Monday, October 3, 2011

Satan’s Accomplice - Satan’s Strategies

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi
3 Tishrei, 5772 / October 1, 2011

Day 3 - Satan’s Accomplice
SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM (or Chafetz Chaim or Hafetz Hayim) (Hebrew: חָפֵץ חַיִּים‎‎) (trans. Desirer of Life) is a book on the Jewish laws of speech written by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan.

The book is about the mitzvot relating to correct speech and the prohibitions of slander. The title of the work is taken from

Psalms 34:12–15:
"Come, children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of God. Who is the man that desires life; who loves days, that he may see goodness [during them]? Guard your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit; turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it."

Preface (Continued)

The Chofetz Chaim has stated and proven beyond any doubt that the sin of loshon hora (gossip), which was the cause of the Second Temple’s destruction, is the factor which up to this day has prevented us from being redeemed through Moshiach’s arrival. The question is, why? How could this one sin be so destructive?

To understand the severity of loshon hora and its ramifications, one must first understand the judicial system in Heaven through which the Jewish People are judged. The Chofetz Chaim explains that the Heavenly judicial process is initiated by words which Jews speak on this world. Our negative conversations are the key which opens the door for Satan to prosecute.

As Zohar states, (Parashas Shelach - read all 7 portions), this sin “brings plague, sword and murder to this world. Woe to those who awaken this evil force, who do not guard their tongues and pay no heed to this! They do not realize that the ways of Heaven are reflective of the ways on this world, both for good and for bad. [Through evil talk,] Satan is aroused to voice accusation against the entire world.”

In this vein, the Chofetz Chaim explains that the teaching (Arachin 15b), “Whoever speaks loshon hora raises sins to the Heavens,” should be taken literally. When we speak negatively of our fellow Jews, this causes the sins of our people to be noted in Heaven, where they are brought before the Heavenly Throne for judgment. We think we’re merely chatting, when in reality, we’re delivering the day’s caseload to Satan.

The Chofetz Chaim offers a second reason why loshon hora is so damaging. Because loshon hora utilizes the power of speech to do its damage, it corrupts this faculty and prevents our Torah and tefillah (prayer) from ascending Heavenward. The Chofetz Chaim envisions the sacred words that pour forth from a mouth corrupted by loshon hora. He sees them heading upward toward our “Heavenly bank accounts,” but never quite getting there. We believe we have accomplished something spiritually, but that’s not what happened. The Chofetz Chaim says, “All the words of Torah and tefillah are hanging somewhere between heaven and earth, suspended in the air.” He concludes: if our Torah and tefillah are not being credited to us, then, “From where will we acquire the necessary merit to bring Mashiach and the Final Redemption?”

4 Tishrei, 5772 / October 4, 2011

Day 4 - Satan’s Strategies
SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Preface (Continued)

“I wondered to myself,” the Chofetz Chaim writes, “how was it possible that this Torah prohibition of loshon hora (gossip) came to be disregarded by so many people?”

The Chofetz Chaim answers this by introducing us to the main strategy of the evil inclination and the tactics which it utilizes to entangle us in the powerful sin of loshon hora.

The average person, writes the Chofetz Chaim, is simply unaware that the prohibition of loshon hora applies to information that is true. (Information that is false is termed hotza’as shem ra, slander.) Therefore, all Satan needs to do is to present information as being true and most people will readily repeat it, though according to halachah (Torah law) such talk is absolutely forbidden.

For people who are more learned, Satan uses a different approach. He convinces the person that the subject of the loshon hora is an evil person and therefore deserves that loshon hora be spoken about him, or that this information is not loshon hora.

If these tactics fail, Satan uses an opposite tactic. He causes the person to worry that every word he speaks might be loshon hora even when it is not. Satan makes it appear that the only choice one has is not to speak at all. Since most people are involved in conversation numerous times each day, the only solution seems to be to ignore the laws of loshon hora, for they are impossible to keep. Satan really is quite clever!

Once Satan has convinced people to speak loshon hora, he goes about spreading his web of misinformation further to draw people into listening to the loshon hora, based on their lack of knowledge of the halachah.

For these reasons, the Chofetz Chaim writes, the sin of loshon hora had become small in the eyes of the world. People became accustomed to speaking without measuring their words against the Torah’s standards. Eventually, loshon hora was no longer viewed as an evil, thereby allowing bitter, damaging conversation to become acceptable, unrecognized as the terrible sin that it is.

Shmiras haloshon, guarding one’s speech, became the mitzvah of the pious, not of ordinary Jews, an irrelevant issue to most people. Satan’s strategies had succeeded. A most severe Torah prohibition, certainly equal to that of eating non-kosher food, was now considered to be nothing more than an optional stringency that only few were concerned with.

All of Satan’s strategies, writes the Chofetz Chaim, were based on his ability to spread misinformation. This was possible because the correct information was generally inaccessible. The laws of loshon hora were scattered throughout the Talmud, having never been collected and organized. People were drowning in the sin of loshon hora simply because they were totally ignorant of it and had no way of learning about it.

It was this tragic situation which impelled the Chofetz Chaim to write his monumental work - Sefer Chofetz Chaim.

• A daily lesson from the Chofetz Chaim: A Daily Companion/Mesorah Publications.
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