PART 4: THE POWER OF GUARDING ONE’S SPEECH (SHMIRAS HALOSHON)

B.S.D.

Rabbi Shimon Kessin

Hashem connects the mouth of the accusing angel to our mouth so that we can control the judicial process.

If there are two separate and independent courts in heaven co existing at the same time, one of justice and the other of mercy, under what conditions does Hashem allow the court of Mercy to dominate rather than the court of Justice? When a Jew sins and does not repent, his sins are normally examined in the court of Justice. They are not automatically transferred from the court of Justice to the court of Mercy. How does Hashem decide when to use the principle of Mercy and not that of Justice? The answer to this is simply astonishing. He lets us decide this matter. Each person has the power to choose which court, Justice or Mercy, will oversee his actions. How does this happen?

When a Jew in this world commits a sin, the Satan, the accusing angel and district attorney of this court, first brings up this sin before the heavenly court of Justice. The Satan attempts to present the relevant evidence to gain a conviction. These accusations are actually slanderous remarks (Loshon Hora) about the particular defendant. The Satan, however, is permitted to slander the defendant with his accusations since the principle of Justice requires an evaluation process. Nevertheless, it is still technically considered slander. To give the defendant, however, a better chance to overcome the serious consequences that would result from these accusations, Hashem, in His mercy, initiates an astonishing series of events. He connects the mouth of the accusing angel, the Satan, directly to the mouth of the particular earthly defendant in this matter and upholds the rule of “measure for measure”30. If the defendant refrains from slandering (Loshon Hora) a fellow Jew, the Satan cannot open his mouth and slanderously accuse the defendant before the court of Justice. If the defendant, however, does speak Loshon Hora about another Jew, the Satan can then freely begin to accuse the defendant without any hindrance at all.

The Satan can only move against a Jew if that Jew moves against another Jew, measure for measure. If Hashem sees that a defendant refrains from Loshon Hora and that the Satan’s mouth is closed, He then transfers the accusation immediately to the court of Mercy. In this court, the accusations are not considered slanderous since they are focused on helping the defendant, not punishing him. This remarkable series of events tells us that all accusations are first potentially heard before the court of Justice and that if a Jew so chooses, he can disempower that court and force the accusations to be alternatively heard in the court of Mercy where the judgments affecting him are substantially softened. It is his choice and his choice only and he makes that choice with his mouth and the speech that comes from it. How Hashem must love us, because even when we sin against him, he desires to insulate and protect us from the severity of Justice.

A dramatic example to show how our Loshon Hora activates accusations against us

At this point, you, the reader, may think that you truly begin to grasp the way Loshon Hora can affect your mazal or fortune. This may be true but to ensure that this is so, a crystal clear analogy will be presented to dramatize the power of your Loshon Hora as it affects the judicial process. At every moment of the day, an angel of Justice appears next to a Jew to observe his actions (of course this angel is completely invisible). Should that Jew commit a sin, the angel prepares to ascend to the heavenly court of Justice to present this information so that he can seek an indictment against that Jew.

Let us be more concrete and call that Jew, Chaim. At every moment an angel is observing Chaim to see his actions. Suddenly, Chaim decides to eat something that is not kosher. The angel notes the full circumstances surrounding this sin and immediately ascends to heaven. He presents himself before the court of Justice and waits to be called. Moments later, he is summoned and given permission to speak. As he tries to speak he notices that he is unable to utter any words. He is puzzled. He puts his hand into his pocket and takes a facial mirror from it. He looks into the mirror and to his astonishment; he sees that he has no mouth on his face! He now begins to feel very foolish standing there unable to say a word and he immediately descends to Earth. He finds Chaim and again stands near him to observe. He waits and waits. Suddenly, Chaim begins to speak Loshon Hora against another Jew. The angel begins to feel an itch on his face. He again puts his hand into his pocket and withdraws a facial mirror. He looks into the mirror and behold, a new mouth is forming on his face. He quickly ascends to the heavenly court of Justice and again waits to be summoned. When he is finally called, he says with full conviction, “Chaim has sent me here to accuse him in front of this court. I do so with his full consent!” Other angels then ask him how it is that he can speak against Chaim and even declare that Chaim gave his consent. He answers them as follows. “Had Chaim never spoken Loshon Hora I would never have developed a mouth and without one, I could never have accused him despite the fact that he sinned. Having spoken Loshon Hora, however, Chaim has fully empowered me to speak against him. His sins only gave me the ability to ascend to the heavenly court but it is his Loshon Hora that empowers me to speak. Shall I then not consider this Chaim’s consent?”

