Saturday, April 8

My Own Personal Yetzias Mitzrayim

Oh, what was I saying? Yeah, I remember now...
In addition to teaching Hilchos Shabbos, I also prepared my learning partner for all the Yom Tovim and fast days, in other words all the festivals. That year, before Tisha B’av I had prepared for the fast day so well, that I count it as my first real Tisha B’av, ever.

Until then, if there was an award given for the shallowest person, I would have waltzed away with it because I used to think that Tisha B’av was so much better than Yom Kipper. On Yom Kipper you have to be in Shul the entire time, while on Tisha B’av, you can, you know, do stuff. On Tisha B’av, I would sleep until Chatzos, and then I would get up and go shopping. I thought shopping was a great way to stave off hunger. In other words, I held by Rabbi Jimmy Choo and Rebbetzin Prada. Uh huh, I was really deeeeep.

This Tisha B’av was different. I listened to Aichah and my heart hurt. I even managed to squeeze out a few tears (although according to my mother I can cry on tap). I really felt the loss of the Batei Mikdash. Then my friend invited me to go to a video taped shir given by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation. So, I went with her only to discover that , get ready for this, it is because of Loshon horah that Mashiach hasn’t come yet! D’uh! But seriously, you don’t understand, I never knew that! Throughout all my years of Torah education and even my two year stint in a seminary that was so closed minded it could have been a nunnery, all talk about Shmiras Haloshon went right over my head.
Yeah, Loshon Horah, yadda, yadda, yadda. Even when my poor, naïve, innocent kiddies would come home from school with a ‘no Loshon Hora’ sign, I would smile and put it in the circular file. It’s funny how denial is not just a river in Egypt.

But now, here it was, larger than life on a fifty foot screen, in black and white. Loshon Horah is bad. It is very bad. It is worse than the three worst cardinal sins. And here I was, a FFB, who didn’t realise it, until now. Okay, so, what to do? Well, I ran to a Judaica shop and bought ‘A Lesson a Day’ . I was a real Tzadekes now. I owned the book. I put it on my nighttable with the picture of the Chofetz Chaim on the cover side up. It looked nice there. It looked like I was so frum. I felt so frum. And every time I spoke Loshon Horah, I felt so virtuous turning the book upside down so the Chofetz Chaim wouldn’t hear what I was saying.

At that point I still hadn’t opened the book. It would take me two months to actually open the book. But before that, I had to sink to the forty ninth level, so to speak. (Get it? Just like the Jews in Egypt!) It was before Rosh Hashanah and I remember that I had spoken about every person I knew and some people that I didn’t. I would have spoken about you too, if I would have known you. Something was wrong, I had a bad feeling. It was called guilt.

I did not like the feeling. I didn’t feel like a tzadekes anymore. In fact, I felt dirty and downright sleazy. Suddenly, I remembered something. Several years beforehand I went to a seminar in Manhattan, and there was another ‘frummie’. Being the only frum people there, we bonded and by the end of the seminar, she handed me three tapes. She said, “These are amazing tapes on Shmiras Haloshon, after you finish listening to them, pass them on to other people.” I recall smiling a ‘sure, of course’ sort of smile, knowing full well that I would stuff them in the back of a closet. And stuff them in a closet I did.

That they remained in their little hiding place all these years was a miracle all by itself, because I believe that getting rid of as many earthly possessions that one has and hasn’t used in the past year is like purging. It’s the closest I will ever come to being a bulimic. I can’t even explain the high that I get from throwing things out. Sometimes it’s even better than getting the stuff in the first place. Anyway, those three tapes had survived many such purging ‘search and chuck’ episodes, and they were right where I had put them. I took them out but did not need to dust them off (because I am not a shluch, you know).

I put them in the tape recorder and decided to cook while I listened to them. The tapes were a three part series about Shmiras Haloshon given by Rabbi Mendel Kessin. If you had walked into my kitchen during the time that I was listening, you would be forgiven for thinking that it was the onions that made me cry. It wasn’t. Rabbi Kessin’s pure and simple words washed over me like scalding water. He held back no punches. He told of the terrible punishments for Loshon Horah, spiritually and physically. I had no idea. He also recounted the enormous reward for withholding evil speech, I felt there was hope. That evening I finally cracked open my spanking new, never before touched, ‘Lesson A Day’.
To be continued....


At 3:22 AM, Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

Great personal experience...
It's incredible what the Chofetz Chaim acheived..
Until his works were disseminated..Loshon Hora was a forgotten sin. It still is in many circles...
I still remember chastizing someone for Loshon Hora..
He turned to me and said what about Lo Silbash?..(the aveirah that says a man should not dress or do things like a other he was insinuating that Loshon Hora awareness is for women not us guys..) which was actually quite funny if not for the seriousness of the situation...

At 7:48 AM, Blogger Shopaholic said...

hmmmm this reminds me that I have 59 (!!!!) unopened "A lesson a day" emails. I have subscribed to get the online version thinking that it would be easier to learn...but as you can see I am so far behind.. my best excuse is that It comes to my work address and I dont have time to read/learn it at work (and the fact the I have time to read the news on 1010 wins or 7online never crosses my mind) sigh... before yom tov,Bli nader...

