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Since our communication with others forms such an important part of our lives, it is essential that we continuously enhance our words--so that we continuously enhance our lives. 


A Word on Words

Lesson #1


We begin today with an excerpt from The Power of Words, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita:


“The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 33:1) relates that Rebbi Yehudah Hanasi served tongue at a feast he hosted for his disciples.  He noticed how each person carefully selected a tender slice, leaving over the tougher pieces.  He utilized this opportunity to point out to his disciples that just as in eating they chose the softer pieces of tongue, so too when they speak they must be careful to choose softer words and leave over those that are harsh.  In his weekly Motzai Shabbos lectures on the Torah portion of the week, my late Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, Rosh Hayeshiva of Brisk in Jerusalem, explained: Rebbi Yehudah Hanasi meant this as a lesson to his students to teach them just how careful we must be not to cause anyone pain with words.  He did not have to warn his students not to violate an explicit prohibition of the Torah.  Rather, he was giving them a vivid illustration of the extent of our obligation in the laws of ona’as dvorim.  When Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi served tongue at his table all the pieces were certainly edible.  Nonetheless, as long as there is a slight variation in tenderness, one favors the piece that is even slightly softer.  This is the Midrash’s point.  Not only are outright derogatory words and insults prohibited--but as long as there is a noticeable difference between two expressions we are obligated to ways select the more pleasant one.  People are sensitive and comments that are meant as light banter can cause untold anguish.  A person should have the foresight to be aware of the consequences of every statement, concluded Rav Yosef Dov, and continuously be on guard to choose the softest possible approach.  Whenever you speak to others, always choose ways of expressing yourself that will be the most sensitive to the other person’s feelings. 


Hakhel Note:  Practice this today.  Please try to keep it in mind every time you start a new conversation, or write a new email.


Lesson #2


In his outstanding Shiur at last Monday’s Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Zev Smith, Shlita, emphasized that not only is Maves BeYad HaLashon, but that Chaim is also BeYad HaLashon--as the Pasuk teaches us Maves V’Chaim BeYad HaLashon.  Accordingly, it behooves us not only to be careful with avoiding negativity and negative words--but to the contrary, to be kind and pleasant with words of praise and compliment.  The Rambam, for instance, in explaining the Mitzvah of Ahavas Yisroel first writes Lefichach Tzarich LeSaper BeShivcho--a primary indication of the love that you have for your fellow man in the praiseworthy manner in which you speak of him.’  Rabbi Smith incredibly related a teaching of HaRav Eliyahu Lopian, Z’tl.  HaRav Lopian, who had learned in Kelm, related that everyone knew how the Rebbetzin of the Alter of Kelm undertook so many tasks--in keeping her home, the Yeshiva, and the students going, that she seemed to him to be almost super-human.  He wondered what gave her all of this strength--what empowered her in this way.  He once ate a Shabbos Seudah at the Alter’s home, and noted that after each course the Alter provided her with a different, specific and apropos compliment.  HaRav Lopian realized that she felt appreciated at all times for everything that she undertook on behalf of others.  This had empowered her to go beyond perhaps what she was otherwise capable of.  Based upon this story, Rabbi Smith suggested that the Pasuk Olam Chessed Yibaneh--does not necessarily mean that one’s own world is built on the kindness that he performs--but that one can build the world of another through the words of kindness that he shares with them.


Lesson #3


In Rabbi Zev Smith’s wonderful Shiur on Chaim BeYad HaLashon, he referenced the Hakhel Gemach List and praised Klal Yisroel for the hundreds upon hundreds of meaningful and sometimes unique Gemachs covering so many phases of our life.  Rabbi Smith suggested adding another Gemach that every person could run--at absolutely no cost, and at all hours of the day--a Word Gemach.  The Word Gemach would be based upon one principle--what can I say to make his day?  Special language would be tailored to each recipients needs.  Rabbi Smith noted how he always marveled over HaRav Pam, Z’tl, being able to compliment each Shaliach Tzibbur after he finished davening, in a specific way applicable directly to the way he had davened, and to who the person was.  Start your Word Gemach--today!  


Lesson #4

Chazal teach that one who gives money to a poor person is misboreich with six brachos, while one who additionally gives him words of encouragement and support is blessed with eleven brachos by Hashem.  A wonderful explanation of the concept is presented in the Sefer MiShulchan Gavoha, on last week’s Parsha, Parshas Terumah:  There is a commodity more precious to a human being than even money--it is his time.  When a person takes the time to encourage another, he is giving of himself something more precious than gold.  At the recent Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Dov Brezak, Shlita, noted that he passed a man who he had not seen in a while on the street.  In passing, he asked him how everything was.  As they were walking by each other the man responded:  Lo BiSeder--things are not well.”  Rabbi Brezak heard these words as he was already past the person and had a quick debate in his mind.  He was in a rush, in fact an absolute rush, to get to the cell phone store.  The matter was urgent for him.  But, how could he leave a man who just said that things were not well--and now 20 or 30 meters behind him?!  His Yetzer HaTov got the best of him, he ran back towards the distraught person, and gave him words of care and Chizuk for a few moments.  A few days later the man called him to express his Hakaras HaTov to Rabi Brezak for stopping to talk with him.  Because of the desperateness of the situation at the time, the man was actually contemplating suicide--and Rabbi Brezak’s thoughtfulness and words--reversed his thinking and frame of mind!  This is literally Chaim BeYad HaLashon--and we are all capable of it!


Lesson #5


In his Hakhel Shiur on Chaim BeYad HaLashon, Rabbi Zev Smith, Shlita, urged that when performing a Mitzvah we go beyond the Mitzvah itself to the person and feelings which are in the background.  He gave many examples--we will mention only a few.  After someone has given a Shiur (which obviously entails much preparation and aforethought), one should be especially careful to compliment the Maggid Shiur.  When attending a Chasunah, one should go out of his way to tell the ‘other side’ (who usually knows his new mechutan for a short period of time ) that “Your mechutan is a wonderful person…”  After a Chasunah (which involves so many weeks of effort), one should go out of his way to make a phone call to the Ba’al Simcha and compliment him for its beauty.  When giving even a small sum to a collector (who is so bedraggled), don’t just ‘put the dollar in his hand’, but say “Bracha V’Hatzlacha”, or some other words of lively encouragement.  When giving your child’s Rebbi a check for Purim or Chanukah, add a note in the envelope expressing how much your son has benefitted from his hard work.  When reading a name on a Tehillim list--see the person behind the Mitzvah who is in bed, in pain--and your commiseration with him will connect you with him and produce more meaningful and successful Tefillos!  The key is to bond with the Mitzvah--and the person behind it through your thoughtful words!  

Lesson #6


In his recent Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Dov Brezak, Shlita, provided a moving story that had happened to him personally--in a bank in Eretz Yisroel.  Rabbi Brezak found it necessary to go to the bank for many days--day after day-- in connection with the institution that he runs.  Every day he would greet the security guard, a burly and obviously not religious individual, with a pleasant greeting, and the security guard would respond in kind.  After many days of going back and forth to the bank, Rabbi Brezak who was by now exasperated with the bank still greeted the guard and added:  “We have to stop meeting like this!”  The guard looked at him and suddenly responded:  “Rabbi, I agree--can you take out some time to teach me Torah?!”  Baruch Hashem the postscript is a beautiful one, as Rabbi Brezak’s tedious visits to the bank produced a religious family man--and family!  Greeting another pleasantly--even if he is far removed from you and even in difficult circumstances--can have everlastingly outstanding effects!


