Lashon Hara In The Workplace #2

8 09 2011
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg   

Lashon Hara in the Workplace

There’s no difference whether you speak lashon hara (slanderous talk) on your own or whether someone pressures you to do so. Even if it’s someone you respect, like a parent or Rebbe, you may not speak what is forbidden. The Chofetz Chaim brings proof from the story of Doeg and King Shaul. The Torah considers Doeg a rochel (a gossiper) for informing King Shaul about David and the city of Nov that protected him.

Of course a person shouldn’t cause disagreements or ill will unnecessarily. Therefore if someone close to you is compelling you to speak lashon hara, think about the right way to say no. Very often deflecting tension and discomfort depends on your tone of voice and the way you say it.

There is a famous question in the Igros Moshe whether a teacher can ask his class to disclose which student perpetrated an offense, so that the teacher can rebuke him? Rav Moshe is against doing so because it trains students to speak lashon hara. The Rebbe may have the right intentions, but the students won’t. The Nesivas Chaim quotes Rav Hominer who takes a different approach. If the teacher asks the students to speak ill about someone for a toelet (benefit) so he can deal with the mistake properly, it’s permitted. The Rebbe must clearly state that in this context it is not lashon hara as he is doing it for the boy’s benefit.  The Nesivos Chaim concludes, that the teacher must weigh very carefully what the students will think. Will they say, “Our Rebbe is making us speak lashon hara,” or will they understand, “Yes, this is for a toelet.”

We must forfeit one fifth of our wealth for the sake of a positive commandment and all of our wealth for a negative commandment. Therefore, even if it means forfeiting ones job, one may not violate the negative prohibition of lashon hara. In the long run, if a person is careful with forbidden speech, he will gain the respect of his co-workers. He can be a walking Kiddush Hashem by living up to the image of how a Jew should speak and behave.

A person should get in the habit of asking sheilot (questions) about lashon hara just as he does for Shabbat or kashrut. If you’re sitting with a group of people who are speaking lashon hara and you can’t leave or change the subject, you must keep quiet and not join in, even if they will think you’re strange. Our Sages say, “Better to be considered a fool for ones entire life rather than to be a fool for one hour before Hashem.” If you’re riding in a van and you can’t stop the lashon hara, plug into your ipod.

The prohibition of loshon hara includes writing. Slandering in a veiled way is also forbidden. The Torah says, “Lo selech rochel b’amecha-Do not go as a gossipmonger among your people. Unkelos translates rochel as korzim-to wink with one’s eye. Using body language to convey lashon hara is a Torah prohibition. This seems to contradict a later halacha where the Chofetz Chaim mentions avak lashon hara-the dust of lashon hara.  Hinting to something uncomplimentary such as, “I don’t want to talk about this person,” is a Rabbinic prohibition. The difference is that in the first halacha, the person communicates the actual lashon hara in a roundabout way so that others shouldn’t understand. In the second case, the person doesn’t say anything negative, he just hints to it.

 

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Rebbetzin’s Perspective I Class #2

3 07 2011

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Rebbetzin Perspective

Question:

How do I balance listening to lashon hora with developing a deep and meaningful relationship with my teenage daughter?  Are there different rules when dealing with teenagers who need to be able to talk freely in order to understand themselves and their circle of friends?  

 

Answer:

 

If you care about someone, you want to give them what’s best for them. If you had a brilliant child who wanted to become a doctor, you’d do whatever you could to get him through medical school. If you had a special needs child who required extra intervention, you’d surmount all obstacles to help him progress. Your daughter desperately needs to learn how to differentiate between actual lashon hara and  lashon hara l’toelet, and how to developing a positive eye. As her mother, you are responsible to guide her.

 

Some people have the illusion that if they confide in their spouse they are drawing closer. In fact they are doing quite the opposite, notes the Chofetz Chaim, because their relationship is based on the common desire to tear people down. If you don’t set your daughter straight now and she continues analyzing and discussing people endlessly, the day may come when you’ll be the bull’s eye. She’ll be talking about you in a way she’s been talking with you all along about others.

 

The first step would be to gently get her to focus on what is unique, special, and precious, in every person. The next step would be to steer her to look for constructive solutions to her social problems. The final stage would be to have her come to these conclusions on her own. This will change your relationship with her in a very pivotal way. It will now be based on the common goal of finding resolutions and developing positivity rather than constantly putting others down.





When Its OK to Bend the Truth

16 12 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Permissible Falsehood

There is a common practice for sales people to tell customers the advantages of a product while ignoring its drawbacks. Torah law demands integrity; covering up a flaw is deceitful and forbidden. The gemara in Bava Metzia tells us that a person may not ask a seller the price of an item if he has no intention to buy it. This is onaat devarim (hurting with words). Similarly, asking to see a product in a store when you intend to buy it on the internet at a cheaper price is prohibited.

