Tazria-Metzora 5783: How to Earn and Keep Your Olam Haba

לעילוי יצחק מאיר בן לב בלוי

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Shiur presented in 5779

Two Parshios about Chet Halashon

The Torah allots two parshiyos, Tazria and Metzora, to discuss nega’im, tzaraas. Chazal tell us that one of the main reasons nega’im and tzaraas come is for lashon hara. You have to understand, if the Torah makes such a fuss and elaborates to such a degree over the onshim of lashon hara, it behooves us to contemplate once in a while about the seriousness of nega’im and lashon hara. לפכך משה מזהיר את ישראל, therefore, Moshe warned Am Yisrael, ואומר להם זאת תהי’ תורת המצורע תורת המוציא שם רע, when he said to them, ‘This shall be the law for a metsora – the law of the one that gives out a bad name (המוציא שם רע).[i] 

Rav Yannai and the Peddler

The first thing we are going to begin with is a Medrash Rabbah (ibid.) in this parshah. The Medrash says, מִי הָאִישׁ הֶחָפֵץ חַיִּים. מַעֲשֶׂה בְּרוֹכֵל אֶחָד, “who is the man who desires live. There was a story with a certain salesman,” שֶׁהָיָה מַחֲזִיר בָּעֲיָרוֹת שֶׁהָיוּ סְמוּכוֹת לְצִפּוֹרִי וְהָיָה מַכְרִיז וְאוֹמֵר, מַאן בָּעֵי לְמִזְבַּן סַם חַיִּים, אוֹדְקִין עֲלֵיהּ, “who would go around to towns that were close to Tzippori. He would announce and say, ‘Who wants to buy the potion of life?’ They would all cling to him.” They used to have these snake charmers going around trying to sell all kind of medicines, and l’havdil, this roichel (peddler) was saying, “Whoever wants to buy sam hachaim, step up, take a number.” Nu. So R’ Yannai heard the guy saying, מַאן בָּעֵי סַם חַיִּים, “Who wants sam hachaim?”and his curiosity was piqued. He wanted to see what the fellow was selling. Was it a scam perhaps?

So R’ Yannai called him over and he said, תָּא סַק לְהָכָא זַבִּין לִי, “Come over here. I want to buy what you’re selling.” אֲמַר לֵיהּ לָאו אַנְתְּ צָרִיךְ לֵיהּ וְלָא דְכַוָּותָךְ, “He said to him, ‘You and those like you don’t need it. I’m not selling it to people like you.” But אַטְרַח עֲלֵיהּ, R’ Yannai insisted and said, “No. I want to know what you’re selling. I want to buy some.” Nu, so the fellow came to R’ Yannai, סָלֵיק לְגַבֵּיהּ, he put his and into his satchel and he pulled out a sefer Tehillim and he showed R’ Yannai the passuk, מִי הָאִישׁ הֶחָפֵץ חַיִּים. And he said, “What does it say afterwards? נְצֹר לְשׁוֹנְךָ מֵרָע, סוּר מֵרָע וַעֲשֵׂה טוֹב.” Ah. Instead of R’ Yannai telling him, “Argh, that’s all,” he says, “Oh, ir zogt gut. You’re saying something good. Shlomo Hamelech also declared, שֹׁמֵר פִּיו וּלְשׁוֹנוֹ שֹׁמֵר מִצָּרוֹת נַפְשׁו – “He who guards his mouth and tongue guards himself from trouble” (Mishlei 23:3).  And then R’ Yannai said to the peddler, “כָּל יָמַי, all my days, הָיִיתִי קוֹרֵא הַפָּסוּק הַזֶּה, I read this passuk, וְלֹא הָיִיתִי יוֹדֵעַ , I did not know, הֵיכָן הוּא פָּשׁוּט, the pashute pshat. עַד שֶׁבָּא רוֹכֵל זֶה, until this peddler came, וְהוֹדִיעוֹ, and he told me, מִי הָאִישׁ הֶחָפֵץ חַיִּים.”

You have to know that a person who talks lashon hara is not only not shomer mitzoros nafshoi, but he is a person who is shortening and diminishing his life.

Now, everybody knows this famous medrash, but not everybody knows the pshat in the medrash. What exactly did R’ Yannai hear? What chiddush did he hear from this roichel that he didn’t hear until now?! How could the great R’ Yannai read this pasuk his entire life and not know its basic pshat until this peddler explained it to him?! Now, vos shteit in the medrash is that there was some aspect that this is sam chaim. He didn’t chap that this was a medicine for life.

So the first shaaleh you have to ask is what life was he talking about? What exactly did he mean? There are a number of pshatim,and today I want to share with you the pshat from the gaon R’ Nosson Adler (1741-1800) in his sefer called Kosnos Or.

Receiving The Mitzvos of Someone Who Slanders You

R’ Nosson Adler says an interesting pshat that has a powerful lesson. In the Sefer Chassidim, it says as follows: פעם אחת מת חסיד אחד, there was a certain pious man that died. And he came to shamayim, והראו לו מעשים, and the angels showed him, מעשים טובים ומצות מה שלא עשה מימיו, actions that he had never done throughout his lifetime. ושאל על זה (If somebody would offer me free maasim tovim, I would just be quiet. If they are offering things, just smile and say “thank you.” Say “baruch Hashem”). But this chassid said, הלא לא עשיתי דבר זה מעולם, I never did these things, והשיבו לו שאותן בני אדם, and the malachei hashareis responded to him and said, שאותן בני אדם, those people, שדיברו לשון הרע עליך, that spoke lashon hara on you, עשו המצוות האלה, did those mitzvos. ונוטל שכר מצוות מהם ונתנו לך – and you took the sechar of those mitzvos from them, and they were given to you. It’s a peledike Sefer Chassidim.

