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Shabbat Parashat Shemot 5779

Parashat Hashavua: A Sad Secret Lashon Hara Brings National Agony

Harav Yosef Carmel

Moshe’s first action as an emerging leader was that he saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite and killed the Egyptian (Shemot 2:11-12). This was followed by confronting two Israelites fighting and trying to stop them, only to be scorned, “Who has placed you as an officer and judge over us? Will you kill me the way that you killed the Egyptian?” (ibid. 14). Moshe was then sought by Paroh and slated for execution, but he managed to escape to Midian.

We can identify three stages in the development of Moshe as a savior. In the first stage, Moshe saved one of his brethren from an enemy. The second was that he gave rebuke to a Jew fighting with another Jew, and he did not accept the rebuke. The third stage was that he was forced to flee to Midian, which made him cease his activity, which represented a stage in liberation. Moshe’s conclusion from these events was, “Indeed the matter became known” (ibid.).

Rashi explains in two ways. The simple meaning is that it became known that he killed an Egyptian. The second, which Rashi calls a midrash, is that it became known why the Israelites, of all nations, were chosen for such slavery and affliction – based on the phenomenon of informers, their lot could be “justified.” Baalei HaTosafot claim that this second explanation is not the midrash but is the simple meaning, as the existence of informers like these indeed is a good reason for such difficult exile. It can also be claimed that the liberation was delayed by decades by the fact that such people made it necessary for Moshe to be out of Egypt for so long.

Let us look at another example of the great destructive power of lashon hara on the national status. After David ascended to kingship, he looked for a remaining descendant of the House of Shaul. Tziva, who was a servant of M’fiboshet, the son of Yonatan, came before David and told David about him. The gemara (Shabbat 56a) relates that David accepted lashon hara at this point, as Tziva hinted that M’fiboshet was a “nobody,” who was ignorant in Torah (Rashi ad loc.). However, when David met him, David saw that he was a man who was full of content. It is for this reason, says the gemara, that David was particularly taken to task when he accepted the lashon hara of Tziva against M’fiboshet a second time. Tziva, years later, when David was fleeing Yerushalayim due to Avshalom, claimed to David that M’fiboshet was hoping to restore his family’s kingdom (Shmuel II, 16). David decreed that half of M’fiboshet’s property should go to Tziva.

The gemara (op. cit.) tells us that David’s accepting lashon hara contributed to a national disaster. A divine voice proclaimed that as a result of David’s splitting the property, his dynasty would be split between his grandson Rechavam and his non-Davidic rival Yeravam. Rav Yehuda said that there was no idol worship or the like to justify the split (which actually brought Yeravam to put up statues that became idols), but it was due to the lashon hara that David accepted.

Therefore, it should not take a lot of convincing that we would be wise to not allow sins such as lashon hara endanger the great presents we have received and developed in the last 70 years.

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