Lesson #7


When Yosef saw the distraught ministers of Paroh in prison, he asked: “Mad’ua P’neichem Ra’im HaYom--why do you appear downcast today (Bereishis 40:7)?” Yosef cared for everybody--even these Resh’aim. We all know what happened--as a result of Yosef trying to build their world--his world became built in an even greater way. With this thought, Rabbi Zev Smith, Shlita (at the masterful Hakhel Shiur that we have referenced several times in the past), explained that there should be no one in Shul left as ‘the quiet one who stands in the back.’ We must always recognize that whenever we try to encourage someone else--whether or not we succeed--we are fulfilling what we would want done to us if we were in that position. If one would be told:  “Here is $100,000 cash--do with it what you would like”, one would be hard pressed to respond: “I am very busy with other matters, and Hashem will forgive me because I am an ones--I simply have ‘no time’ to deal with all of this cash”.  So, too, we must understand that the situations which come our way or of which we have been made aware, have come before us in ORDER TO ACT--in a manner in which our Father in Heaven would be proud!


Lesson #8


In this week’s Parsha, we find that Moshe Rabbeinu’s name is not mentioned, and we understand that this occurred because--in his defense of B’nai Yisroel--Moshe Rabbeinu said to Hashem: “V’Im Ayim Mechaini Na… (Shemos 32:32) that in the event Hashem would not bear the iniquity of Klal Yisroel for the sin of the egel, then he should be erased from the Torah.  Because he said these words--even in our defense--his name was “erased” from this week’s Parsha.  We may suggest that although we may not be able to compare ourselves to Moshe’s Rabbeinu sublime and supernal madreigos and the chut hasa’arah to which he was held, there are certain words which we can also avoid in our own level and in our own way.  A few examples:  “My tooth is killing me.”, “I am dead now.” or “I am finished.”, “I would give my right arm for that.”, “I am going to cheat a little bit on my diet.”…you can add a few others.  Let us keep our words precious--for they really are!  


Lesson #9


In the Power of Words, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, provides the following outstanding guidance: 


“If you were to see a painting that was considered to be masterpiece painted by one of the most famous artists of all time, you would not be able to throw mud at it.  Your respect for the artist and his painting would not allow you to soil his work of art.  Having an awareness that each human being is the creation of the Creator of the universe will give you a similar respect for people.


Keep asking yourself, “If I were to sincerely view this person am now talking to as created in the image of the Almighty, how would I speak to him?”


The next step is to actually try this out.  Even if you haven’t as yet reached this level, act for a while “as if” you were.  After speaking this way for a period of time it will become natural to you. This is especially important to do with those people you presently do not talk to as you should. Make a list of people you will do this with.”

Lesson #10


In the Megillah, several not-so-nice adjectives are ascribed to Haman.  Among them are Ish Tzar, Oyev and Tzorer HaYehudim.  The Abarbanel explains that there is a difference between the term Tzar and Oyev, as Tzar refers to one who performs clear acts of hate, while an Oyev is whose enmity is hidden within him.  There is therefore one explanation that when Esther said Oyev, she was actually referring to Achashveirosh, whose hatred for us was more hidden.  When Haman is referred to as a Tzorer HaYehudim in the Megillah, some explain it to mean that he was Tzorer, or bound the Jews together in unity.  We suggest that the terms hate, detest, abhor, enemy, enmity, and their kind are very sensitive words, each with great underlying meaning, and that such terms must be used by the Torah Jew very circumspectly.  Even simply suggesting that one hates ketchup, abhors traffic, or that the fellow around the block is an enemy, should be thought through several times before actually uttering the word.  These terms and those like them are extremely serious ones, may have Halachic implications, and should be used under only the most appropriate of circumstances.


Lesson #11

Many of us have the first words of the Megillah on the tip of our tongue--Vayehi Bimei Achashveirosh…but what are the last words of the Megillah?  The answer of course is:  VeDover Shalom Lechol Zaro--Mordechai spoke for the peace of his people.”  With these parting words, we leave the Megillah--as what Mordechai stood for.  What a great lesson to take away from Purim! 


Lesson #12


The Sefer Chovos HaLevavos provides the following concise and life-bearing lesson.  The translation below is substantially excerpted from the outstanding Feldheim English translation Duties of the Heart:  Reflect further on the good which Hashem has bestowed on man by [granting him] speech and coherence of language.  Through speech he can express what is in his soul and innermost self, and can communicate with others.  The tongue is the heart’s pen and the mind’s messenger.  Without speech, a man would have no social relationship with his fellow, and would live the [solitary] life of an animal.  Through speech it becomes apparent that one man is superior to another.  Through speech, bonds of friendship are formed among men, covenants are made between Hashem and His servants.  Through speech a man turns, from his mistaken path and seeks atonement for his sins.  The way a man speaks is the best proof of his worthiness or unworthiness.  It has been said that a man [in essence] is his heart and tongue. Speech is the defining element of a human being, for a man is defined as a living, speaking, and mortal being; it is speech that distinguishes man from beast.”  

Hakhel Note:  Consider how you can apply this life-bearing message in your life--daily!  

Lesson #13

From Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita in The Power of Words:  If you feel someone is wearing something that is in poor taste, be tactful about how you mention this to him:

Insult:  “You look dreadful.”

Positive Approach:  “It seems to me you that would look much better if...”

Insult: “I don’t know how any normal person could choose what you did.  This is deplorable taste.  You look like a freak.”

Positive Approach:  I think it would be more appropriate for you to wear such and such.  That would enhance your appearance.” 

Oh, how our words can make the difference!  


Lesson #14


The following is excerpted from the outstanding work Positive Word Power, produced by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation:


“In the age of email, the challenge of restraining one’s words has become enormous. The spontaneous nature of the medium makes people far looser in their verbiage and far quicker to respond.  At the click of a mouse, their diatribe can travel through cyberspace, and one can assault another person’s dignity within milliseconds.  The time needed for composing a ‘snail-mail’ letter, including printing, addressing and mailing can serve as a cooling-off period, at the end of which a person can decide that it is better that the letter not be sent.  With email and text messaging, this barrier is gone.  There is no ostensible time for second thoughts.  When used properly, however, writing can offer tremendous help in curbing ill-conceived communication. Even email is less spontaneous than verbal dialogue.  The writer can, in fact, take his time in framing his interaction or reaction.  He can review his words and think about how they will be received.  He can erase and rewrite.  Someone whose goal it is to address a problematic situation while avoiding insult to the other has every opportunity to do so when the written word is the medium.” 


Lesson #15


The following notes are from the Sefer Hilchos Lashon Hara U’Rechilus by Rabbi Kalmen Krohn, Shlita:


1.  Even if one’s father or Rebbi--or even if a king--keeps on insisting that one relate a piece of information to him, and it involves even ‘only’ Avak Rechilus, it is forbidden to do so.  


2. Even if one heard somebody speak about his parent or his Rebbi, and because he is very pained about the insult to their honor wants to reveal it to them, it is assur.


3.  One has committed an issur even when he starts walking to relate Lashon Hara or Rechilus, as the Pasuk states “Lo Seileich Rachil BeAmecha.