The emes is that the Chovos Halevavos in Shaar Hakeni’a (פרק ז) also says this yesod.[ii] He says, my brother have mercy on your zechusim, שלא תאבדנה ממך, that you shouldn’t lose them. כי כבר נאמר, it says about one of the chassidim שזכרו אותו לרעה, someone spoke lashon hara about him, and when the chassid heard about it, you know what he did? He sent a fruit basket, a basket of delicacies to the guy who spoke lashon hara about him. And he wrote him a note. הגיעני, I got the message ששלחת לי מנחה מזכויותיך, that you sent me a present from your zechusim, and I am very, very appreciative. And therefore, I am sending you back a present in lieu of your gift. You hear that? Isn’t that nice?

The Chovos Halevavos goes on to say that one of the chassidim said that many people will come to the yom hacheshbon, the day of the judgment on all the maasim they did during their lifetimeand they are going to see in the sefer of their merits, zechuyos that they never did. And they will say, “We never did them.” And the malachim will say, “The people who spoke about you performed these maasim and they spoke in your g’nus disparagingly.” And he says, many people will come upstairs and will find empty pages. Their zechusim will have disappeared. And they are going to say, “Hello, what happened? I did zechusim on this day. I came one day to shiur, I listened. I even held a pen and made believe I was writing. I’ve got to get a zechus for that.” And they are going to say that you spoke about ploni uploni. The Chovos Halevavos says, it doesn’t only work for zechusim. I want you to hear this. This is an additional chiddush and that is why I’m mentioning the Chovos Halevavos.

Receiving The Aveiros of Someone Whom You Slander

If you only see the Sefer Chassidim, it sounds like it only works for mitzvos. You gain mitzvos from somebody else. Obviously, if you gain somebody’s mitzvos, you can also lose your mitzvos. But it doesn’t say anything about aveiros. Zogt the Chovos Halevavos, when you’re going to find in your book aveiros that you never committed and never transgressed, and when you’re going to say, “I never did this,” they are going to say, “These aveiros were added to you because you spoke about such and such a person.” Like it says in the passuk, ‘והשב לשכנינו שבעתים אל חיקם, חרפתם אשר חרפוך ה – “Pay back our neighbors sevenfold for the abuse they have flung at You, Hashem” (Tehillim 79:12).

I want you to hear this mind boggling thing. Here is a fellow who goes and says lashon hara about a certain person. “You see that person, he is a baal riv. He is a person who gets into fights with everybody.” You say that about him. Lashon hara, no to’eles. You come to shamayim. On your cheshbon, his aveiros go on you. Even if it’s emes. Lashon hara has nothing to do with emes. What if you say about somebody that he’s a baal aveirah. “Eh, that guy, that guy does aveiros. Should I tell you what aveiros this guy does?” You’re not allowed to do that. It’s a gemara in Pesachim. You can’t tell others aveiros that people do.

Once a guy told the beis din, “I want to notify you that this guy is a baal aveirah.” You know what the beis din did? They tied him to a pole and they beat him! And the guy said, “What? It’s not fair! He sins and I get the schmitz?” They said, “Yeah. Because you’re a baal lashon hara.” That is the concept. That guy was getting the schmitz for the guy that he told on because it was lashon hara that he was talking about. They were the beis din shel matah, and they gave it to him. They said, “You should know, malchusa de’artza ke’malchusa derakia.” A person has to know, if you say lashon hara about people, you are going to have that on your cheshbon.” It’s mind boggling.

Be Slandered, To Become Clean

I therefore put out a request to people. If you want to talk lashon hara, please direct it my way. I need zechusim! But make sure you’re a baal zechusim before. Or, if you want to do me a favor, say that I do aveiros, so then my aveiros will go over to you, and I will also appreciate it. People don’t realize what kind of a chessed that is. Chessed niflah. People get all bent out of shape. Somebody talks lashon hara about you and you get all bent out of shape. Your ego goes nuts and you try to control the world. But it’s all from Hashem. Hashem has been meitiv with you. Sometimes Hashem wants to be meitiv with a person, so He has somebody talk lashon hara about them. You heard of that? Hashem has somebody talk lashon hara about you in order to be meitiv with you.

People want to know, how can Hashem give me zechusim? I always ask Hashem, “Give me zechusim.” I’m looking for zechusim. So you think, you have to learn more Torah. Ah, Hashem has easier ways! He has people who talk lashon hara about you, then you get cleaned up. Here’s a guy that everybody looks at as a nebach. Everybody pities this guy and everybody is talking lashon hara, saying, “He’s a neb, he’s a this, he’s a that,” putting him down, wiping the floor with the guy behind his back or in front of his face. And the guy is smiling all the way to the bank. When you come to the next world, the “clean up” is on you!

