We are striving to love our fellow Jews by improving
the way we interact with others.
Last week’s Stretch of the Week: Place signs around your home that say “Remember to watch your speech!” for the duration of this week.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Guarding Our Speech
In Vayikra 19:16 the Torah teaches us, “Do not be a gossipmonger among your people.” Last week we focused on lashon hora. This week we will focus on 1) motzi shem ra, which means to give someone a bad name by saying negative things about them that are not true and 2) r'chilus. R'chilus is violated when Sarah goes to Miriam and reports to her what Rachel said about her or did against her, with the potential result of bad feelings being incurred between Miriam and Rachel. This is true even if the report is true, and even if Miriam and Rachel were already at odds with each other.
We should not even relate r'chilus to people who are not directly involved in the report, even if we warn them not to disclose it to the subject, because, generally, word eventually does travel. Even if the speaker had no intention of rousing hatred in the heart of the listener, if his words result in antagonism, this constitutes r'chilus.
(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)
Story: (based on a true story)
Mazel Tov! I’m a bride to be! My mind is full of endless details and preparations and all attention is swirling around me and my upcoming big day. However, for the sake of this story I’d like to focus on my mother who is down to earth, wise, and strong. We started planning the wedding a few weeks ago and, as to be expected, finances started becoming a bit of an issue. Even though I do consider myself to be mature and level-headed, I have been somewhat emotionally fragile and have made some mistakes.
I was sitting at the dining room table with my mother planning the menu for the wedding with David when my mother expressed concern over the options for the main course.
“I don’t know sweetheart! It seems to me that giving our guests an option of steak and grilled chicken may seem to be a bit too much. What do you think? Why don’t we serve chicken only and keep it simple?” “Mommy, I don’t think so. All of my friends offer three choices and to offer only chicken would seem so cheap! Can’t we just do it and not make a big deal out of it?” I replied.
“Darling, I don’t want to set a precedent in the family. I think if we just stay simple it will benefit everyone involved,” Mommy gently explained.
“Mommy, I don’t think you really understand. Everybody will think it’s too simple…” Then I blurted out what I could never take back “Even David’s mother remarked to me that she feels our family is a bit cheap.” I wished I could find a fishing net to catch my remarks as soon as they flew out of my mouth.
My mother sat and thought. I don’t know exactly what she was thinking but she stared at the computer screen for a good few minutes deep in thought. I was left feeling like an utter fool. How could I have let such a sentence slip from my lips, especially given the fact that it wasn’t exactly true. My future mother-in-law didn’t actually say those words, she just hesitated for a moment after I had spoken with her about the menu options and my mother’s opinion. I made assumptions about her hesitation and tried to use it as an opportunity (and weapon) to convey my own message to my mother.
“Well,” my mother whispered, “I believe that David’s mother probably is just feeling stressed and didn’t really mean what she said. Weddings are the most special time in a person’s life but they can also be the most stressful. I’m going to assume she feels under pressure in some way and I’m going to approach her personally and speak to her about it.”
When my mother said this, I realized just how special she is. I could have started a major war between our families, all because of one thoughtless sentence. As I mentioned in the beginning, my mother is an incredible woman. I immediately told her that what my mother-in-law said was not exactly the way I had communicated. I apologized for becoming frustrated and fabricating my mother-in-law’s opinion. My mother did approach David’s mother, everything was settled and our families still adore each other.
Motzi shem ra and r'chilus truly have the power to destroy but having foresight and a calm and introspective mindset can help ease our emotions and allow us to correct simple mistakes that otherwise could have become major issues.
P.S. We served chicken only.
Discussion Question Options:
- What is an appropriate response when asked “What did he/she say about me?”
- What are some examples of seemingly neutral statements that have been inadvertently said which fall under the category of r'chilus? For example, “Leah (a good friend of the person you are speaking with) came in from Brooklyn to visit me today.”
- What does one who speaks r'chilus feel they gain by doing so?
Stretch of the Week:
Take one hour over the course of this week to refrain from speaking lashon hora in the merit of a person in need of a marriage partner, job, or recovery from an illness etc.