 

The Torah says, “Cursed is the person who leads a blind man astray.” This applies to anyone who takes advantage of another person’s naiveté or lack of knowledge.  All of us have our expertise and blindness in certain areas. When we engage in geneivat daat (deceiving the mind), we incur a curse upon ourselves. Lying in the courtroom is not only a violation of one of the Ten Commandments, but is a desecration of Hashem’s name. The Torah writes, “Tzedek tzedek tirdof. Pursue justice.” The repeated word teaches us how critically important justice is.  Thwarting justice undermines society which is a severe crime.

 

There are cases in halacha when it is permitted to bend the truth.  When delivering bad news to a patient, a doctor should be careful not to deprive the person of all hope. On the other hand, if the patient is in advanced stages of a terminal illness, then it would be foolhardy and inappropriate for the doctor not to apprise the patient at all. One may lie to a poor person to get him to accept charity or to save someone from embarrassment. The gemara brings many instances of this. One example is the story of Shmuel Hakatan who confessed to something he did not do to save someone from humiliation.  Additionally, the gemara writes that one may lie in three instances: to protect someone from being exploited, for reasons of modesty, and in order to conceal matters of intimacy and personal life. In general, exaggeration should be avoided, but if you are using it to make a point and people will not take it literally, it is permitted.

 

The prophet Yishayahu tells us, “Tzion b’mishpat tipadeh. Zion will be redeemed in the merit of justice.” May our efforts to live with truth and integrity bring the redemption closer.






The Joy of Life

2 11 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Yitzchak Cohen from his series, Man’s Obligation: A Study in Chovot Halevavot

Chovot Halevovot #7: The Joy of Life

King David said, “Mibsari echze Elokai. From my flesh, I perceive Hashem.” The Chovot Halevavot notes that the physical part of man a wonder. Hashem also gave us wondrous intelligence and the powers of recollection, differentiation, and perception. Our intellect distinguishes us from other living creatures.

The Shemoneh Esrei is divided into three sections: praise, supplication, and thanks.  All the blessings associated with supplication begin directly with entreaty except for the bracha of daat, which begins ata chonen. Why is this so? On Shabbat we do not entreat Hashem for any personal requests before reciting Havdala. One needs daat to make havdala. Therefore, we first recite “Ata chonen l’adam daat.” In a sense, Ata Chonen is praise to Hashem. Intellect is a gift from our Master to us while all the other bakashot in Shemoneh Esrei involve things that are a part of us like health, sustenance, and redemption.

Sometimes we do not appreciate our intellect until we see people who do not have it. The Pat Lechem explains that life becomes insurmountably difficult for a person without sechel. This is manifest in the way a person eats, drinks, dresses himself, and conducts himself.  Hashem’s blessing of intelligence indicates to us that there is a Creator.

How can we use our sechel to emulate Hashem? Sechel shows itself in sensitivities and feelings, not only in knowledge. The power of intellect can bring a person to emuna.  The Alter of Kelm used to say that Hasem created whatever was necessary for man to survive in this world, free of charge.  Emuna is something we need to survive, and therefore Hashem implanted it within each of us regardless of our level of Torah knowledge or intelligence.

The prophet Yeshayahu says, “The ox knows his master and the donkey his owner’s manger, but My people do not know Me.”  If an animal knows who is in charge of him, shouldn’t a person with intellect see that? Rav Elya Lopian answers that this is the animal’s nature while man has free choice. What is the prophet really saying? An animal naturally sees his master. Similarly, faith in Hashem is a natural part of us.

What is emuna peshuta? If you ask an atheist, “How do you know that your father is really your father?” He will most likely answer, “I never had this question, I feel it in my heart.”  Simple faith is a natural part of us, we do not need proofs or reasons. How then can man come to deny his Creator? Arrogance and refusal to submit to obligations and a higher calling can blind a person to emuna.

We can perceive Hashem not only with our intellect but with our power of speech as well. Communication is the pen of the heart. Hashem gave us a means to express our thoughts through speaking and writing.  This can be abused through lashon hara, shaming others, and hurting someone with angry words.  In contrast, we can sanctify Hashem’s name with these very gifts. Greeting a friend with a friendly “Good morning!” offering an encouraging word, and penning a letter of condolence are all ways to do chesed with our power of communication.  This too manifests the greatness of our Creator.

There are so many barriers blocking our perception of Hashem’s remarkable kindness to us.  Let us open our eyes and see His greatness with the awesome gifts He has given us.





Parshat Noach: Lessons of Proper Speech and Helping Others

7 10 2010

Parshat Noach – Wonderful Words
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Mrs. Shira Smiles

“V’Noach matza chen b’einei Hashem. Noach found grace in the eyes of Hashem.” What grace did Noach posses? In addition, Hashem could have saved Noach in any number of ways. Why was it necessary for him to build an ark and live among the animals?