Plan to Keep Your Merits in Olam Haba

Zogt R’ Nosson Adler, with this premise, we can now understand what this salesman and the chiddush of R’ Yannai was. If a person is not going to be shomer piv uleshono, it comes out, even if he did gevaldige mitzvos and ma’asim tovim, he’s not going to see the sechar of his mitzvos in olam haba. He is going to come to the next world, after chayim aruchim, but he’s not going to have those zechusim. So the roichel came and said, “I’m selling sam hachaim. What I’m selling is olam haba.” That was the chiddush of the roichel. You want to buy olam haba? He was mechadesh in the passuk מִי הָאִישׁ הֶחָפֵץ חַיִּים – “Who is the man who is eager for life,” not chaim b’olam hazeh. מִי הָאִישׁ הֶחָפֵץ חַיִּים means, who wants to retain all of his zechusim in the next world, אֹהֵב יָמִים לִרְאוֹת טוֹב – “who desires years of good fortune?” (Tehillim 34:13). That means he wants to see the benefits. לִרְאוֹת טוֹב, he wants to benefit from the profit of everything he gained in olam hazeh. He wants to see his shulchan malei in olam haba. There is an eitzah. What is the eitzah? The eitzah is that before you start to do mitzvos, נְצֹר לְשׁוֹנְךָ מֵרָע וּשְׂפָתֶיךָ מִדַּבֵּר מִרְמָה – “Guard your tongue from evil, your lips from deceitful speech.” (v. 14) Because if you’re not going to keep your mouth quiet, all your mitzvos are not going to help you and you are going to lose them with the dibbur of lashon hara. It’s the most frightening thing.

Usually, people you talk lashon hara about are not your best friends. It’s usually somebody you don’t love so much. Somebody you’re jealous of, somebody you feel doesn’t deserve so much tov. You go and you talk lashon hara and that’s the person who is going to end up with your zechusim. My friend, that’s not going to be pretty. It’s not pashut. Amol (sometimes) you come across a person that is not an easy person to get along with. There are some people who, by their behavior, call attention to themselves and they are the type of people who start up with others, or they are the type of people who bother others and therefore they become targets for the chitzim, for the arrows of lashon hara. They are people who make fools of themselves. And a person has to realize, you don’t want to give away your zechusim to that kind of person!

R’ Yannai was learning something new. Until now, R’ Yannai teiched the passuk to be referring to olam hazeh. מִי הָאִישׁ הֶחָפֵץ חַיִּים, in this world. You want to have arichas yamim? נְצֹר לְשׁוֹנְךָ מֵרָע. And this roichel came and was mechadesh that keeping your mouth shut was samah dechayah de’olam haba.

Knowing Your Name on Yom Hadin

The Chofetz Chaim brings down in sefer Shemiras Halashon an interesting nugget, in the name of the Shelah. Everybody knows about the minhag at the end of shemoneh esrei to say a passuk that begins and ends with the letters of your name. My passuk is  ימין ה’ רוממה ימין ה’ עושה חיל – “The right hand of Hashem is exalted! The right hand of Hashem is triumphant!” (Tehillim 118:16). It starts with a yud and ends with a lamed. What’s the reason you have to know your passuk? Because they say, when you come to the next world, you could forget your name. When you “step up to the plate” up there, they are going to ask you to state your name. And if you don’t know how to answer the first question, that’s not good. “Ba, ba, ba, ba.” “You don’t know your name? What is this?” You’ve got to have a name.

So I always thought the pshat was because they called the guy maybe Shmelke, they called him Itzikel or they called him Joey or they called him Frank or Harry. So then when he comes and says, his name is Harry and they say, “What?” They look in the book, “There is no name Harry over here. There are no Franks over here.” So they want to know, “What is your name?” That is what I always thought the pshat was.

Zogt the Chofetz Chaim, nein, it is not so. He says that when you get the schar of the other guy’s mitzvos, they don’t just transfer his mitzvos from his account and put them into your account, and now, they are together with all your other mitzvos and ma’asim tovim and they don’t stand out. Zogt the Chofetz Chaim, no. You get the sechar of that guy’s mitzvah with that guy’s name on it. So they look into your account and it says – let’s say under Yisroel Brog it will say, Chaim. What is Chaim accountable for? He did a ma’aseh mitzvah. You donated your mitzvos to me. It’s going to come across with the name of the ‘donor’. So mimeilah, the guy is going to get confused. They are going to ask the guy, “So what exactly is your name? Is it Yanky, is it Moishy, what’s the name exactly?” So therefore, says the Chofetz Chaim, you say a passuk so that you remember your name.

A mentsch has to consider this seriously. You don’t have enough assets to ‘share’ the wealth. We’re all scraping the barrel here, and if you have a couple of good ones, you don’t want to give them away to people you don’t feel kindly toward.

The Vilna Gaon’s Letter

I want to share with you a letter from the Vilna Gaon (Iggeres HaGr”a) that he penned to his family.[iii] And he says, והכל יביא במשפט על כל דיבור, for every dibur you’re going to be taken to mishpat. ולא נאבד אפילו דיבור קל, and therefore, I’m warning you, he says, ולכן אני מזהירך, that you should train yourself לישב יחידי, to sit alone. Some of us are challenged. Some people are what you call very introverted by nature and they are quiet little lemechlech, so it’s not their challenge. Then there are people who are more outgoing, extroverts. And he says, כי חטא הלשון על כולו. You understand that? Lashon hara is keneged kulam. He says, “Why do I have to be ma’arich on this?!” He says, שכל מצותיו ותורותיו של אדם, all the mitzvos and all the toros of a person won’t help him למה שמוציא מפיו from what comes out of his mouth. You have to remember מה אומנותו של אדם בעולם הזה, a person has to train himself in this world to make himself like a mute. And he should stick his lips together like כשתי ריחים, like two millstones.