4.  One should not sit in a group of people who are speaking about the Gedolei HaDor, because it will inevitably lead to an ill-willed person speaking Lashon Hara.


5. It is forbidden to speak words which others will feel is Lashon Hara, or will cause others to suspect him of speaking falsehood (even if otherwise permitted). 


6.  If one agrees to or consents to the words of Lashon Hara of another, it is considered as if he spoke them and is a Misaper Lashon Hara.


7.  It is forbidden to show another a letter or other writing (including email!) in which it is clear that the writer is not a wise person.


8.  Even when one is permitted to hear Lashon Hara LeTo’eles, in most cases it is only to be choshesh (the allowance of a suspicion).  However, in such instance, one cannot believe the words as being true or even to have a safek about their truth, for one is required to keep a person in his chezkas kashrus. 


9.  If one learned something from his friend about his friend’s business matters, and was not told to ‘keep it confidential’, it is still forbidden to relate it to others if it could cause damage or pain to his friend.  Even if it would not cause pain or damage to the friend, it is a Middah Tova not to reveal anything of the sort that his friend told him without his friend’s permission. 


10.  Lashon Hara by ‘hinting’ is full-fledged Lashon Hara.  Similarly, it is forbidden to respond to a question posed about another with the words:   “I don’t want to speak Lashon Hara against him by giving you an answer.”   


Lesson #16


The following is excerpted from the outstanding work Journey to Virtue by Rabbi Avrohom Ehrman, Shlita:


“It is required to criticize someone in private only if the wrong was done in private, but if it was done publicly, constituting a desecration of Hashem’s Name, then one must immediately do whatever is required to prevent any further desecration (Mishna Berurah 608:10).  However, the reprover is still obligated to speak as softly and gently as possible under the circumstances. It is forbidden to speak more harshly, or to cause the subject any more embarrassment, than is absolutely required to achieve the desired purpose.


The story is told that there was once a Purim shpiel in the Radin yeshiva in which Lashon Hara was said. Immediately, the Chofetz Chaim said in a soft tone, ‘Even on Purim Lashon Hara is prohibited.’”  


Lesson #17


The Pasuk in Micha (7:5) teaches:  Mishocheves Cheikecha Shemor Pischei Picha...guard the doorways of your mouth....  The Chayei Adam (end of Chapter 35) quotes the Zohar, which explains this Pasuk as follows:  A person’s Neshama ascends every evening to the Heavens and testifies on every deed that he did and every word that he uttered that day; in fact, the words as they are uttered throughout the day actually break through to the Heavens and remain there until the evening, at which time the Neshama ascends, takes the words and brings them before the King for judgment.  Hakhel Note:  Thus, while one believes that he is merely asleep, his words of the day (for the good and the bad) are making their mark! Each night, may we have a successful sleep!  

Lesson #18


The following is excerpted from the outstanding work Journey to Virtue by Rabbi Avrohom Ehrman, Shlita:


“Although leitzanus (ridicule and/or cynicism) is strictly forbidden, legitimate humor can be of great value, such as that which creates a cheerful and enthusiastic frame of mind desirable for Torah study and other worthwhile activities.  The type of humor which cheers and encourages others is included in the mitzvah of doing acts of chesed (kindness).  However, jokes that only serve to belittle or are excessively light-headed are included in the prohibition against leitzanus. In summary, jokes are an excellent tool to help pass through life’s travails, provided they are neither at another’s expense, nor at the expense of one’s own soul.


Rav Beroka was in the marketplace talking with Eliyahu HaNavi, who pointed out two men as having a place in the World to Come.  Rav Beroka engaged them in conversation to find out what great merit had made them so worthy. “We are jolly people,” they said, “and when we see people who are depressed we speak to them and cheer them up.  Furthermore, if we see two individuals engaged in conflict, we try to restore peace through good cheer.”(Ta’anis 22A)

Lesson #19


The following is excerpted from the outstanding work Journey to Virtue (Artscroll) by Rabbi Avrohom Ehrman, Shlita, a great handbook and guidebook-truly a necessity for every home:


Vows (Part 1)

The wisest policy is never to make vows of any kind so as not to risk violating a serious transgression by failing to fulfill them.  Therefore, if possible, one should not commit oneself to give; one should simply give. However, in a public gathering where each person is asked to pledge a certain amount, one should join in the public mitzvah. Nevertheless, he should still be careful to avoid vows by stating explicitly that his pledge is bli neder (i.e., does not have the

force of a vow). In such a situation, even though one does not actually verbalize a commitment, he still receives a reward for the statement since he joined the public mitzvah and encouraged others to pledge as well.


Chazal taught: If a person says he will give, and then he gives, he receives reward for the words and reward for the deed. If he didnt say he will give, but he tells others to give, he will be rewarded for those words. Even if he doesnt tell others to give, but he mollifies the impoverished with words he will be rewarded, because the Pasuk says (Devarim 10:15 ), For because of this davar (literally thing,but also explained to mean dibbur - words), Hashem will bless you.” (We learn that Hashem rewards words of tzedakah or any mitzvah, and it is therefore proper to say I will do a mitzvah.” However, in order to avoid a vow one should say he will do it bli neder” (without any force of a vow).


Lesson #20


The following is excerpted from the outstanding work Journey to Virtue (Artscroll) by Rabbi Avrohom Ehrman, Shlita, a great handbook and guidebook-truly a necessity for every home:


Vows (Part II)


Any statement of intention to learn Torah or perform a mitzvah has a force similar to a vow and one is required to fulfill what he has stated, unless he specifies that his commitment is bli neder.


o I will learn this chapter of Mishnah.

o I will get up to daven in the first minyan.

o I will host these guests for Shabbos.

o I will attend your wedding.


However, any statement that is not a mitzvah does not have to be fulfilled.

There are people who mistakenly say bli neder indiscriminately.

o I will go shopping.

o I will go on vacation.

o1 will cook this.


However, the following statements do have to be fulfilled:


o I will go shopping for you (a person who needs the help).

o I will make you a meal (the recipient is a guest or is ill, or is in

need of help).


If the mitzvah was intended to help someone, and that individual waives the favor, one need not take any further action.


Mrs. A to Mrs. B (who is ill): Im sending you a meal.

Mrs. B: Thanks.

Later, Mrs. B calls: My mother came and cooked supper, so I don’t need your help today. Thanks for the offer! Mrs. A has no further obligation.  


Lesson #21


We received a 100 question test from a Maggid Shiur on the Halachos of Lashon Hara, and provide you with 10 questions culled therefrom for your review and study.  The answers can be found in the Sefer Chofetz Chaim, and in many of the newer Seforim on Shemiras HaLashon that have recently been written:


1.  Please provide three Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei and three Mitzvos Asei that a person could violate when he speaks Lashon Hara. (Hakhel Note:  Since there are at least 17 possible Lo’ Sa’aseis and 14 possible Aseis, this is obviously a ‘give-away’ question.)


2.  If one knows that his Lashon Hara will definitely not result in any harm or damage to the other person, is it still deemed to be Lashon Hara?


3.  Which is worse-- speaking Lashon Hara or listening to and accepting Lashon Hara? 


4.  If one decides that he will listen to the Lashon Hara but will absolutely and definitively not accept it, is this permissible?


