara and other sages have warned us as a people that loshen hara destroys. In his drasha, Rabbi Twerski discusses loshen hara as it relates to this week’s parsha and equates the results of loshen hara to the physical injuries in the parsha. His drasha ends with the comment that the one who speaks loshen hara about others to display their weaknesses and faults is generally commenting on traits that he himself possesses.

As I understand it there are three levels of loshen hara. The first entails relating information that is true but derogatory or told in a way that is meant to be derogatory. The second is relating tales about a person to others and the third is motzi shem ra—slander. All are to be avoided. All are harmful. All destroy. So, how do we refrain from loshen hara? How do we react when we are told a juicy tidbit (usually about someone we dislike)? What is our responsibility when we are in a group where loshen hara is spoken? How do we recognize loshen hara?

Recognizing loshen hara should be easy. The first statement before the loshen hara is usually “did you know about so and so?” Or, “I heard that ….” The surprising thing perhaps is that loshen hara can be as simple as singing the praises of a child or the accomplishments of someone in the community. We are taught that this arouses jealousy which leads to inappropriate talk.

I read a story about the Chofetz Chaim recently in which the great rabbi was travelling and when he stopped for the night at an Inn he was recognized by others who gathered around him to tell him about the ills of their town and people in it. The Chofetz Chaim ran from the Inn shouting “loshen hara.” He spent the night in the woods.

This brings me to the advice from a friend “don’t engage.” At first I was puzzled by the comment. What did this really mean? What should my behavior be? As I went through this very busy week there were episodes of great stress (self imposed—thank HaShem all is well). All involved interactions with people who were confronting me, placing their problems before me or telling me tales I did not want to hear. In some cases I did engage both mouth and battle before slowing down and thinking about what was happening. In others it was easier to step back and not engage. In all cases the advice not to engage gives the opportunity for more reasoned decision making and allows time to develop a response that is not loshen hara. I do hear that still small voice in my head very often now. I hope that I really learn to listen before sticking foot in mouth.

May we all be zoche to recognize the intrinsic value of each of HaShem’s creatures so that we can curb our desire to speak improperly. May HaShem be pleased with our efforts.

Elk’s Menu Parshas
May 9, 2009—15 Iyar 5769

Whole Wheat Challah
Baked in the merit of a child for a childless couple. To participate in this mitzvah please call Yehudis Halberstam—718-972-4793 for this week’s names.
Orange and Papaya Fruit Plate
Parve Chicken Soup (((recipe)))
Salmon en Croute with Sauteed Onions and Spinach
Salmon in Whisky Marinade
Onion Quiche with Muenster Cheese
Oven Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Pecans
Israeli Couscous with Vegetables
Orzo Salad with Colored Peppers, Cucumber and Dill Lettuce Salad with Fine Herbs and Homemade Dressing Spanish Bar Cake with Orange Frosting


Egg Salad
Tuna Salad
Gefilte Fish
Herring Matjes

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