Now, listen to this. He introduces us to an interesting thing. There is Gehinnom, when a person dies, if he is zocheh to go to Gehinnom. You know what Gehinnom is? Gehinnom is a hospital. It’s where they cure you. They heal you. They purify you. It has every single division in Gehinnom. There is only one specialty that they don’t have in that hospital. They have many, many maduros (bonfires). You know what they don’t have? What don’t they have in Gehinnom? They don’t have the department of anesthesiology. There is no anesthesia. You know what that is? Hardamah (anesthesia). They don’t have the thing that removes the pain. That is the only part that everybody loves about hospitals. You have to endure all kinds of suffering but at least they have pain medications to give you shots, to deaden the pain. But in the next world, my Zeide (Rav Avidgor Miller, zt”l) used to always say, that is the only aspect that is missing.

“Bungee Jumping”

Then there is Gan Eden. What do you get for talking lashon hara? Obviously, you’re not getting Gan Eden, so you’d think you get Gehinnom. Comes along the Vilna Gaon and says, no. You know what you’re getting for that? כַּף הַקָּלַע. You know what kaf hakelah means? Slingshot. You know what a slingshot is? You take a rock, you put it in a pouch, pull back and you let go and boom, the rock goes flying. Kaf hakelah is something that most people don’t know about and don’t want to know about. Kaf hakelah is what you have to do to get prepared for surgery in Gehinnom.

A person who is sick can’t go to a doctor and say, “I need surgery.” They run all types of tests. Before many surgeries, you have to go on a diet. You have to prepare to make sure your heart is healthy. To go to gehinnom, you have to go there when you’re ready to be cured, but in order to be cured, you have to be prepped before the surgery. They called it the pre-op. This prep takes place in the kaf hakelah. Now, let me explain to you what that means.

The Vilna Gaon says, for הבל פיו של דברים בטלים, just for chit chat, could you imagine yourself being flung, being shot out of a cannon from one side of the world to the other? צריך להתקלע מסוף העולם ועד סופו, you need to be shot from one end of the world to another! Try ten feet, see how you feel. וכל זה, all this, he says, בדברים יתרים, for extra, unnecessary words! Very scary. Just devarim beteilim, not devarim asurim. You like bungee jumping. That was the lesson I learned from bungee jumping. I once went to watch bungee jumping off a bridge. They tie you on some harness and they have a very elastic band that you’re sure could break easily. They take a person and they throw him off the bridge, and the person heads straight down to the water. It’s a very frightening thing. I once saw it take place on a crane, a very high crane. They throw you off the crane and you go down, down, down. You feel, dos is kaf hakelah. Dos is kaf hakelah. You feel like you’re dropping but there is no end to the dropping! And then, when you get to one side of the world, you start all over again. So all day long, you’re getting shot back and forth in the slingshot treatment. And this is just to prepare yourself for gehinnom!!

But בדברים האסורים, but for the forbidden speech, like לשון הרע וליצנות ושבועות ונדרים ומחלוקת וקללות, ובפרט בבית הכנסת ובשבת ויום טוב – for those things, he says, צריך לירד לשאול למטה הרבה מאד – “one has to descend into a deep abyss,” ואי אפשר לשער גודל היסורין והצרות שסובל בשביל דיבור אחד, “and it is impossible to imagine the level of suffering one will endures for just one utterance of this type.”

I told you a story of a guy who made a séance. One Israeli soldier called a friend of his, a neshamah, and he called him up. Both were totally frei. One of them died and he asked him, “Where are you now? In Gan Eden in Gehinnom?” He said, “No.” He said, “Eifah atah?” He says, “Kaf hakelah.” So the questioner didn’t know what that was. “I’ll explain it to you,” he says. “How long are you there?” He said, “For 240 years.” And then he is going to be judged. He said, “For 240 years! What did you do?” He started listing for him his aveiros: Chillul Shabbos, niddah, tefillin. All the aveiros. The guy didn’t do any mitzvos. The guy was empty from mitzvos. 240, ever heard that? You think, he gets shot around for a couple of hours in a bungee rope, okay, big deal. But 240 years?!

When Rav Itzele Came in a Dream

Now, R’ Itzele Blazer (1837-1907), known as R’ Itzele Peterburger, a talmid of R’ Yisrael Salanter (1809-1883), commanded before he died, that he didn’t want any hespedim (eulogies) and they shouldn’t say any shvachim (praises) on him.[iv] And his friend, R’ Chaim Berlin  (1832-1912), who was the eldest son of the Netziv and his best friend, was mechaleik between a hesped and between bechi. He said “Bechi, crying is over the loss of a tzaddik – that you can do. But to say hesped about his maalos, that you can’t do.” And he said, “Since R’ Itzele just said, ‘don’t give a hesped on me,’ so there is not going to be hespedim but we are going to get up and we’re going to cry over the loss of R’ Itzele.” And he was me’orer the kahal to great bechi.

