Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Surprising Reward for Abstaining from Lashon Hara

(A re-post from 2010 - I couldn't resist it, it's my all-time favorite post and it relates to this week's parashah.)

This Shabbos, my adorable five-year-old son was telling me what he had learned about the parashah. He said, "If we say lashon hara, then we get bad things on our skin, and if we don't say lashon hara, we get long animals."

I had been slightly distracted by the antics of one of my other kids, but my attention snapped back at the last part of his sentence. "What? What did you say?" I asked, unsure if I had heard correctly.

"My moreh said that if we don't say lashon hara, we get long animals." He paused, and looked confused. "Aba, is that really true? Will we get long animals?"

My mind struggled to understand what was going on. I know that with my son being in a Hebrew-speaking preschool, sometimes the teacher's words get lost in translation. But what on earth had the teacher said?

Suddenly, I had a burst of inspiration.

"Oy vey!" I said. "Chayyim aruchim does not mean 'long animals,' it means 'long life'! It's chayyim aruchim, not chayyot aruchot!"

35 comments:

  1. Hilarious! But I hope you also corrected him on the first part about getting "bad things on our skin for speaking loshon harah". I don't recall any of your critics (the ones who made ad hominum attacks) get tzaras!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Fuuny. Of course, there's no mention of loshon harah in the actual parsha.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That's the cutest thing!! And the picture is great too!

    LOL! Thanks for the laugh!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I can only wonder what he thinks 'Zoo Rabbi' means.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I love this story.

    How about when the chazzan swallows the 'hei' in l'ha'chayos at the end of the second bracha in Shemona Esrei: "v'neeman ata la'chayos meisim." Hashem is apparently faithful to the dead animals.

    ReplyDelete
  6. What is the "rationalist approach" to tzara'ath

    ReplyDelete
  7. The rationalist approach is that it is a natural disease that also imparts ritual impurity. Just like the natural seminal and vaginal emissions that make one impure as expounded in the Parsha. The idea that it is a manifestation of a "purely spiritual disease" is not supported by p'shat in the chumash. The

    ReplyDelete
  8. I would extend Chaim's question , why does the Torah devote so much space, on something that doesn't now exist (its not leprosy) and that we don't even understand.

    Also, when we pray for the rebuilding of the Beit HamikDash, are we to wish for the return of Tzara'at?

    ReplyDelete
  9. My (then) 3 year old son used to mispronounce "the Chumash" as "the Onesh"--oy vey indeed!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Dr.J, the torah devotes even more space to the building of the mishkan and to the karbonot, which lapsed long ago. The same question can be raised about the emphasis in the torah on agricultural rather than urban issues - not to mention institutions such as slavery that will never return. The rational approach, it seems to me, is to consider that the torah had to be conditioned to the times in which it was given. The torah is, after all, given to humans with their timebound culture and human understanding - not to angels. Hence there are various halachot that are no longer relevant. However, the principles of the torah are timeless. Even those "antiquated" laws contain lessons still relevant today.

    While we should expect a diminution of the extent of animal sacrafice in the temple of the future, it would require a new torah to totally abandon it. As to the return of tzara'at, that is GOD's business - our input is not required. It should be noted that Isaiah has already prophesized, "Your people will all be righteous, they will inherit the land forever..". In such days, there would be little occasion or point in bodily tzara'at.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Then there is always the Chassidic interpretations of Halachas which may not apply today - these are often allegorical and yet timeless.

    ReplyDelete
  12. MJ
    interesting that the Rambam in the end of hilchos Tumas Tzaraas chooses to not take the "rationalist" approach. maybe rationalism isn't the same as naturalism.

    ReplyDelete
  13. The Chofetz Chaim claimed that those who speak lashon hara are punished by being reincarnated as a dog.

    ReplyDelete
  14. MJ, I respectfully disagree. While the laws in Tazria-Metzora don't discuss the spiritual causes of tzara`at, the Torah does discuss the story of Miriam (twice), where it is clearly a Divine punishment. Moshe is given a miraculous sign to cause and cure tzara`at in himself.

    In the Nevi'im, tzara`at afflicts Na`aman/Gechazi as well as Uzziah because of excessive haughtiness, and the tzara`at or its cure is miraculous in those cases.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Very cute, but not that cute when you think of all of teacher induced misconceptions that go uncorrected.
    I’m sure that if one child didn’t get it, there are probably many more children who didn’t get it because they are trying to wrap their brains around concepts that are just too big for them.
    Why do we burden five year old psyches with thinking that people with skin conditions, or those who died young must have spoken lashon harah? In fact, now that I think about it, it’s probably better for your son to think that someone complaining about their sister will get animals as opposed to the alternative.
    A pet peeve of mine…why do we even bother young children with the concept of lashon harah? Doesn’t it stifle the open communication we want to foster with our children?

    ReplyDelete
  16. >>>> The Chofetz Chaim claimed that those who speak lashon hara are punished by being reincarnated as a dog.

    As the owner of 2 beautiful golden retrievers who my wife spoils worse than any kids, i have to question what is the “punishment”

    ReplyDelete
  17. I had told it over to my kids and everyone had a good laugh.

    When kids from non-Hebrew speaking families go to cheider you get a laugh like this quite often. Here is one from my son. The posuk in parashas Mikez says: 'Sheva paros raos mareh', which means 'seven sick looking cows'. He translates: ' ziben kien wus kiken in shpigel', which means 'seven cows looking in the mirror'. 'Mare' - look(noun), 'mara' - mirror. That was pretty awesome for a kid who was daydreaming in class.

