Thursday, April 7, 2022

A Surprising Reward for Abstaining from Lashon Hara

Over a decade ago, I posted my all-time favorite post, which relates to this week's parashah:

This week, 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 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!" 

Sequel One:

A few years later, I happened to be dining with Shimon Peres, and I told him this story. He replied with a story of his own. Once he was at an event, and the host, who was not Israeli but was eager to show that he knew some Hebrew, raised a toast and said LeChaim! And then the host raised his drink to the women and said LeChayot!

Sequel Two:

A few years ago, my youngest son (pictured here with one of his favorite creatures) was telling me what he had learned in school about Yom Ha'Atzma'ut. He said that we got Israel from the British, and the British got it from the parrots.

"What? What did you say?" I asked, unsure if I had heard correctly.

"My moreh said that we got it from the Britim, and the Britim got it from the tukim, from the parrots." He looked confused. "Aba, did they really get it from the parrots?"

"Oy vey!" I said. "Not tukim, Turkim! The Turks!"

 

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16 comments:

  1. That's hilarious. לחיים ולחיות לכולם !!

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  2. Just to stick to p'shat, nowhere in Tanach do people get tzaraat for speaking lashon hara; they get it for not knowing their place, or haughtiness, leading to a midda k'neged middah of lowering them quite a bit. (Miriam thinks she's as good as Moshe; Uziah thinks he can be a kohen; Gechazi goes behind Elisha's back.) In some of these case, other aveirot (including lashon hara) may be present, but the common theme is something else.

    (If you want an even more ironic midda k'neged middah, it's been pointed out that davka after referring to Moshe's African wife is when Miriam get tzaraat, almost as if Hashem is saying, "Oh, you think black skin is no good? Why don't you see what being super-white is like?")

    On the other hand, Tanach does explicitly say that avoiding lashon hara will give you long life.

    I once attended a series of evening lectures at Hebrew Union College in New York. At each event, the rabbi introducing the speaker would arise and begin "Layla tov." I wanted to yell at her, "No, no! It's *erev* tov at the start, and *layla* tov when you're saying goodbye! Same as in English!" Ah well.

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    1. To be perfectly honest, while there is a message in Tanach that it comes as a punishment from G-d, it also seems to be a physically transmitted disease, as evidenced by the fact that the person is put into isolation outside of the camp, wears a mask (al safam ya’ateh), and must call out to keep others from approaching, so long as the disease is spreading in the patient. That it’s both physical and a message from G-d is not a contradiction, as this is true for many things in Tanach.

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    2. "Oh, you think black skin is no good? Why don't you see what being super-white is like?

      But God puts a new color on things by asking "If her father were to go green on here (ירוק ירוק), wouldn't she be embarrassed?" As you can see, the matter isn't black and white.

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    3. Oh, no doubt it has layers.

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  3. English speaking seminary girl takes the same bus every day and always greets the driver. One morning she was distracted and didn't say her usual hello. Drives asks her why she didn't greet him and she is a bit startled and wants to tell him that with his sunglasses, she didn't recognize him. Regrettably, instead of saying mishkafayim, she said michnasayim.

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    1. So many stories like that. The best one is what happened to me more years ago than I want to remember. I was on a bus with a friend of mine who had been a football player at an unnamed university. But now he was rather wider than taller in appearance. Bus stopped and started to go. My friend realized that was his stop. He got up and ran to the front of the bus yelling rega rega ani rotzeh l'ledet (not l'redet). The entire bus cracked up laughing.

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    2. Good one. But Laredet and laledet

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    3. Laredet could also mean "lose weight."

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  4. i call BS on the story - I refuse to believe that R Natan uses as Yeshivish an exclamation as Oy Vey

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    1. "Oy vey" is one the most widely used jewish expressions; very much not just used in the yeshivish 'velt'. It was said that when told about the Hiroshima bomb, Einstein put his head in his hands and said "oy vey" (quote from "Einstein A to Z").

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    2. Yeah, I guess NS is misquoting himself.

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  5. Here’s another tale of rebbishe Hebrew language ignorance.
    I remember an incident that occurred years ago, when I was learning in Yeshiva, I think it was when I was in the 7th or 8th grade Gemara class. I remember it clearly because the class had recently studied a topic that articulated illicit sexual relations and the severity and punishments that were exacted for engaging in those acts.
    I don’t remember why ( perhaps it was because of a bad rainstorm) but we were told to eat our lunch in our seats. After finishing our lunch our Rebbe pointed to a bachur to commence ברכת המזון במזומן but he didn’t instruct us with those words, With a combination of Yiddish and Hebrew he directed him to זיי מזנה, to commit adultery. My Gemara Rebbe confused מזן with זנוש, illicit licentious sex.
    I chuckled to myself because even at that age, the Gemara Rebbe’s instructions sounded screwy.

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    1. When I was in Yeshiva some naughty Bochurim coined a blessing on attractive ladies of the night
      בורא מיני זונות

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    2. Well, the midrash itself tells us that Rachav ran a restaurant.

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  6. Why parrots? I would expect to be said British got it from turkeys!

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