Writes R’ Chaim Berlin: “On the following leil Shabbos after the levayah, on Friday night samuch le’or haboker, at the end of the night ba hamano’ach etzli, my dear friend, R’ Itzele came to me in a dream. And he said, ‘Yasher koach al shelo higadeta alei shevach. I thank you that you didn’t say shevach about me. And I asked him a question, I said, ‘Mah naaseh bedino be’olam hahu?’ (Now, you have to understand, R’ Itzele was a kadosh. He was the baal mussar of baal mussars. He was R’ Yisrael’s prototype of a baal mussar. He was a talmid chacham she’ein kemoso. He was an anav. In Brisk, they said about him, anivus like you’ve never heard of, “out of town.” He was a person that had zechuyos of zikui harabim like nobody’s business. He was mechaber sifrei yirah and sifrei mussar and sifrei shaalos and teshuvos. He was a giant! So, when his friend asked him, “What happened with your din?” we would have thought he would say, “Baruch Hashem, I had a rebbe, R’ Yisrael Salanter, and I followed his direction, I learned mussar and it was a piece of cake.” But what did he say?)

He said, שדין של מעלה חמור מאוד, ‘the judgment Aboveis very serious, שאי אפשר לשום אדם בעוה”ז לשער כלל, ‘No human being in this world could imagine how strict the din is in shamayim.’You try to know Zohar, Reishis Chochmah. You know all these sefarim that talk about the chomer hadin? Why can’t you imagine it? Im kol hasefarim im kol hamussar im kol hakabalah im kol hameseches gehinnom im kol hameseches chibut hakever, you can’t be mesha’er vos tutzach in yeneh velt, vos meint chamur hadin. With all the sefarim, with all the mussar, with all the kabbalah, with all the learning you do about Gehinnom, with all the learning you do about chibut hakever you cannot understand what happens in the other world, and what is meant by the seriousness of the din. וביחוד, ‘and in particular,’ said R’ Itzele, ‘I’m going to give you a heads up. You know what thing they are most makpid on?’ (Take a guess. What do you think t they are most makpid on in the next world?) על דיבורים האסורים שנדברו שלא כהוגן, ‘on the forbidden speech that was spoken in an incorrect manner.’

And I asked him, ‘Nu, so what happened? What happened with your din, lema’aseh?’ So he said, ‘I didn’t come to you until Shabbos morning, and that was because I didn’t have the ability. I wasn’t able to come to you to give you a yasher koach. Until yom haShabbos, they gave me some menuchah and then they enabled me to come to you.’”

That was the famous story that everybody knows from R’ Chaim Berlin. R’ Chaim Berlin had a son-in-law. His son-in-law’s name was R’ Chizkiyahu Yosef Mishkovsky (1884-1946). And he said that R’ Chaim Berlin told him over the whole chalom personally. And then he added and said as follows: “However, for talmidei chachamim there are a lot of melitzei yosher.” Their zechusim, I guess, are meilitz yosher for them. אולם מקפידים מאוד על חטא הלשון – “But they are exceedingly strict about sins done with speech.” Now, R’ Itzele Blazer was known to the extreme to be makpid in chet halashon. He didn’t say a word from the beginning of Elul until after Yom Kippur (outside of learning and tefillah). Chet halashon is nora me’od.

“Put a Cork In It”!

Now, if a person wants to correct chet halashon, how is he mesaken it? What is the eitzah? What is the tikun?

So, the Vilna Gaon writes in that letter, that until a fellow dies, he needs to put himself through yisurim. He has to be meyaser himself in order to be mesaken himself. What are the yisurim that a person should do? You’d imagine that the Vilna Gaon would say you should learn the whole Shas in one week. Learn a whole mesechta in a day beretzifus. He says that self-control of your mouth doesn’t come through taaneisim (fasts) or sigufim (afflictions), but ברסן פיו ובתאותו, “by controlling your mouth and your desires,” he says. Just putting a bit in your mouth! וזהו התשובה. That is the teshuvah. ולזה כל פרי העולם הבא, “this is your whole reward of the World to Come.” Do you hear this?! You want to enjoy your olam haba?! Want to come up and enjoy the fruits of your labor?! I hope so. He says, you know how we do it? וְדֶרֶךְ חַיִּים תּוֹכְחוֹת מוּסָר, “reproving discipline is the way to life” (Mishlei 6:23). וזהו יותר מכל התעניתים וסיגופים בעולם, “refraining from lashon hara is worth more than all taaneisim and sigufim in the world.” Ever heard of this? Isn’t that amazing?!

When I read this, I said, “At least I’m in good shape during the night! I sleep the whole night, and I keep my mouth closed when I’m sleeping!” If that’s the cheshbon then some bachurim get many hours of shluf, so it’s a gevaldige thing. But no, that doesn’t work. You know what it means? It says, you have to put a bit in your mouth. You know what a resen in your piv is? That means, when you want to talk. When you’re sleeping, you don’t get sechar for that. But you want to talk and you make a conscious choice, ah – that’s different! I’m going to withhold my dibur or I’m going to withhold a taavah of mine.