    Shep nachas!

    ReplyDelete
  18. elemir, the Sufis say that if all murids (students) were like dogs there would be no need for shaykhs (spiritual leaders).

    ReplyDelete
  19. How much gossip do I have to avoid to get a boa constrictor?

    ReplyDelete
  20. Seeker said:

    'A pet peeve of mine…why do we even bother young children with the concept of lashon harah? Doesn’t it stifle the open communication we want to foster with our children?'

    No. Not in our culture. Not to reveal embarrassing information that would not be known otherwise, not to betray other people's trust and not to be a snitch should not stifle communications with our children. In fact, it will make them more likable to their peers and spare them a few good beatings. No one likes a snitch. A snitch gets a stitch.

    Do you think that prohibition against speaking 'nibul peh' also stifles our communications with our children?

    ReplyDelete
  21. While reading some of parashas Naso with my 7 year old daughter, I said the words "naso es rosh." I asked her, "where else in the Torah do we see 'se'u es rosh'?" I didn't really expect her to answer, but I was thinking about the episode of Yosef interpreting the prisoner's dream. She thinks for a second, and then says, "se'u sh'arim rasheichem"!
    I was floored! I think I can thank Gershon Veroba for a little help on that one!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I disagree with a lot that you write. So had to comment now to thank you for the huge smile on my face.
    Have much nachas from him and whole family for many long healthy years.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Having dog-sat for an unpleasant daschund once, I think that if I were teaching children, I would be tempted to say that long animals are a punishment for lashon hara!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Did you hear the one about the Israelis and Arabs agreeing to end their violent disputes and agreeing to a dog fight instead. One fight takes all! Anyhow, the Arabs laugh on the day of the big event. They bring this drooling horrid looking pitbull. The Jews send a meek looking dachshund. The Arabs praise their amazing dog trainers and laugh at the pathetic looking "Jewish" dog. The fight begins and the dachshund makes short work of the pitbull. Then the Jews praise their "trainer"- Dr. Silver, the plastic surgeon in LA, who can make an alligator look like a dachshund.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Burstein, Warren BursteinApril 4, 2014 at 9:39 AM

    Aharon- "While we should expect a diminution of the extent of animal sacrafice in the temple of the future, it would require a new torah to totally abandon it."

    We don't and won't. This is Kefirrah according to the Torah. We work to reinstate all the Halachot and not abandon even 1 Halacha.

    ReplyDelete
  26. EML- For Arabs dogs are Haram. They cannot even touch them (or pigs and monkeys).

    ReplyDelete
  27. For a clear explanation of tzaraas see the Ramban in parashas Tazria 13:47. Essentially, you have to be on a very high spiritual level for tzara'as to apply. Very interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Dr J.
    The laws of tfillin are more complex than those of tsaraas,
    but Hashem included them in the oral Torah.
    Why did He include most of all the details of tsaraas in the Chumash?
    It has been suggested,and I don't know the source,that if the nature of tsaraas had not been graphically described ,anyone suffering a skin disease might be suspected unjustly of having spoken lashon Haraa.
    I believe that there were times that society was more condemnatory of speakers lashon haraa than of mechalelei Shabbos or ochlei treifos.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Abe Lincoln:

    I was once asked how long a dog's legs must be. I replied, long enough to reach the ground.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Perhaps we error when we force ourselves to take every word of Torah literally. Now it's not that Torah isn't literally true but that we just can't understand the literal meaning any longer. For example, we don't know or are unsure of what animal t'chelis comes from, which locust we can eat (but lately some say we have figured these things out), and what some of the mysterious animals that are mentioned really are. We definitely knew all these things, and more, at one time but we forgot or lost track of that knowledge over time.

    So, what do we do with these mysterious things that seem to have no sensible literal meaning? Even when we knew what the literal meaning of things were, they still had attached to them an even greater meaning and purpose and we need to look at, look for, that greater meaning, that is, what are we meant to learn from them, what do they tell us about how we are supposed to live our lives, about what Hashem expects of us. We don't often have oxen around the house anymore, so one could ask, "Why do I care what is the situation if my ox gores your ox?" but if you just replace "ox" with "car" the relevance becomes apparent. It is our job, in every time and every place, to discover what the immutable meaning of these things are.

    It is not for just anyone to say with authority what the relevant meaning for us is, so we have to look to our chachamin to glean this meaning and explain it to us. We can all have our own opinions, but our own opinions are just interesting thoughts and we should be careful about adopting them as the truth.

    ReplyDelete
  31. The Palestenians and Israelis decided to finally set aside their differences and decide their argument based on a big dog fight. The Palestinians trained a mean pitbull. When the day of the big fight arrived, the Palestinians laughed at the Jew's dockshound. They praised their mean dog trainer. The fight began and the dockshound tore the pitbull to shreads in 10 seconds. The Palestinians were unaware of the great Jewish plastic surgeons who can discuise an alligator as a dockshound.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Reminds me of the time (I was considerably older than 5, I'm afraid) when my cousin was decrying smolanim in the government. I thought she was joking and said I was a smolani, and so is my mother. She looked at me incredulously so I continued -- Uncle Moshe, too; it runs in our family, after all. It took some time to realize that I didn't know the difference between leftist and lefty in Hebrew.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Many years ago one of our neighbors came to ask if he could borrow my Tefillin. My wife answered the door, and when she heard his request she told him that I was a leftist (in Hebrew, of course).

      Delete
  33. Reminds me of my kid telling me that Hashem made "Garments of Light" - Kothnos Ohr - for Adam and Chava.

    ReplyDelete

Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.