From this scenario we see in a very dramatic way how our Loshon Hora affects the way we are treated from Heaven. It is not only our sins that truly affect us but it is also our speech that has such power. If you were told a story about a person who, while driving, passed a red light and then immediately went to the nearest police station to turn himself in, you would laugh and declare this person to be a fool. If that is so, what can we say about ourselves since we do the very same thing. We first transgress the commandments and then right after that we indulge in Loshon Hora empowering the Satan to report us to the heavenly court of Justice. Are we not fools? Have we not become our own worst enemies?

Hashem advises us not to speak Loshon Hora so as to protect ourselves from the eyes of strict justice

Given the previous truths, Hashem gives us the following directions. “Do not transgress my commandments because their observance is the basis for your future existence. If, however, you do sin, then immediately repent since this action will erase the negative spiritual energy you created with your sins and restore you to spiritual health. Finally, if you cannot find it in your heart to repent, at least refrain from speaking Loshon Hora against your fellow Jew, as this will hide you from the eyes of strict justice and instead entitle you to be judged primarily from the standpoint of compassion and mercy. You will then at least be spared from the grave consequences that emanate from strict justice. Follow these directives and ultimately you will come through. Ignore these directives and you will have only yourselves to blame for the negative results that follow.”

Various sources indicating this amazing power where we can control the accusations said against us

How do we know that our speech is so powerful that it can directly affect the quality of our lives? In the Talmud Yerushalmi it states that in the time of king Achav, even though that generation worshipped idols, nevertheless, their wars were victorious because they refrained from speaking Loshon Hora. In the time of the king Saul however, even though there was much less idolatry and even considerable Torah scholarship, nevertheless, because of that generation’s prevalent Loshon Hora they lost the wars they undertook. From this Yerushalmi, we see that it was the sin of Loshon Hora that was primarily responsible for the victories or defeats of those generations38. Other sins did not affect the outcomes as much. Moreover, we see the astonishing fact that even in the presence of that generation’s rampant idolatry (in King Achav’s time), the greatest sin of all, guarding their speech still had the power to grant successes and shower them with mercy.

The Midrash in Yalkut Shimoni it states the following. “The Holy One, blessed be He, says, from all the tragedies that come upon you, I can save you, but from those that come through Loshon Hora, hide yourself as best as you can since from them I cannot save you.” Again we see clearly the destructive power of Loshon Hora because in its presence, the doors of mercy are closed and, so to speak, we are on our own. However, in the absence of Loshon Hora, Hashem declares His total willingness to save us from any troubles. This results from moving ourselves and our sins to the heavenly court of Mercy since we refrained from any Loshon Hora.

One of the most poignant references to the fact that the Loshon Hora spoken between Jews empowers the Satan to accuse them in front of the heavenly court of Justice is found in the Zohar. The Zohar states explicitly that only through the sin of Loshon Hora can the Jews awaken the examination process of Justice against them. It states: “The awakening of Justice from above (Heaven) is completely conditional upon the awakening of Justice from below (Earth) through Loshon Hora. The consequence of this awakening brings the sword and death to the world.” There are many other references about this issue stated in the commentaries. A summary of them can be found in the sefer Shmiras Haloshon (Sha’ar HaZechirah, chapters two and four) by the Chofetz Chaim.

The sin of Loshon Hora controls the accusation process which then determines both our personal and national destiny

If we truly grasp the meaning of everything we have stated thus far, we can begin to answer the central question that we asked before, namely, why Loshon Hora as a sin is so powerful that it controls our personal and national destinies. It controls our personal destiny, that is the length of our life, its quality and the troubles we experience because it determines if these aspects will be dominated by the principle of Justice or by the principle of Mercy. The presence of Loshon Hora in our speech arouses the principle of Justice and causes it to dominate. The absence of Loshon Hora in our speech arouses the principle of Mercy and causes it to dominate. Loshon Hora therefore acts like a switch. If a person refrains from speaking Loshon Hora, even if he sins, his life will be long, good and relatively free of troubles because having aroused Mercy, it will always come to his defense and shed the best possible light on him. If a person speaks Loshon Hora, then his sins will be held against him. His life will not be so long, good or free of troubles since having aroused Justice, it will always pursue him with grave consequences.

The same concept applies equally to our national destiny as a people. This is why our Chazal warned us so emphatically against unwarranted hatred and the Loshon Hora that results. They are telling us what is perhaps one of the most important concepts in the Torah as far as Jewish destiny is concerned. It is that the sins of the Jews mean only that they must eventually be judged. But how they are judged, whether through strict justice or mercy is determined mainly by their speech about each other, that is, whether there is the presence or absence of Loshon Hora in it. The way they are judged can make all the difference between their salvation or their suffering.

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