May 22nd, 2021

11th of Sivan 5781


The Severity of the Sin of Lashon Hara

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"Command the Children of Israel that they shall expel from the camp everyone with tzara'at, everyone who has had a zav-emission, and everyone contaminated by a human corpse" (Bamidbar 5:2)

There were three camps in the Wilderness: the camp of the Shechina which housed the Miskan, the camp of the Levites, and the camp of Yisrael. As Rashi explains, "The camp of the Shechina was inside the curtains; this was surrounded by the camp of the Levites, which was surrounded by the camp of Yisrael, until the end of the encampment of the flags in all four directions."

Hashem commanded Moshe about the need to protect the holiness of the camp. Therefore, anyone suffering from tzara'at, anyone who had a zav-emission or anyone contaminated by a human corpse was to be distanced from the camp so as not to blemish its holiness. There are various degrees of ritual contamination, and people were distanced according to the level of impurity. The greater the severity of the impurity, the more camps the person must be distanced from.

This gives rise to a powerful question. Bnei Yisrael were now in their second year after leaving Egypt and had already accepted the Holy Torah. Since at that momentous occasion all the sick were healed, how could anyone be suffering from tzara'at?!

Chazal (Bamidbar Rabba 13:8) explain that although all the sick were healed at Matan Torah, after the sin of the Golden Calf they were once again afflicted with tzara'at and zav-emissions. In a different vein, one can add that they were stricken with the difficult illness of tzara'at due to stumbling with the prohibition of lashon hara, a sin which, unfortunately, is widespread. So despite the fact that all Bnei Yisrael were healed at Matan Torah, this group of people had already managed to become ill with tzara'at since they had transgressed the very serious sin of lashon hara.

Miriam the prophetess is a proof of the severity of this sin. Despite speaking only a few words about her brother Moshe, and having entirely positive intentions, she was nevertheless smitten with tzara'at and had to sit alone outside the camp.

The Torah describes how Miriam came to her brother Aharon and related that Moshe separated from his wife Tziporah, the Cushite woman. (The description 'Cushite' was a euphemistic reference to Tziporah's great beauty and exceptional character.) Miriam and Aharon went on to say, "If he separated from his wife because of the honor of the Shechina, 'Did He not speak to us as well?' (Bamidbar 12:2), yet despite this we continued family life and did not seek to separate."

Miriam spoke up only for good; she sought to benefit her sister-in-law, Tziporah, and of all Am Yisrael. As we know, a king or prince serves as an example for the rest of the nation, who follows the way their leaders conduct themselves. Therefore, Miriam was afraid that if Moshe Rabbeinu will maintain his separation from Tziporah, the Jewish people will see this as an example of the correct form of behavior and will immediately withdraw from normal life, taking Moshe's actions as an opportunity or license to do the same. Since Miriam knew that Hashem desired marital harmony to reign in the home, she therefore turned to her brother Aharon who loved peace and pursued peace, and expressed her surprise at what Moshe had done.

Seemingly, Miriam's words contained great legitimacy yet we see that despite having positive intentions, she was punished because she should have turned to Moshe and confronted him directly, rather than sharing her thoughts with Aharon. If her concern for the public is what truly stood at the forefront of her mind, she should have rebuked Moshe privately for his deed and the possible resulting negative effect on Bnei Yisrael. Since she turned to Aharon and not Moshe, she was indicted by Heaven and smitten with tzara'at.

This incident serves as a lesson for us – even if our words are true, we are nevertheless forbidden to share them if they have derogatory content. It makes no difference at all whether the facts are true or not. It is important to note that derogatory words, even though they might be true, are considered lashon hara, while derogatory words that are a complete fabrication are more severe than lashon hara and fall under the category of motzi-shem-ra, a much greater sin. If Miriam, who had positive intentions and spoke only the truth, was punished with tzara'at according to the full severity of the law and had to quarantine outside the camp for seven days, all the more so if one relates derogatory information which is false and has no purpose! Clearly, the sin is much greater and many more times severe.

Therefore, if someone feels that another person must be rebuked, he must go straight to the one involved and not speak behind his back, so as not to stumble with the sin of lashon hara. This sin is so severe, to the extent that Chazal instructed us not to praise someone excessively, for this might bring him to add something derogatory. Similarly, one must be careful not to praise someone in front of his enemy, for his hatred of him will drive him to besmirch his reputation and speak derogatorily about him, and the one who praised him will end up transgressing the sin of hearing lashon hara.

Following the construction of the Mishkan, Hashem hurried to command Moshe to distance all those who had tzara'at as a result of speaking lashon hara, since this was a message for Am Yisrael – the Shechina cannot tolerate dwelling among those who stir up dissension and speak lashon hara. In order for the camp to remain holy with Hashem's Presence resting in the Ohel Mo'ed, the entire camp must be free of this severe sin. It simply cannot reside in the same vicinity as the Holy Shechina.

