The Torah reading of the week is Metzora, a continuation of last week’s theme of cleansing a person from a skin affliction.  The sages interpreted the word to include not only a plague on the outside but also on the inside, a plague of the soul.  And the plague was usually attributed to lashon hara, the evil tongue. 

Last week in this message, I introduced you to Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan (1839-1933), otherwise known as the Chofetz Chaim, who dedicated his life to teaching lashon hara.   Here is another one of his teachings:

A stranger was visiting in town and needed a place to eat and stay.  A villager saw him and welcomed the stranger. “Please, my friend, come. You look like a stranger in town. Let me show you around town and help you get settled. I will arrange a place for you to sleep tonight. But first, I am sure that you are hungry. Please, come with me for a bite to eat.” The stranger was very happy to be welcomed by such a friendly individual. Little did he know that his “friend” was really a trickster.

The trickster proceeded to take the stranger to a fancy restaurant. They entered and were shown to their seats. “Please order whatever you like,” said the trickster. “I will pay for everything.” The items listed on the menu all sounded delicious and were very expensive. “This man is very generous,” thought the stranger. “It is my good fortune that I met him.”

The two men proceeded to order a sumptuous complete meal. The food was served in all of its courses, and they enjoyed themselves tremendously. As they finished eating and drinking, the trickster excused himself for a few minutes. He slipped away out the back door of the restaurant. The waiter then came and presented the guest with a huge bill. “Yes, just a moment. My host will be returning to pay this.”

They waited and waited, but the trickster was nowhere to be found. The owner of the restaurant came to help the waiter. “But, but, my friend was supposed to pay this bill,” the man pleaded.

“Your friend is not here, but you are. You ate this food and must pay for it.” The guest, realizing that he had been tricked, sadly took out his wallet and paid the expensive bill for the meal.

What is the message here? While the guest was eating, he thought the trickster was his friend.  It was only after the meal that the stranger realized that he had been robbed.  So too with lashon hara.  It is our nature to be flattered when another tells us gossip about someone else. But we will soon come to know that listening to lashon hara causes one’s soul great harm and we have been diminished, robbed.  (Inspired by a rendering of Chofetz Chaim’s parable on by Ohr Sameach).

May you have a week of blessings and a Shabbat of peace.

Rabbi Debbie Israel