Now, I want you to know, my rebbi (Rav Meir Halevi Soloveichik, zt”l) once pointed out an amazing insight to me. He said, “People think that if they hold back on their taavos, that it means to say they have to accomplish tremendous amounts. Who knows what they have to give up on?! That’s not correct” he said. I remember, he showed me a Chazal. I was once in his bedroom, he was learning, and he shared with me a medrash. He says, Achav was zocheh to tremendous zechus – he did teshuvah. What did he do? He withheld his taaveh. Do you know what he did? Instead of eating breakfast at the regular time, he waited three hours. Some say he waited an hour. Some say he waited a few minutes. That is called withholding. That is called holding yourself back. That is called resen piv vetaavaso; וכל רגע ורגע, every second, he says, שהאדם חוסם פיו, that a person closes his mouth, he gets an incredible reward. This is one of the most amazing chiddushim from the Vilna Gaon, because many sefarim have been written about this, as to where the source for the following idea is found. The Vilna Gaon says that for every second a person consciously closes his mouth, and doesn’t say something, he isזוכה בשבילו לאור הגנוז, he merits or haganuz, the hidden light, the real thing, שאין מלאך ובריה, that no angel or any creature, יכולים לשער, is able to be measure! And that is the kaparah “for any sin,”  the Vilna Gaon is mechadesh to us.

Before seeing this letter from the Vilna Gaon, I thought that if a person keeps his mouth quiet before he speaks lashon hara, okay, baruch Hashem, he’s good to go. But if you do that after you speak, then you’re finished. The Vilna Gaon says, the passuk of נצור לשונך מרע, “protect your tongue from evil,” is after you spoke lashon hara. You want to be zocheh to olam haba and you want to have a kaparah of kol avon, you want to be ניצול משאול תחתית, you want to be שמר מצרות נפשו, your nefesh, your neshamah?! That is the eitzah. That is the eitzah, Rabbosai!!

Therefore, we should start to practice, start to train ourselves. Any time a person has a taavah to talk and it’s not necessary, say to yourself, “You know what? I’m going to make a conscious decision not to say what I would like to say. This is called resen piv. “Hashem, let it be a kaparah for myself.” Who doesn’t need kaparah? Everyone needs kaparah, right? Chata’im belashon. A conscious decision. If a person wants to hold back on his taavos, Hashem says, “You know what? You’re going to get kaparah. You’re going to be shomer mitzaros nafsho.” Of course, you should ask Hashem and daven to Hashem to be zocheh to this. You’re training yourself. “I’m accepting the directive of our Chazal that says, yaaseh atzmo ke’ilem.” This applies to even quiet people, introverted people who are quiet, but when they decide to talk, then they become gabby. Or, when they have their one friend that they open up to, they can speak nonstop. They have no problem. A person has to realize that if he is שומר פיו, he’s going to be שמר מצרות נפשו. He’s going to be zocheh to a lot of kaparah. And then hopefully, when you get to the next world, you’ll end up with something good.

When to be Extra Careful

Now, don’t think that talking at all times is the same thing. Talking on Shabbos and Yom Tov, the Vilna Gaon says, is much worse than talking during the rest of the week. The Vilna Gaon held very strongly in this regard. A person who talks during learning time, it’s also worse. Keheineh vekeheineh. And if a person is mechazek himself, hopefully, he will be zocheh to have a little kaparah and it will be shemirah for his nefesh.

The Bottom Line

The chiddush that Rav Yanai learned from the pasuk of מִי הָאִישׁ הֶחָפֵץ חַיִּים, was that controlling one’s mouth from speaking lashon hora is the sam hachaim of a person’s own Olam Haba, and not just  something that brings him benefits in This World alone. The Gr”a vividly portrayed for us the devastating and frightening effects of speaking even devarim beteilim, much less lashon hara, rechilus, or talking during davening, etc. What is perhaps even more frightening, is that by speaking lashon hora, we not only give away our hard-earned zechuyos of Torah and Mitzvos to the people against whom we are speaking, but we also receive their aveiros, and even our name gets “transferred” to them, r”l. This is why, as the Chofetz Chaim points out, a person repeats pesukim following davening that remind him of his name – so that he remembers it during the Judgment in the Next World, and distinguishes it from other names that may end up on his account! However, despite all the seriousness and warnings, there is a powerful tikkun and a straightforward eitzah on how to overcome this most pernicious aveirah. This eitzah fortunately doesn’t require difficult fasts or afflictions, but it does entail making a real and conscious decision to hold ourselves back – even for a short amount of time – from the taivah for the forbidden speech. This coming week, I will make a conscious effort to stop myself from continuing further in forbidden speech if I slipped up, chas v’shalom, in the chet of lashon hora. And in that zechus, I will be zoiche not only to the ohr haganuz but will achieve a kaparah for all my aveiros, IY”H. Perhaps, starting to read a few paragraphs from the sefer Shmiras Halashon of the Chofetz Chaim during each of the Shabbos meals may be another simple eitza to raise my awareness of this aveirah and how to begin overcoming it – because my own Olam Haba literally depends on it!  