I thought that this could be a reason why the Parshah is called Nasso. The word נשא - Nasso, can be rearranged to spell שנאה - hate. A person must utterly hate anything that can sabotage or disturb his Avodat Hashem and interpersonal relationships. This includes the sin of lashon hara which distances a person from his friends and from Hashem.

Guard Your Tongue

Delight in Finding Fault with a Sinner

Before acting, we must verify: 1. The derogatory words are true 2. There was no justification for the sinner to act in this way 3. One's rebuke will not bring about results 4. One will relate the facts accurately. Still another condition must be fulfilled before reporting the incident:

The speaker must be certain that his sole intention is for a beneficial purpose. If he knows that deep down he will derive pleasure from pointing out the sinner's faults, he is forbidden to relate the matter, even if there is no other way to achieve the desired goal. He must do his best to rid his heart of any negativity and only after he is successful can he act.

Walking in Their Ways

Gaining by Giving

I was once invited to a fund-raising evening on behalf of the Kol Torah Yeshiva in Yerushalayim. I merited sharing the dais with the Rosh Yeshiva, HaGaon Rabbi Moshe Yehudah Schlesinger, shlita. In order to encourage others to donate, I pledged a considerable amount of money. Then I doubled my pledge, so that others would take an example and do likewise.

At the time of my pledge, I had no idea from where I would get the money. I offered a silent prayer that Hashem should help me fulfill my pledge and donate the full sum I had promised.

The next night, I participated in the wedding of a friend. As I was leaving the hall, a man ran after me with a sizeable check in his hand. It was even more than the amount I had pledged to the Kol Torah Yeshiva.

I lifted my eyes heavenward and thanked Hashem for accepting my prayers. He proved that when one gives, he never loses. On the contrary, he merely opens the pipelines so that abundance can rain down. As our Sages exhort us (Ta’anit 9a), “Tithe so that you may become wealthy.”

I was also involved in another similar incident.

My mentor, Rabbi Binyomin Zev Kaufman, shlita, once paid me a visit. While we were talking, I pledged to donate the considerable sum of twenty thousand francs to his Yeshiva. This was despite the fact that I had no idea where the money would come from. But Hashem has His own ideas. As we were speaking, a man walked in with a check for that very amount.

I immediately handed it over to Rabbi Kaufman and realized that when a Jew has a strong desire to help his fellow man, Hashem comes to his aid.

The Haftarah

The Haftarah of the week: “There was a certain man” (Shoftim 13)

The connection to the Parshah: The Haftarah speaks about Shimshon the Nazirite and the instructions the Navi gave his mother concerning the required abstentions. The Parshah too talks about the laws of the Nazirite.

Words of the Sages

Is There an Option?

Five Sela'im for the Kohen

As part of the Pidyon Haben (Redemption of the Firstborn) ceremony, our Sages established that the Kohen asks the father, "Which do you prefer: to give away your firstborn son, who is the first issue of his mother's womb, or do you prefer to redeem him for five silver shekels as you are required to do by the Torah?"

Of course, the father replies that he wishes to redeem his son for five silver shekels.

It appears that the wording of the ceremony allows the father to refuse, as a result of which the infant would belong to the Kohen. Furthermore, the Gaon Ya'avatz in his siddur Beit Ya'akov, writes that if an older child redeems himself, he says, "I am a firstborn, first issue of my mother's womb and I am yours". The Kohen replies, "Do you want to be mine or do you prefer to give me five silver shekels that your redemption requires?" The child answers, "I wish to redeem myself and I present you [with the redemption money]". He then recites the redemption blessing.

The Sefer Chut Hashani written by the Chavat Yair, writes that despite the implication that the father has the choice of leaving his son with the Kohen if he prefers not to part with five silver shekels (an enormous sum for most people during many periods), this is not so. Firstly, the Torah requires the father to redeem his son, as he says, "This is my firstborn son… and G-d has commanded to redeem him". Secondly, the child is not the property of the Kohen and is not taken from his parents even if the father refuses to redeem him. Rather this question is so framed in order to increase the father's love for his son and the mitzvah of redeeming him, so that he should give the money willingly without feeling forced, for otherwise he will not have fulfilled the obligation of Pidyon. This is the only reason why he is asked, "Which do you prefer…?" For when Hashem smote the firstborns in Egypt, He laid claim to all firstborn Jews. So if the father does not want to redeem his son, he remains in Hashem's possession and Hashem might decide to take him back, G-d forbid. If he wishes to keep his firstborn son just as he will keep the rest of his children, he would do well to redeem him, and then he is considered as belonging to the father.