The core sin of the Generation of the Floodwas in the area of speech. They did not keep their word. Once the floodgates of dishonesty are opened, it flows down to all areas of life. In Tehilim 45 we read, “The beauty of man is when grace is on the lips.” Hashem made two covenants with the Jewish people: brit halashon – a covenant of the mouth, and brit milah – a covenant to act morally. The two are interconnected. This is the grace that Noach found in Hashem’s eyes. He mastered the art of refined speech.

The Sefat Emet notes that if a person learns silence, he can be careful when he does speak to communicate in a modest way. Indeed we see in this parsha that
although the Torah measures every word, two extra words are used to describe the non kosher animals of the ark. “Umin habeheima asher lo tehora” instead of “temeiah,” to emphasize how far one must go to speak in a sanctified way.

In Breishit, when Hashem created man, the Torah writes, “Vayipach b’apo nishmas chaim.” Targum translates this as, “ruach memalelah” – the power of speech. When a person abuses this power, he casts away the part of him that makes him human. A coarse manner of speech corrupts his divine image. Therefore, we understand why Hashem wanted to destroy the world. His plan was to recreate it with individuals who would appreciate the divine spark within them. When a person misuses his speech he destroys his human essence and becomes almost animalistic. This is why Noach spent the year with animals. It was a constant reminder of what makes a human being elevated and different from animals, namely his power of speech.

Rebbetzin Feldbrand, in Towards Meaningful Prayer, writes that “teiva” can be translated interchangeably to mean word or ark. He was saved by the power of words.

When we wallow in the superficial aspects of this world we are no better than animals. Noach was punished and sentenced to live with animals for a year. This was to teach him that his generation had stayed at the level of animals because he did not reach out to inspire them.

On some level we are all responsible for each other and are enjoined to pray when troubles come. If one does not daven, it shows a lack of appreciation for prayer and insensitivity to the pain of others. This needs cultivation. If you hear bad news, pray. If a friend confides in you, try to help him. If you cannot assist him, at least daven for him. Understand that if Hashem made you aware of this trouble, you have a responsibility to do something.

Why did Hashem show Noach the covenant of the rainbow after the Flood? The Sforno answers that in a sense Hashem is hinting to us that every person has a responsibility as part of Klal Yisrael to pray in a time of need. The rainbow signifies a time of judgment. It is our wakeup call to beseech Hashem to turn it into mercy.

As we begin the new year, let us rededicate ourselves to prayer, proper speech, and helping people in need with fresh vigor and hope for a year of growth and self improvement.





Chofetz Chaim -Laws of Proper Speech- Avak Lashon Hara

6 08 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Beinush Ginsburg

visa

Avak lashon hara is not actual lashon hara but involves anything that is associated with lashon hara and that can lead to it. While lashon hara is a Torah prohibition, avak lashon hara is a Rabbinic prohibition. The first category of avak lashon hara would be insinuating something negative.  “Who would’ve thought Shimon would turn out the way he did,” or “I don’t want to speak any lashon hara about Reuven,” are examples of avak lashon hara where nothing negative is actually said but there is a veiled hint.

The second category of avak lashon hara is praising someone excessively in public. The Gemara writes, “Al yisaper shivcho shel chavero…”- A person should not praise his friend for he will end up discussing his faults as well.  This does not mean that one should refrain from praise completely as we see many instances in Chazal where people were praised. Rather according to Rashi this means that one should not praise excessively and according to the Rambam it means that one should not praise a person in front of his enemies. This includes praising someone in public as there is bound to be someone who will say something negative. The one exception is a great tzaddik who may be praised publicly as even if something evil is mentioned, everyone will dismiss it as false.

In light of this halacha, how do we understand the custom of excessively praising a chassan and a kallah or a bar mitzvah in public? Normally, at a simcha, people expect the chassan and kallah to be praised. Therefore there is no concern that people will get excited about excessive praise or that it will lead to negative comments. Similarly, the Maharsha notes that one is allowed to praise ones Rebbe because every student knows to praise his Rebbe so it will not lead to jealousy or lashon hara.

May we merit to purify and elevate our speech and may this helps us attain spiritual perfection for the coming year.





Are Your Friends Bringing You Down Spiritually?

18 06 2010

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

visaQuestion:

Must I stay in touch with a friend who I no longer have much in common with and who is not going in the same direction as I am? What if she values the friendship, while I don’t?  Sometimes this involves getting our families together for a Shabbat meal and they are not ideal company. I want to do the right thing even when my heart isn’t in it. What do you advise?

Answer:
You have to consider your own life first. If she is negatively influencing you, for example, if she constantly speaks lashon hara, or is financially dishonest and is trying to make you more like her, you have to disengage yourself. If she’s simply uninteresting or emotionally draining, don’t walk away from the friendship. You have to realize that there’s hashgacha pratit involved in the fact that Hashem put the two of you together. There must be a way for you to learn and give in this relationship. Being above her spiritually, means you are probably her only tie to a more elevated existence. The more you do for others, the more you do for yourself. If Hashem put you in this position where you can positively impact your friend, you need to fill the role and give it your all.