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Shabbat Parashat Shoftim 5776

Ein Ayah: Speech Can Be Harder than we Think

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:245)

Gemara: Askara (a deadly disease that starts in the abdomen but spreads to the throat and causes death by choking) is a sign of lashon hara (slanderous speech).


Ein Ayah: If a person could more clearly conceive the destructive power of lashon hara, he would energize his efforts to avoid speaking improperly. A person is often misled by the fact that speaking is so easy to do to think that it cannot possibly have such a major negative impact.

Sometimes he can be convinced only by a physical sign that shows that speech is not necessarily a simple act to be taken for granted. If not for Divine Grace, speech would actually be a difficult task, which we forget because of the consistency of Hashem’s help. Therefore, askara is painfully effective in heightening the appreciation of the powerful significance of speech. This hopefully will help one heighten his awareness of the moral imperative to avoid lashon hara.


Appreciating those who Use their Voice

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:246)


Gemara: Our Rabbis have taught: Askara comes to the world due to [failure to give] ma’asrot (tithes). Rabbi Elazar son of Rabbi Yossi says: Due to lashon hara.


Ein Ayah: Man has many material needs, but the most prominent one is the ability to speak in a spiritual manner, a power that comes from a person’s elevated side. This is true for all people, and all the more so for the Jewish people, who have a special need to use those elements that promote their special spiritual tasks.

The sanctity of ma’aser exists in order that the Sons of Levi can dedicate themselves to the holy task of national service of Hashem. These holy functionaries have a special impact on the entire nation even by means of actions, such as the bringing of ketoret (incense), that are done unobserved by others. The level of the nation is elevated based on the spiritual level of those chosen to serve. However, their full impact will only come about if the people of the nation actively attach themselves to the kohanim.

Therefore, if the people refuse to act on the obligation to support the kohanim so that they can work, by giving tithes, the whole foundation of the partnership collapses. While there is the potential for gaining from the material connection with the holy people in addition to learning from them, that is only when they show their appreciation of the kohanim’s holy work.

This is both in regards to the service in the Beit Hamikdash and to Torah study - the levi’im work on the outside. They, the recipients of ma’aser (kohanim receive teruma), are the ones whose service includes their voices, used in song and in rendering rulings, and they thereby show the importance of speech. Therefore, not appreciating them can be connected to the disease of askara, which prevents the use of spiritual speech.  When one does not show appreciation for that tool, he may lose the ability to use it himself. This also connects the sin of not giving ma’aser to that of speaking lashon hara.


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