[i] דָּבָר אַחֵר, זֹאת תִּהְיֶה תּוֹרַת הַמְצֹרָע, הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב (תהלים לד, יג): מִי הָאִישׁ הֶחָפֵץ חַיִּים. מַעֲשֶׂה בְּרוֹכֵל אֶחָד שֶׁהָיָה מַחֲזִיר בָּעֲיָרוֹת שֶׁהָיוּ סְמוּכוֹת לְצִפּוֹרִי וְהָיָה מַכְרִיז וְאוֹמֵר, מַאן בָּעֵי לְמִזְבַּן סַם חַיִּים, אוֹדְקִין עֲלֵיהּ, רַבִּי יַנַּאי הֲוָה יָתֵיב וּפָשֵׁיט בְּתוּרְקְלִינֵיהּ שָׁמְעֵיהּ דְּמַכְרִיז מַאן בָּעֵי סַם חַיִּים, אֲמַר לֵיהּ תָּא סַק לְהָכָא זַבִּין לִי, אֲמַר לֵיהּ לָאו אַנְתְּ צָרִיךְ לֵיהּ וְלָא דְכַוָּותָךְ, אַטְרַח עֲלֵיהּ סָלֵיק לְגַבֵּיהּ הוֹצִיא לוֹ סֵפֶר תְּהִלִּים הֶרְאָה לוֹ פָּסוּק: מִי הָאִישׁ הֶחָפֵץ חַיִּים, מַה כְּתִיב בַּתְרֵיהּ (תהלים לד, יד טו): נְצֹר לְשׁוֹנְךָ מֵרָע, סוּר מֵרָע וַעֲשֵׂה טוֹב. אָמַר רַבִּי יַנַּאי אַף שְׁלֹמֹה מַכְרִיז וְאוֹמֵר (משלי כא, כג): שֹׁמֵר פִּיו וּלְשׁוֹנוֹ שֹׁמֵר מִצָּרוֹת נַפְשׁוֹ. אָמַר רַבִּי יַנַּאי כָּל יָמַי הָיִיתִי קוֹרֵא הַפָּסוּק הַזֶּה וְלֹא הָיִיתִי יוֹדֵעַ הֵיכָן הוּא פָּשׁוּט עַד שֶׁבָּא רוֹכֵל זֶה וְהוֹדִיעוֹ, מִי הָאִישׁ הֶחָפֵץ חַיִּים, לְפִיכָךְ משֶׁה מַזְהִיר אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאוֹמֵר לָהֶם: זֹאת תִּהְיֶה תּוֹרַת הַמְצֹרָע, תּוֹרַת הַמּוֹצִיא שֵׁם רָע (ויקרא רבה ט״ז:ב)

[ii] וז”ל: הרף, אחי, וחמול על זכויותיך שלא תאבדנה ממך ולא תרגיש, כי כבר נאמר על אחד מן החסידים, שזכרו אותו שזכרו אותו לרעה, וכיון שהגיעו הדבר, שלח למדבר בו כלי מלא מזמרת ארצו, וכתב אליו: הגיעני, ששלחת לי מנחה מזכויותיך, וגמלתיך בזה, ואמר אחד מן החסידים: הרבה כני אדם יבואו ליום החשבון, וכשמראים להם מעשיהם ימצאו בספר זכויותם זכויות שלא עשו אותם ויאמרו: לא עשינו אותם. וייאמר להם: עשה אותם אשר דיבר בכם וסיפר בגנותכם, וכן כשיחסר מספר זכויות המספרים בגנותם – יבקשו אותם בעת ההיא, וייאמר להם: אבדו מכם בעת שדיברתם בפלוני ופלוני. וכן יש מהם גם כן שימצאו בספר חובותם חובות שלא עשו וכשאומרים: לא עשינום, ייאמר להם: נוספו עליכם בעבור פלוני ופלוני שדיברתם בם, כמו שנאמר: והשב לשכנינו שבעתים אל חיקם, חרפתם אשר חרפוך ה’ (תהלים עט, יב).