5.  If two people together relate Lashon Hara to a third person--why isn’t it considered to be ‘aidus’--or Halachic testimony against the third person, and therefore permissible?


6.  If one accepted Lashon Hara about what someone had done and now wants to do Teshuvah--what must he do--must he now reject his previous acceptance by now being Dan LeChaf Zechus?


7.  If a person, based upon his words, could bring himself to the suspicion that he has spoken Lashon Hara then what he has said is called: “__________________”.


8.  If one sees that Lashon Hara is about to be spoken or is actually begun to be spoken (“Did you hear what Reuven did yesterday…?), how should one respond?


9.  Is the Issur to speak against a Talmud Chacham greater than speaking against another Jew?


10.  It is, of course, assur to praise a person in the presence of those who may dislike him.  When is it prohibited to praise a person even in front of those who like him? 

Lesson #22


The Pasuk (Shoftim 6:14 ) teaches us that Hashem told Gideon:  Leich Bechochacha Zeh Vehoshata Es Yisroel--go with this strength and you will save the Bnei Yisroel.”  What was this strength?  Chazal explain that it was his Limud Zechus on Klal Yisroel--he asked Hashem to look at things in their favor, and not blame them for what they had done.  In this zechus, he was chosen to lead Bnei Yisroel out of the Midyanite oppression!  We understand from this important teaching of Chazal just how important it is to be Melamed Zechus on our family members, our friends and on others.  We, too, can help to be a Moshi’an Shel Yisroel!


Lesson #23


Chazal (Pesachim 42A) teach that Rav Masna came into the town of Papunia and taught that Matzah for Pesach must only be made with Mayim Shelanu--water that had already been drawn and stayed overnight in a container to “cool-off”;  the words Shelanu meaning water that rested overnight.  The people of Papunia understood the term ‘Shelanu’ to mean our water and accordingly thought that Rav Masna was requiring of them that they purchase his water in order to bake Matzos.  The next day, they innocently came to him to purchase water from him so that they could bake Matzos.  Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Schlesinger, Shlita, teaches that this happening was not placed into the Gemara as an amusing anecdote or to point out something negative about the people of Papunia.  Rather, it is to teach that we must take the words of our Chachomim with sincerity and purity of mind, understanding them and accepting them without any second thoughts, criticisms or cynicisms.  We must remember the words of Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all me, who especially taught:  Divrei Pi Chachomim Chein--the words of our Chachomim have special grace--and treat them accordingly!


Lesson #24


The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation (845-352-3505) has published the following moving thought: “Did you know that by defending somebody from Loshon Hora you are actually helping to defend yourself in Bais Din Shel Ma’aleh?  Yes, that is the Torah’s promise.  By defending someone else when your inclination whispers ‘he’s guilty,’ the Malochim will rush to your defense when you’re guilty.  It’s that simple.  So the next time you hear a piece of Loshon Hora, don’t join in or listen with an amused ear.  Find an excuse for the person being defamed.  Tell the speaker that maybe they misunderstood the action, or that the person in question had the purest motivation, or he just didn’t realize what he was doing.  Come up with anything.  But come up with something.  Something that will make you think the person is innocent.  Remember:  It is the way the World works--Middah k’negged Middah.  ‘If someone speaks well of his fellow man, the Angels speak well of him before Hashem’ (Midrash Mishlei).



Lesson #25


The essence of the Seder is Haggadah--the Mitzvah of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim.  The Pasuk (Shemos 18:8) states: VaYesaper Moshe LeChoseno…Moshe Rabbeinu related to Yisro what Hashem had done to Paroh in Mitzrayim.  Rashi there explains that the way Moshe Rabbeinu related it to Yisro was in a manner of “Limshoch Es Libo LeKarvo LaTorah--he [Moshe] told the story in a way that drew his [Yisro’s] heart and brought him close to Torah.”  We see that it is not only what we say--we can talk about grand miracles, and it may only have a minimal impact on the listener.  Rather, it is how we say it that is so crucial--and the Torah gives us this lesson from Moshe Rabbeinu himself.  Succinctly stated, our words, more than any other part or aspect of our body, make a difference on how others lead their lives.  Our inspired relating of Yetzias Mitzrayim on the Seder night, our thoughtful compliment at any time, our sincere suggestion when warranted--can and will have a real impact on the lives of others around us, and will even have a ripple effect on others.  May we suggest that over the next ten days until Pesach, one make a concerted effort--even when things get tense or threaten to get out of hand--to think about what one is about to say and how one is about to say it.  What a truly excellent way to prepare--for the ultimate Sippur on the Seder night!

Lesson #26

The following potent words are provided by the Sefer Orchos Tzadikim in the Sha’ar HaTeshuva, quoting from the Sefer Rokeach.  We provide this message only in order to gain a better appreciation of the severity of Lashon Hara and Rechilus.  “How does one do Teshuva for Rechilus or the like?  Rechilus has no remedy, unless one asks forgiveness of the person offended, and one fasts for 40 days or more and receives lashes every day. [Furthermore], he should recall his misdeed by reciting Vidui every day, and he should focus upon all Mitzvos in general--and making peace between man and his fellow and man and his wife in particular.”  Although this type of Teshuva may be something beyond our realm, it is important for us to get an idea of how severe Lashon Hara and Rechilus really is.  If nothing else, we should shake ourselves before allowing that offhand quip, witticism or ‘can’t hold it in’ comment to leave our lips.  After all, is it worth what a Rishon (the Sefer Rokeach) tells us requires 40 days of fasting and more--in order to rectify?

Lesson #27


The following is excerpted from The Power of Words, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin and is entitled ‘Joy of Mitzvos’:  Whenever you refrain from doing something that the Torah forbids, it is a mitzvah.  Therefore every time you refrain from insulting someone or from verbally causing him distress you are fulfilling a mitzvah.  The greater your appreciation for mitzvos, the greater will be your joy when opportunities arise to do a mitzvah.  This joy should at least be a little bit stronger than the positive feelings you might get when you insult someone.  The more joy you experience when you refrain from Ona’as Devorim, the less chance there will be that you will cause others pain with words.”


Lesson #28


One of the highlights of the Seder is relating the Zechusim we had to leave Mitzrayim.  A central reason provided by Chazal is that Shimru Es Leshonom--we as a people did not speak Loshon Hora (see Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer 48, Otsar Meforshei Hagaddah).  As many of us know, the Ramban teaches that the Geulas Mitzrayim was the predecessor for the Geulah we hopefully will soon experience.  As we approach the Seder night(s), let us come clean now--this week-- with an especial diligence and vigilance in Shemiras Halashon--so that we can reflect at the Seder and think--with this zechus--I am ready.


Lesson #29


All are in agreement that a major theme of the Seder is Hakaras Hatov.  Indeed, we uniquely and especially read from the Parsha of Bikurim at the Seder--in which a person specifically expresses his thanks to Hashem for enabling him to fulfill the Mitzvah of Bikurim.  HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, points to the language of the Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel on the key words “Higadeti HaYom LaHashem Elokecha”, contained in the Parsha of Bikurim.  The Targum explains that the word Higadeti (related to Haggadah) means to thank and praise Hashem.  In our Haggadah too, then, this must be a main focus.  Over the next several days, in order to properly prepare, we should especially emphasize words of Hakaras HaTov--expressing sincere thanks for the hard work and important thoughts of others, as well as words of praise and compliment wherever there is even the slightest doubt as to whether they should be given!