At 4:09 PM, Blogger exsemgirl said...

I have been trying to keep up my lesson a day before I go to sleep...Sometimes it is a real fight to not just drop into bed. But truthfully we think we know what loshon hora is all about and there is so much out there that we do that we have no clue is against halacha... I have learnt a lot from my lesson a day yet to put it in practise is the challange.

At 4:19 PM, Blogger kasamba said...

David: You're right- it is incredible to think that the Chofetz Chaim almost singlehandedly revived the 'mes mitzvah' that is Shmiras Halashon! And for that guy to say that the dinim are gender specific is really sad.

Shopaholic: I used to have the emails sent as well- but found the book much easier!

Exsemgirl: It IS hard to apply it and that is the challenge in itself. Keep up the good work!

At 7:51 PM, Blogger jemima3 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 7:57 PM, Blogger jemima3 said...

I can identify - I managed to get through my Torah education without paying too much attention to the Laws of Loshon Hora. Happily, I think schools these days place much more emphasis on this (girls schools anyway). I am being educated by my daughter who gets uncomfortable when I ask her questions which will cause her to speak Loshon Horah (not that I'm nosy!). Maybe it's time to dig out my copy of 'Guard your Tongue'.

At 11:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Kasamba, you were right! You and I were thinking the same sorts of things at about the same time! Funny eh? Anyway, if you are still interested in setting me up, go ahead and contact me via my blogger profile. My email is posted there. I don't want to post it here due to spam issues. Thanks!

At 12:06 AM, Blogger HumanBeforeJewish said...

oh my god, newsflash!! kasamba is human after all!! gasp, gasp. gimme some water. quick.
just kidding, i love the way you're in touch with your fallible side. awareness is the first step towards correction. keep it going.

At 3:43 AM, Blogger Holeches Levadi said...

Just found this blog (from your post on mine), and I love the way you cut to the chase and are brutally honest with yourself. Yoshar kochaich!

At 2:19 PM, Blogger Pragmatician said...

A lesson a day is indeed a great way to lean and be motivated to practice Smiras Halashon.
And don't worry, you are not the first one to buy it and only remember much later it was not just for decoration.
It's amazing you take the tapes and to heart so much, many people hear about Lashon Harah, are impressed for 5 min and move on with their lives.
BTW I'm not saying it's not the reason but I believe it's very simplistic to say that Moshoaich has not come yet because of...

Funny but about a very serious and important issue, a real kasamba post!

At 8:45 PM, Blogger kasamba said...

Jemima3: It's funny how we can sometimes just glide through school and bypass certain things!

Amishav: Great minds think alike, eh?
From what you've written pon your post, I sorta grasped the kind of person I'd like for you and now I'm going to check my database- I'll keep your posted!

Humanbeforejewish: I am soooo human it makes me sick too! Thanks!

Holeches Levadi: Thank you for visiting!

Prag: I know I gave a simplistic concept to a very deep spiritual situation, but in a way if I can rationalize that gulus is because of sinas chinam, I can do something positive to bring Moshiach closer. I love that you make me think!!!!!

At 4:04 AM, Blogger the only way i know said...

This is so beautiful and SOOO funny!
I wonder what you would have said about me in your pre- Shmiras halashon days!! Not knowing me and all! lol

btw - don't you notice that when people speak about shmiras halashon, they say -

Sooo, I hear your very into Lashon Hara and you study Lashon Hara etc -
instead of 'You're very into SHEMIRAS Halashon!!


Looking fwd to MORE goodies from you! You know - the climb up those 49 levels!
Have a glorious Pesach!

At 6:48 AM, Blogger chanie said...

wow...that is really amazing. i think im going to try it too....(although it will prob end up falling through the cracks liek everything else i do..)

At 6:30 PM, Blogger MUST Gum Addict said...

I've heard the tapes you speak of from Rabbi Kessin. He's also been to our shul and has spoken to us in person. He and his brother also try to teach some of the concepts from the Ramchal.

I've personally told over the entire shmiras halashon shiur several times in different places (and mind you, I'm not the type who would normally "give a shiur") and the concepts themselves are quite shocking.

On the Yahrzeit of the Ramchal last year, Rabbi Kessin came to our shul and spoke about the coming of moshiach -- based on ideas and teachings of the Ramchal. Oh my -- it was like nothing you have ever heard. Mind-blowing stuff.

At 7:04 AM, Blogger Eshet Chayil said...

wow, I'm so late on this post. I have to say I got into reading about loshon hora about a year ago, and I admit, when I first picked the book up, it read like stereo instructions. But once I got into the meaning of what I was reading I couldn't stop. It's such a big thing...
It's like...psssst....I don't make loshon hora but I can tell you who does....
I'm adding you to my blog roll so I stop forgetting to read..Sorry I haven't been around.

At 2:27 PM, Blogger kasamba said...

Hi everyone!
Theonlyway; You have such a lovely way of expressing yourself! thanks for your comments!

Chanie; welcome!!!
Thinking negatively before you start will not ensure you success; you CAN do it!

Must; He's mind blowing that Rabbi Kessen- he just says it as it is!

Eshet: Great to hear from you! thanks!

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