[iii] וז”ל: זכור הראשונים אשר היו לפנינו, שכל אהבתם וחמדתם ושמחתם כבר אבדה (שם) ומקבלים על זה דינים מרובים. ומה הנאה לאדם שסופו לפרוש לעפר רמה ותולעה, וכל הנאות יתהפכו לו בקבר למרה והמות כרוך באדם. ומה העולם הזה, כי כל ימיו כעס ומכאובים, גם בלילה איננו מניח לו לישון, והמות אינו מקווה, והכל יביא במשפט, על כל דיבור, ולא נאבד אפילו דיבור קל. ולכן אני מזהירך, שתרגיל בכל היותר לישב יחידי, כי חטא הלשון על כולו. כמאמר חכמינו ז”ל (תוספתא פאה, א), “אלו דברים שאדם אוכל כו’ ולשון הרע כנגד כולם”. ומה לי להאריך בזה העוון החמור מכל העבירות. “כל עמל האדם לפיהו” (קהלת ו, ז), אמרו חכמינו ז”ל, שכל מצותיו ותורותיו של אדם אינו מספיק למה שמוציא מפיו. “מה אומנותו של אדם בעולם הזה, ישים עצמו כאלם” כו’ (חולין פט, א). וידביק שפתותיו כשתי ריחים וכו’. וכל כף הקלע הכל בהבל פיו של דברים בטלים, ועל כל דיבור הבל, צריך להתקלע מסוף העולם ועד סופו. וכל זה בדברים יתרים. אבל בדברים האסורים, כגון: לשון הרע וליצנות ושבועות ונדרים ומחלוקת וקללות, ובפרט בבית הכנסת ובשבת ויום טוב, על אלו צריך לירד לשאול למטה הרבה מאד, ואי אפשר לשער גודל היסורין והצרות שסובל בשביל דיבור אחד (זהר), ולא נאבד אפילו דיבור אחד שלא נכתב. בעלי גדפין הולכין תמיד אל כל אדם ואדם ואין נפרדים ממנו וכותבין כל דיבור ודיבור, “כי עוף השמים יוליך את-הקול, ובעל כנפים יגיד דבר” (קהלת י, כ). “אל תתן את פיך לחטיא את בשרך ואל תאמר לפני המלאך כי שגגה היא למה יקצף” וגו’ (קהלת ה, ה). ובכל אשר צריך לך, תקח הכל על ידי שליח, ואף אם הוא פעמים ושלש ביקר, “היד ה’ תקצר” וגו’ (במדבר יא, כג). השם יתברך זן מקרני ראמים עד ביצי כנים (עבודה זרה ג, א), ונותן לכל אחד ואחד די מחסורו. ובשבת ויום טוב אל תדברו כלל מדברים שאינם נצרכים מאד. וגם בדברים הנצרכים למאד תקצרו מאד, כי קדושת שבת גדולה מאד, “ובקושי התירו לומר שלום בשבת” (ירושלמי שבת, וכן בתוספת שבת דף קיג). ראה, בדיבור אחד כמה החמירו. ותכבד את השבת מאד כאשר היה לפני, ואל תצמצם כלל, כי “כל מזונותיו של אדם קצובים לו מראש השנה ועד יום הכיפורים, חוץ מהוצאות שבתות והוצאות יום טוב וכו’. (ביצה טז, א), וכו’. וזה כל האדם, לא יניח לו לחפצו “במתג ורסן עדיו לבלום” (תהלים לב, ט). ועד יום מותו צריך האדם להתייסר, ולא בתעניתים וסיגופים רק ברסן פיו ובתאותו, וזהו התשובה, ולזה כל פרי העולם-הבא, כמו שכתוב (משלי ו, כג): “כי נר מצוה” וגו’, אבל “ודרך חיים תוכחות מוסר”, וזהו יותר מכל התעניתים וסיגופים בעולם. וכל רגע ורגע שהאדם חוסם פיו זוכה בשבילו לאור הגנוז שאין מלאך ובריה יכולים לשער (מדרש). ואומר הכתוב (תהלים לד, יג – יד): “מי האיש החפץ חיים, אהב ימים וגו’ נצר לשונך מרע, ושפתיך מדבר מרמה”, ובזה יכופר לו כל עון וניצול משאול תחתית, כמו שכתוב (משלי כא, כג): “שמר פיו [מאכילה ושתיה יתרה] ולשונו [מדברים בטלים], שמר מצרות נפשו”. “מות וחיים ביד לשון” (משלי יח, כא). אוי למי שממית עצמו בשביל דיבור אחד. “ואין יתרון לבעל הלשון ” (קהלת י, יא), ולכל יש רפואה חוץ כו’. והעיקר שלא תדבר בשום אדם בשבחו וכל שכן בגנותו, כי מה לו לאדם בדבר זרות. “שוחה עמוקה פי זרות, זעום ה’ יפל שם” (משלי כב, יד), וכו’.  אבל העיקר לזכות לעולם הבא בשמירת פיו, וזהו יותר מכל התורה והמעשים, ואלו נקראים “נשים שאננות” (ישעיה לב, ט), כי הפה קדש קדשים, וכו’.  

[iv] מובא בס’ “התורה והמצוה” ד’ קלט, וז”ל: על ההתעוררות בענין שמירת הדיבור, יש להביא עובדא נפלאה המובאת בספר על הגר”י בלזר זצ”ל, שציוה קודם מיתתו שלא להספידו ולא לספר בשבחיו כלל. והגרייח ברלין זצ”ל, שהיה ידיד נפשו, חילק בין בכי למספד, שהבכי הוא על חסרונו של צדיק ומספד הוא סיפור שבחיו ומעלותיו, וצואתו של הגר”י היתה לאסור רק מספד ולא את הבכי. יעורר את הקהל בבכי על העדרו של הצדיק. ולאחר מכן סיפר במכתבו “ויהי בליל ש”ק שלאחריו סמוך לאור הבוקר בא המנוח אצלי בחלום ואמר לי “יישר כח על שלא הגדת עלי שבחיי, ושאלתי ממנו מה נעשה בדינו בעולם ההוא, ואמר לי שדין של מעלה חמור מאוד שאי אפשר לשום אדם בעוה”ז לשער כלל, וביחוד מקפידים מאוד על דיבורים האסורים שנדברו שלא כהוגן. ושאלתיו עוד איך עלה בדינו. והשיבני שכל ימות החול לא הניחוהו לבוא אלי בחלום ולתת לי יישר כח, עד יום השבת שנתנו לו מנוחה, והניחוהו להיראות אלי בחלום. יותר לא דיבר מאומה ונעלם ממני חלף הלך לו ולא ראיתיו עוד, והקיצותי וכו’. וחתנו הג”ר חזקיהו יוסף משיקובסקי זצ”ל הוסיף, כי בו ביום בש”ק, שלח אליו הגרייח ברלין שליח לבוא אליו למחרת בבוקר, ובבואו סיפר לו את כל דבר החלום, והוסיף, שכששאלו מה נעשה בדינו ואמר לו “שדין של מעלה חמור מאוד” וכו’, עוד הוסיף “אמנם על תלמידי חכמים יש הרבה מליצי יושר, אולם מקפידים מאוד על חטא הלשון” – כל זאת העיד הגר”י בלזר אחר שידוע זהירותו העצומה בשמירת פיו, וכן לא שח שיחת חולין כלל מר”ח אלול עד אחר יוה”כ כאלם ממש, וגם בוידויו האחרון התמרמר מאוד ב”דברנו דופי” בבכיות וצעקות ומה נענה אנו! (מתוך החוברת “אבני זכרון” / ישיבת סלבודקא), עכ”ל.

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