Lesson #30


As the days move closer to Pesach, an important teaching of the Sefer Tomer Devorah, becomes more and more evident.  In the Tomer Devorah, HaRav Moshe Cordovero, Z’tl, teaches that when one is yelled at or screamed at, then rather than responding in kind, one should make it a point to respond quietly and respectfully (Mashkit Es HaMeriva) in order to quash a dispute before it begins--or at least early on in its tracks, when one realizes what the situation might lead to or where it might go.  In these next few days, when sleep may be at a low and perceived pressures at a high--one’s calm, understanding, and humble response may be a great help and salvation not only to him--but to the other party and all those in ‘shouting’ distance!


Lesson #31


At the recent Hakhel gathering, Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, provided an important lesson that “he learned from his painter.”  The painter noted that typically a noun comes before a verb, and that accordingly on awakening in the morning, one would be expected to say “Ani Modeh Lefanecha--I admit/thank You Hashem….”  However, we instead begin with the verb, ‘Modeh’, so that in effect, we are saying “Admit to I, before You, Hashem”.  Why?  Perhaps, because it is the wrong message for a person to begin his day with the word ‘I’--focusing on himself.  Rather, the first word uttered should be ‘Modeh’--in which a person articulates at the outset that it is Hashem and one’s service to Him that is truly at the core of our life.  Perhaps we can catch the times we use the word ‘I’ and the times that we use the term ‘Im Yirtzeh Hashem’--and make sure that they are in the right order--and the right proportions!  


Lesson #32


At the Seder, we will be reciting the word “Dayeinu” fifteen times, multiplied by the number of times we sing the word.  Dayeinu means “it would be enough for us”.  What “would be enough” for us?  Let us look at the first passage of Dayeinu:  “If Hashem had taken us out of Mitzrayim…it would have been enough…”  Clearly, just leaving Egypt , in and of itself, would not have been enough. We would not have received the Torah, we would not have entered Eretz Yisroel and we would not have had the Bais HaMikdash, for starters so what would “have been enough?”  The Siach Yitzchak therefore explains that it would have been enough in and of itself to thank Hashem from the bottom of our hearts for that one thing he had done for us.  We then go through an additional fourteen items and realize that it would have been enough to thank Hashem for each and every one of them because he gave us such great gifts, and we did not deserve that which we received.  Thus, the springboard of all the Dayeinus--of all of the realization of the enormous and eternal thanks that we owe Hashem is His taking us out of Egypt --the first of the Dayenus.  This is then the blastoff on the Seder night for us to express and discuss the great and unlimited thanks and gratitude that we owe to Hashem for each and every item that he provides us with.  Now, sing along--Day- Dayeinu, Day-, Dayeinu, Day-Dayeinu, Day-Dayeinu.  This is what we ought to be talking--and singing--about!



Lesson #33


Pesach is said to be a contraction of two words, “Peh” and “Sach”--the mouth speaks.  Indeed, the Seder revolves around the Mitzvah of Maggid.  In contrast, the letters of Paroh juxtaposed are “Peh Rah”--a bad, foul or evil mouth.  It is clear that the Peh plays a pivotal role in determining whether a person experiences Puraniyos--like Paroh and the people who joined him at the sea, or a Yeshuah--that we talk about each year! Let us choose the Peh Sach!

Lesson #34


As we continue through the Sefira period, we know that the grave sin committed by our ancestors during this time was that they did not show proper respect for each other.  Accordingly, we once again present below a listing of statements constituting Ona’as Devarim, as culled from The Power of Words, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita.  It would most certainly pay to review this listing from time-to-time, to keep one’s mind and tongue in check.  Please feel free to share it with your friends and help turn the period between Pesach and Shavuous into a true Chol HaMoed--as the Ramban refers to it!  Careful--don’t say: 


  1.  “How many times do I have to tell you?”

  2. “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you 1,000 times.”

  3. “I told you so.”

  4. “Didn’t I tell you not to…”

  5. “You forgot again?”

  6. “I think that it runs in your family.”

  7. “You look like I feel.”

  8. “This time you’ve outdone yourself.”

  9. “Who appointed you king?”

  10. “You’re off your rocker.”

  11. “Klutz!”

  12. “You make no sense.”

  13. “Who cares what you think?”

  14. “You don’t match.”

  15. “You’re impossible.”

  16. “You forgot to make supper again?”

  17. “How can you live in this mess?”

  18. “You keep on making the same mistake.”

  19. “Leave me alone!”

  20. “You never…/You… always”

  21. “Can’t you take a joke?”

  22. “I don’t believe you.”

  23. “You blew it!”

  24. “What’s wrong with you?”

  25. “What do you think you are doing?”

  26. “Where are your brains?”

  27. “What a nerd!”

  28. “You really overpaid for this thing.”

  29. “Let me show you the right way to do it.”

  30. “I know that this is hard for someone like you, but…”

Lesson #35


May we suggest that, to battle Ona’as Devarim, one work on appropriate phrases that become part and parcel of his/her every day lexicon.  Here is a small sampling--please feel free to liberally add to the list!


  1. It’s a privilege to know you.

  2. You have a knack for doing the right thing.

  3. I need your advice.

  4. You really bought this at a good price.

  5. Smart!

  6. I’m impressed.

  7. It looks so good on you.

  8. You remind me of your father/mother.

  9. I really appreciate your effort.

  10. You do so many good things.

  11. You are truly the right person to be around.

  12. How do you find time to do all of this?

  13. This is delicious.

  14. Can I give you a bracha?

  15. Can you give me a bracha?

  16. What a wonderful idea.

  17. You probably know the answer to this.

  18. I know you’re someone I can count on.

  19. Beautiful!

  20. My compliments to the chef.

  21. You look like a million dollars.

  22. Your parents did something right.

  23. Some people really have their head on straight.

  24. You did a great job.

  25. What a chesed!

  26. You have amazing taste.

  27. You are so special.

  28. You did this all by yourself?

  29. I know that your word is your bond.

  30. You’re great!


Is our list beyond anyone—**anyone**?  Let us leave “anyone” aside and focus on you.  The Torah (and your Maker) knows that **you** can do it…and your life will surely be much enhanced if--no, when--you do!


Lesson #36


In Hallel (Tehillim 118:27) on Pesach, we recited the Pasuk “Baruch Haba BeSheim Hashem.”



