Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Effects of Gossip and Benefits of Guarding Ones Tongue

Some aspects of Face Book are really great. It is wonderful to connect with friends from the past, and it is very special to learn or re-learn important lessons. Today a friend, Bob Burg, posted an article about a work place that had instituted a fine for anyone who spoke gossip. Anyone who spoke incorrectly was to put a coin in a bowl and after a set amount of time the money that accumulated in the bowl was given to charity.

Needless to say there has been some discussion on FaceBook of what a wonderful idea this is and the far reaching benefits of mastering guarding one's tongue. The discussion reminds me of a story.

The story is about a Jew who decided to do Tshuva, to return from his evil ways to the path of Truth. He went to his rabbi for guidance as to how to correct his ways and in particular how to correct the negative speech he had been involved in in the past. The rabbi advised the man to take a pillow case filled with feathers and go outside where there was wind and throw the feathers out as the wind was blowing.

Eager to mend his ways, the man took a pillow case, obtained enough feathers to fill the pillow case and began his task. When he had completed allowing all the feathers to scatter, he returned to his rabbi, eager to find out what to do next or whether his correction was now complete.

The rabbi then instructed the man to return to where he had "set the feathers free" and collect every one, filling his pillow case once more with the original feathers.

"But that is impossible, how can I manage to collect every single feather that the wind has blown?" asked the man.

"Ah," the rabbi said, "This is exactly the same as the Loshon Hara (negative speech) that you spoke. In the same way as the wind blew your feathers, so the negative speech gets dispersed to such a degree that it is impossible to gather it back."

In the discussion that occurred on FaceBook, various options were given as to the origin of teaching about the far reaching negative effects of negative speech, gossip etc. The truth is that the origin lies in the Torah. As G-d instructed to Moshe our Teacher, Jews have 613 commandments to follow, while non-Jews have the Seven Mitzvos given to both Adam haRishon and Noach.

The Chofetz Chaim, most famous for his teaching regarding the importance of guarding ones tongue, taught that when a person speaks Loshon Hara, forbidden speech, he transgresses 31 Torah commandments. It is not merely a case of gossiping, neither does it purely entail telling a something about another that is not true. The laws of guarding ones tongue from Forbidden Speech (Loshon Hara) are complex, but the benefits of mastering this set of laws is so far reaching that many miracles have occured in the merit of strengthening in this area. In addition, the Chofetz Chaim teaches that mastering guarding ones tongue is one of many that will lead to a hastening of the Final Redemption, may it be speedily.

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