The following is a comment on this Pasuk excerpted from the inspirational and informative Sefer Growth Through Tehillim, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita:


Interacting with people who are new to mitzvah observance has given me many opportunities to see how greetings and the lack of greetings affect newcomers.  This is what one person told me: ‘I went to a synagogue before I was mitzvah-observant.  I felt uncomfortable. This was new to me and I felt out of place.  I was thinking that I would like to live a more spiritual life and I wanted to see what it was like to pray to God with others, in an organized way. Unfortunately, my experience was distasteful.  I felt like a stranger in a strange land, no one greeted me, and I felt judgmental stares. In general, disapproval and criticism were distressful for me, and here, not only did I not feel any holiness, but I considered the way I was treated the opposite of what I expected in a house of God.’ A few years later, I met someone who agreed to study Torah with me, once a week. After a while, he invited me to attend prayers with him. Based on my past experiences, I was reluctant to go with him, and I shared my fears with him.  ‘Don’t let one bad experience prevent you from trying again,’ he said to me. The place where I pray might be.  different’.   He was persistent and I agreed to try it out.  It made sense to me that just because my last experience was negative did not prove that I could not have a positive experience in the future.  He was right.  The regular attendees of the Shul could tell that I was new to it all, and they went out of their way to greet me and make me feel comfortable.  One greeting especially stayed with me.  Welcome to our house of prayer. Our Heavenly Father appreciates when His children unite, to pray to him. I look forward to seeing you again.  If there is anything at all that I can do to help you in any way, please feel free to contact me.  Here is my telephone number. If you need assistance becoming familiar with what

is going on, you can sit near me.’  I felt that I was coming home and was eager to follow up on his invitation.


Lesson #37


At the beginning of this week’s Parsha, Shemini, we find that Moshe Rabbeinu first “Called to Aharon...” and only afterwards “Spoke to Aharon.”  HaRav Yechezkel Sarna, Z’tl, notes that when one wants to speak with a person, he should call him specifically by his name, and only then continue with a conversation.  Mentioning someone’s name can create a special level of endearment and closeness, a human bond.  Moshe Rabbeinu may very well have learned this very beautiful Middah from Hashem Himself, Who at the outset of Sefer VaYikra (1:1) first “calls to Moshe”, and only afterwards begins “speaking to him.”


May we suggest that over Shabbos (i.e. the week-end) and Sunday (i.e., the week-beginning), you take the lead of Hashem--and of Moshe Rabbeinu--and call to a person by name before starting a conversation.  May this serve as a source of Brocha in enhancing all of our personal relationships!


Lesson #38

The following is excerpted from the outstanding English translation of the Sefer Aleinu L’Shabei’ach on Sefer Vayikra (Artscroll p.113-114), by Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein, Shlita:


“R’ Moshe Vaye related that a great talmid chacham who learned in the Chofetz Chaim’s yeshivah in Radin told him this story:  “I used to visit the Chofetz Chaim often.  Once, when I was in his house, the Chofetz Chaim was feeling quite weak, but was in very good spirits nonetheless.  He was 83 years old at the time.  The Chofetz Chaim was lying in bed, and he suddenly motioned to me to come closer to him.  When I came over to his bed, he asked that I open his mouth.  I was taken aback, even frightened, for I did not understand what the Chofetz Chaim’s intention was, and I did not dare to go ahead and open his mouth.  How could I open the mouth of the holy Chofetz Chaim?  Who dares to enter the lion’s den?  The Chofetz Chaim then repeated his instruction.  Having no choice, I obeyed.  Looking into the Chofetz Chaim’s mouth, I saw two snow-white rows of teeth, each tooth perfectly healthy and in the correct place.  It was as though I were looking into the mouth of a young child whose teeth were still sparkling and pristine.  “Count the number of teeth I have in my mouth,” the Chofetz Chaim then instructed me.  I thought I was going to faint.  In order to count the Chofetz Chaim’s teeth, I would have to peer deep inside his mouth.  But the Chofetz Chaim urged me to count his teeth.  Hesitatingly, I counted 32 teeth.  The Chofetz Chaim was still in possession of a full, perfect set of teeth.  Not one tooth was missing or decayed; everyone was strong, healthy, and as good as new.  How many people have a full set of healthy teeth at age 83, I marveled.  After I counted the Chofetz Chaim’s teeth, he took my hand, and said, with a smile that I will never forget, ‘I guarded the mouth that Hashem gave me, so Hashem took care of my mouth.’”


Lesson #39


In this week’s Parsha, Metzora, we learn that the purification process of the Metzora involves the shechita of one bird, and the sending away of its counterpart alive.  The birds, of course, symbolize inappropriate chattering which was the source of the tzora’as affliction.  HaRav Yerucham Levovitz, Zt’l, asks, however--if the bird symbolizes chattering, why was one bird sent away alive--why were both birds not shechted, in order to symbolize the Metzora’s total cessation of needless speech as part of his Teshuva process?


HaRav Yerucham answers that, indeed, much speech needs to be corrected.  Sharp, biting and sarcastic remarks, words of hurt and derision, Loshon Hora in all its forms, must all come to a complete halt.  However, this does not mean that one should stop talking completely.  Friendly words, words of encouragement, good advice, compliments and even properly worded constructive criticism, all have an important, and, indeed, essential place in an individual’s life.  We note that before the live bird is sent away, it is dipped in the shechted bird’s blood, as if to remind it to always remember to avoid the wrong messages, the inappropriate comments and the wrong expressions.  Then, and only then can the positive words take charge.  They are set free upon the open field--to use life to its absolute utmost!


Lesson #40


In this week’s Parsha, we learn of the terrible affliction of Tzora’as.  Chazal (Arachin 15B) teach that if one speaks Lashon Hara, he will be punished with this dreaded ailment.  The Sefer Me’am Loez asks why it is that in our times we see people speak Lashon Hara--and yet they appear whole and healthy?  He provides the following shocking response:  “You should know that the Tzora’as referred to in the Torah could either afflict a person’s body or soul, and if it does not afflict his body, it will afflict his soul.  Indeed, the Tzora’as of the soul is worse than the Tzora’as of the body, as the Zohar writes that in the Heavens there is a special place called ‘Negah Tzara’as’, where the Neshamos who spoke Lashon Hara are punished.”


Lesson #41


HaRav Nachman M’Breslov is said to have taught:  Children learn how to speak, while the elderly learn how to remain silent.  Who should we better learn from--the children or the elderly?!


There are certain terms and phrases which may not constitute Ona’as Devarim against others, but could be hurtful to the individual himself, simply by virtue of uttering the very words.  It is well known( as we have previously published) that HaRav Pam, Z’tl, objected to use of ‘whatchamacallit’, because it indicated that a person was not thinking before he spoke.  There are other terms as well which simply do not take into account the Kedushas HaPeh that we all possess.  Here are just a very few.  Please feel free to add on to the list (and send to us, if you would like):


            “Oh my Gosh!”--Meaning to indicate that the person cannot say Hashem’s Name, but is still saying it in some type of slurred fashion.


            “I have done this a thousand trillion times.”--Although exaggeration may be permitted in general, the notion of a gross untruth could have a significantly negative impact on the person as a whole--especially if it becomes a habit.


            In order to express frustration or difficulty, uttering a word which has the first syllable which is identical to that of a curse word. 


            “I don’t care”--Even when not uttered to hurt another person, it can, once again, have an impact on a person’s attitude, goals or approach. 


HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, (brought in the Sefer Sha’ari Orah) teaches that one should practice silence for a few minutes every day--the result is getting a better handle on one’s speech, and improving Yiras Shomayim-- through one’s awareness that one’s words are listened to--and do really mean something and count!


Lesson #42


The following is excerpted from the excellent work Sefer Chofetz Chaim--With The Commentary Yad Dovid, by Rabbi Dovid Marchant:  “The story is retold by R’ Shalom Schwadron, Z’tl, about one Purim when the home of the Chofetz Chaim was filled with people.  A certain young scholar insisted that the Chofetz Chaim promise him that he could sit next to him in the world to come.  The Chofetz Chaim replied: "I don't know how big a share I have in Gan Eden, but one thing I do know-- I will probably have some share in Gan Eden, because from the day I was old enough to reason and understand, I have not listened to nor spoken Loshon Hora. If you promise me that from now on you will do the same, I can assure you a place next to me in Gan Eden." Let us stop and think about this reply. Even if we have not personally been promised by the Chofetz Chaim that we may sit next to him in Gan Eden, we see that he made a clear assumption that probably, for keeping away from listening to or speaking Loshon Hora, he had some share in Gan Eden. In other words, a share in Gan Eden is assured to any Jew who observes the laws of Loshon Hora. What a tremendous revelation this is for us.”


Lesson #43


Last week’s Parshios taught us the Simanim of Tzora’as.  Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz, Shlita (Bais Chinuch Publications, Lakewood, NJ) teaches that a Siman is not an extrinsic item which helps guide us or refers us back to something--but rather is an actual manifestation or symptom which demonstrates the item in question.  Tzora’as is thus the body’s actual outward manifestation of the evil that was spoken in the past.  Not only one’s soul, but one’s body--which together constitute his Tzelem Elokim is adversely affected and hurt by the Lashon Hara he has spoken.  The hurtful words do not dissipate into thin air, but remain with the speaker like the junk food or the food that the doctor has told him not to eat.  For the health (and life) conscious person--stay away from the Viennese table--and all the more so from Lashon Hara!


Lesson #44


The story is told of how HaRav Elchonon Wasserman, Z’tl, was once in England before the war in order to collect money for students toiling in Torah in Europe, and asked his wealthy host’s child whether everyone was home.  The child responded:  “Yes--except for the dinst (maid).”  Reb Elchonon gave the child an important lesson which he hopefully would never forget.  He thanked the child for the information, but then pointed out to him that in the Chumash a Jewish maidservant is known as an ‘Amah Ivriyah’, whereas a non-Jewish maidservant is known as a ‘Shifcha’.  The Torah is teaching us that when referring to a person, we have to refer to him in the appropriate way and give him the appropriate level of respect--whether in or out of his presence.  To one woman, the term Shifcha is appropriate, and to another woman the term Amah is proper and correct.  Putting them both together under the term ‘dinst’ is wrong.  We can make the same mistake with terms like ‘It is another Meshulach at the door--rather than ‘It is a tzedaka collector from Eretz Yisroel.”  Similarly, ‘It’s the refrigerator guy’ is inappropriate--for truly ‘It is the appliance repair man.’  Related more general inappropriate terminology includes:  ‘It’s only him’ or ‘You know, that guy’.  The Ba’alei Mussar point out that the reason a person may strive for Kavod in this world, is because his soul (which is known by the term ‘Kavod’ in Tehillim (30:13)--’LeMa-an Yezamercha Kavod’) truly strives for eternal Kavod, which in reality can only be achieved by one’s proper conduct in this world.  When one refines himself in this way, enhancing his Kavod for others through his manner of speech, he is concomitantly enhancing his eternal Kavod.  Moreover, as a practical matter and remarkable added benefit, one will also distance himself from Lashon Hara and Ona’as Devarim, as the thought of such low level speech becomes more and more foreign to his manner of expression.  When one practices care and kindness with his words, he elevates himself much in the same way as when a plane takes off from Chutz LaAretz to Eretz Yisroel--leaving the old habits and inappropriate words behind--and poised to reach a new and highly anticipated destination!


Lesson #45


It is fascinating to note that Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel teaches in the first Perek of Avos (1:17) ‘VeLo Matzasi LaGuf Tov Mishesika’ (I have found nothing better for one’s self than silence) and Rebbi Akiva reiterates this concept in this week’s Perek (3:17) with the instruction ‘Siyag LeChochma Shesika’ (A protective fence for wisdom is silence).  Rashi explains this special (dual) emphasis on the importance of silence with the teaching of Shlomo HaMelech (Mishlei 17:28):  Gam Ehvil Macharish Chochom Yeichasheiv--a fool who is silent is considered a wise man.’  The converse, Rashi adds, is also true.  When a person always responds first--then even if he is wise--he will be looked down upon for his rashness and brashness.  Rashi concludes with the words of Chazal (Pesachim 99A) ‘Yaffah Shesika LeChachomim Kol SheKein Latipshim--silence is appropriate for the wise--and most certainly for those who are not as wise.’  The Rabbeinu Yonah on these Mishnayos adds that silence assists a person both from the perspective of middos and from the perspective of wisdom.  For example, one who recognizes the value of Shesika will not interrupt his friend as his friend is speaking, and will also not readily speak in front of someone who is greater than him in wisdom.  As a result, even though he has an idea, he will not immediately share it--but wait for his Rebbi, teacher or other person of greater wisdom to complete an idea--and this newfound wisdom will help one improve his own thought (the thought that he did not immediately disgorge).  Rabbeinu Yonah concludes (ibid. 1:17) that the wise person strives to make his mouth a Kli Shareis--a utensil which serves Hashem in whatever it does, and in whatever it accomplishes!

Lesson #46


The following is excerpted from Love Your Neighbor (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita) on this week’s Parsha:


Hochayach Tochiach Es Amisecho, V’lo Siso Alov Chait” ( 19:17 )--you shall rebuke your fellow man, and you shall not bear sin because of him.  We are commanded to correct someone who behaves improperly, whether in matters pertaining to man’s relations with G-d or man’s relationship with his fellow man.


*The most important rule to remember about rebuke is that it must be administered with love and as painlessly as possible.  Only when the recipient of rebuke feels that the rebuker loves him, will he readily accept the admonition.


*Some people mistakenly think that the commandment to admonish others applies only to Rabbis and teachers.  But the truth is that every single person, even if he is unlearned, who sees someone behaving improperly is obligated to rebuke him.  Quite often the rebuke of a friend will be more effective than the rebuke of a Rabbi.  Some people might not heed the admonition of a Rabbi with the following rationalization: “If I were a Rabbi I would or would not do such and such.  But I’m just an ordinary layman.”  If, however, their friend rebukes them, they are likely to think to themselves: “If he is careful about this matter, then I should be, too.”  The author of the Noam Hatochocho writes that the mitzvah of correcting others is a Mais Mitzvah (a Mitzvah that is improperly ignored).  There are many Mitzvah observers who do not realize that correcting others is obligatory and not merely meritorious.  The severity of failing to correct others can be seen from the opinion in the Talmud which states that Yerushalayim was destroyed because the inhabitants failed to rebuke one another.  The Chofetz Chaim wrote that some people are careful to fulfill the commandments themselves, but never try to influence others to fulfill them.  In essence, they are saying, “I won’t suffer in gehinnom, so I don’t have to…..”  Such a person is selfish for he thinks only about himself and his own reward.  He shows a lack of feeling for Hashem’s honor and his fellow man’s spiritual welfare.  He is also wrong--for he will be held responsible for failing to perform this essential Mitzvah.


* When you rebuke someone, you must do so privately so as not to embarrass him.  This applies both when the matter pertains to his having wronged you, and when the matter pertains to his improper behavior relating to his obligations to G-d.


*If someone transgresses in public, you should rebuke him immediately so as not to cause a Chillul Hashem.  For example, if someone is in the middle of speaking Loshon Hora in front of a group of people, it is correct to point out his transgression immediately, even though other people are present.  Of course, this should be done in the most tactful manner possible (HaRav Eliashiv, Shlita).


*Before admonishing someone, offer a prayer that your admonition should be delivered in a manner that will be effective.


*If a whole group of people are in need of correction, you will be most successful if you admonish each person individually.  Speaking to the group as a whole will not have the same effect.


*If a person heeds you and improves his ways, all the Mitzvos he subsequently performs as a consequence of this reproof bring reward to you as well as the doer himself! (Vilna Gaon in Even Shlaima 6:7)

Lesson #47


As noted above, there are very many Mitzvos in this week’s Parsha relating to speech.  One such Mitzvah which we may otherwise summarily review is what the Sefer HaChinuch counts as Mitzvah 231--the prohibition on cursing.  In explaining this Mitzvah, the Sefer HaChinuch teaches as follows (English translation by Charles Wengrov, Feldheim Publishing):  Now, even though it-is not in our power to know in what way a malediction takes effect on a cursed person, and what force speech has to bring this [effect] upon him, we know generally from all the people in the world that they are fearful about curses-both Jewry and other peoples. They say that anyone's malediction, even the curse of a commoner, leaves a mark on the cursed person, and the imprecation and the pain cling to him.  Well, knowing this concept from people's words, we would say that at the root of the precept lies the reason that Hashem has restrained us from causing harm with our mouths to anyone else, as He has restrained us from harming others by action. In a vein akin to this theme, Chazal say: ‘A covenant (pact) was made with the lips--whatever they utter should have an effect.  In other words, there is a force in the words of a man's mouth.”


We bring the above quote from the Chinuch to learn and internalize the tremendous power our mouth has, even though our sound waves are not visible to the naked eye.  We now add several additional Halachos relating to this particular Mitzvah as culled from Love Your Neighbor, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita:


 “Lo Sekalel Cheireish--it is forbidden to curse others” (Vayikra 19:14 )


1.  It is forbidden to curse a person using any of Hashem’s names. (Choshen Mishpat 27:1)


2.  Saying to someone, ‘Hashem should punish you,’ is a violation of this prohibition. (U’rim Vetumim 27: 2)


3.  It is considered using Hashem’s name even when the name is not in Hebrew. (Choshen Mishpa’at 27: 1)


4.  A person is forbidden to curse himself (ibid.)  It is forbidden to say concerning a false statement: "This statement is true, so help me G-d."  This is considered cursing oneself, since from the positive we infer the negative. (Shaarei Teshuva 3:47)


5.   It is an especially severe transgression to curse a Torah scholar (C.M. 27:2), or an entire group. (Rambam, Hilchos Teshuvah 4:3)


6.  Although using Hashem’s name constitutes a more serious offense, it is nonetheless forbidden to curse someone without using Hashem’s name (ibid.). (For instance, it is forbidden to state ‘I hope you fall off a…’)


7.  It is forbidden to curse someone by the use of an inference.  For example: "You should not be blessed by Hashem." (ibid.)


8.  Cursing someone who .is deceased is not as serious as cursing someone who is alive, but it is nevertheless forbidden. (ibid.)


9.  If someone says Hashem’s name with the intention of cursing another person, it is a mitzvah to interrupt him so as to prevent him from transgressing. (Sefer Chasidim 64)


10.  The Vilna Gaon advised his wife to strike their children if she ever heard them cursing someone. (Igeres HaGra)  

Lesson # 48


With the words "Lo Selech Rochil Be'Amecha in last week's Parsha, we learn that our words our so powerful that they actually go places--they are holchim!  It was a hallmark of HaRav Pam, Z'tl, that he would consistently pause and not speak or respond quickly in order to ensure that his words were appropriate and correct. Yes, Shabbos is over--but let us not simply turn our backs on Lo Selech Rochil, one of the ikar Pesukim on which the concept of Shemiras Halashon is based.  Let us show that it has made a difference for us! May we suggest that twice a day--once in the daylight hours (work), and once in the evening (home), one practice this middah of HaRav Pam--not responding immediately, but thinking about what one is about to say--to demonstrate that it is not our speech that controls us--but that we are in control of our speech!


Lesson #49


The Mishna in Avos (5:9) teaches that there are seven factors that distinguish the Golam from the Chochom. They are as follows [translation is Artscroll]: (i) a learned person does not begin speaking before one who is greater than him in wisdom or in years; (ii) he does not interrupt the words of his fellow; (iii) he does not answer impetuously; (iv) he questions with relevance to the subject, and he replies accurately; (v) he discusses first things first and last things last; (vi) about something he has not heard he says: “I have not heard”; and (vii) he acknowledges the truth, admitting when he is wrong. 


Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita, points out that each and every one of these seven characteristics of the Chochom vs. the Golam relates to one’s speech.  This is not allegory, this is not fiction, it is speech that is the main dividing line between the wise and non-wise!  We owe it to ourselves to review each and every one of these seven items of careful speech many times--and steadfastly guide ourselves to--and remain on--the path of the wise!


Lesson #50


There are several points throughout the day when the right words can make the difference in attitude and perspective--changing the meaning of the event or of the day.  Here are a few examples:


A.  When we arise in the morning--the first words of Modeh Ani Lefanecha…HaReini MeKabel Alai Ohl Torah HaYom, can energize a person out of bed and off on the right foot…and mindset!


B.  Before eating, one recites the words:  HaReini Rotzeh Le’Echol V’Lishtos Kedei She’eheyeh Bari V’Chazak L’Avodas HaBorei--I would like to eat and drink so that I will be healthy and strong for Avodas Hashem (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 231, Mishna Berurah, seif katan 5). 


C.  Before beginning work, reciting a Tefillah to Hashem that one’s work be honest and upright, bring about Kiddush Hashem, allow one to learn Torah, give Tzedakah and do Chesed.  If one is not familiar with Tefillos regarding Parnassah, he may talk to Hashem in this regard in his own words.  Some may recall that we had previously published a moving, thoughtful Tefillah written by a Ba’al HaBayis that he recites before he begins his work day. 


D.  Reciting other personal Tefillos to Hashem, as applicable, throughout the day.  We provide the Tefillas HaBari of the Chidah, by clicking here, praying for good health and excellent welfare.


E.  Making sure that the last words of the day before reciting Kriyas Shema Al Hamittah are words of Torah (Orchos Chaim LaRosh).  We add that the very last word that we are to recite before falling asleep is: HaMeir LaOlam Kulam BiChvodo--Who illuminates the entire world with His Glory.  What a beautiful way to end our day of speech--hopefully, in the zechus of our meaningful words, we will experience the fulfillment of these last daily words in all of their fullness, speedily and in our day!




The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation:  845-352-3505


The CCHF Shemiras HaLashon Shailah Hotline (expert Rabbonim answer your real-life questions):  718-951-3696 (9:00-10:30PM, New York time)


Project Chazak (contains many Shiurim on Shemiras HaLashon and on speech including on the daily Sefer Chofetz Chaim program):  718-258-2008 or 845-356-6665 

Wonder Words--children’s program --storytelling by Rabbi Yitzy Erps: 718-305-6960 or 212-444-1119

Kol Halashon (has many Shiuirm on the Sefer Chofetz Chaim for men and women and in different languages): 718-906-6400