This idea is brought in Sha'arei Teshuva in the name of Teshuvat HaGaonim. The Kohen places his right hand on the infant's head and says to the father, "What is more dear to you, your son or these five selaim?" and the father replies, "My son is dear to me and I am redeeming him". He then redeems him twice as it says, "אך פדה תפדה, but you shall surely redeem the firstborn of man" and it is also written "ופדויו מבן חדש תפדה, those who are to be redeemed, from one month shall you redeem".

There are two kinds of redemptions: one from Hashem and one from the Angel of Death. The Kohen accepts the money, and, swinging it in a circular motion over the infant's head, he says, "These five silver shekels are redemption money for the son of this father. This redemption is instead of that; this is in exchange for that. This is given to the Kohen and may this son enter into life and fear of Heaven." He then blesses him by reciting "He will not allow your foot to falter…" until the end of the Psalm.

Rabbi Mordechai HaLevi Shwartzboard shlita calls our attention to a novel insight. If a son asks his father why one performs a Pidyon Haben ceremony, the father has a Torah obligation to explain the reason to him, according to the verse "And it shall be when your son will ask you at some future time, 'What is this?' you shall say to him… Hashem killed all the firstborns in the land of Egypt… Therefore… I shall redeem all the firstborn of my sons."

He points out that he has observed noted Talmidei Chachamim at Pidyon Haben ceremonies, who purposefully approach the father and ask him why it is necessary to perform the redemption. The father then relates the matter of the Exodus and the plague of the Firstborns, thereby fulfilling a Torah obligation.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

And Establish Peace for You

"May Hashem lift His countenance to you and establish peace for you" (Bamidbar 6:26)

Hashem spoke to Moshe Rabbeinu and told him to tell Aharon and his sons how to bless Am Yisrael. The verse stresses (Bamidbar 6:23), "Speak to Aharon and his sons, saying… So shall you bless the Children of Israel, saying to them." The commentaries explain that the repetition of the word 'saying' means that Aharon and his sons must take care not to bless Bnei Yisrael hastily, just to fulfil an obligation. Rather, they must bless them with the appropriate intentions and feelings. It should not be a blessing cited by rote, but a blessing that emanates from the depths of their heart.

The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 11:5) explains that this Priestly Blessing includes many different blessings. "May Hashem bless you": May Hashem bless your possessions. "And safeguard you": May Hashem protect your newly gained blessing of prosperity so that bandits cannot take it away from you. This is a blessing only Hashem can guarantee for man can give a gift to his friend but it may be stolen by thieves. However, Hashem is both the Giver and Protector and therefore His gifts are true gifts that endure. The Kohen continues, "May Hashem illuminate His countenance for you": May Hashem regard you with a pleasant countenance and not treat you sternly. The Sages add that peace is the greatest and most precious blessing Hashem bestowed on His children, for peace is one of the pillars on which the world stands. Hashem's Name is Shalom and His signature is Shalom.

We also find that Bnei Yisrael were not given the Torah until they achieved true unity and love for each other, as it says (Shemot 19:2), "And Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain." The word 'vayichan – encamped' is written in the singular to teach that they all camped by the mountain as one man with one heart. They felt united and mutually responsibility for each other.

Due to the importance of the Priestly Blessing, even after the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed, the Kohanim retain this power to bless Am Yisrael and do so daily in the Chazan's repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei prayer. They pray and beseech Hashem to continue extending His peace over us. Similarly, many people have the custom of blessing their children on Friday night with this blessing. This demonstrates the importance of the Priestly Blessing, whose central theme is peace.

Pearls of the Parsha

Personal Choice – Not Imitation

"One leader each day, one leader each day" (Bamidbar 7:11)

Why does the Torah find it necessary to repeat each tribal leader's offering, if they all brought the exact same offering? It would seem sufficient to detail the first one and conclude with "so all the leaders brought"?

Rabbi Pinchas ben Zecharye HaKohen Mag'ari zt"l, a Sage from Tzinah, writes in his sefer Or Torah that the reason the Torah went to great lengths to detail each leaders' offering even though they were identical, is because each one brought his offering out of a personal desire and according to his discernment, and not because he saw the other's offering. Thus, the Torah personally honors each leader, as it says, "For I honor those who honor Me" (Shmuel I, 2:30). Had the Torah only described the first leader's offering and then concluded, "And so all the leaders brought", this would have been a slight to their honor for it would imply they were just following the previous leader.

This serves as a lesson for us, to what degree we must be sensitive to another's honor. The Torah often suffices with changing or adding letters or single words to impart important Torah laws and concepts, while here when it comes to the slightest suspicion of hurting another's honor, the Torah adds a considerable number of verses.

The Goal of Confession is Implementation

"They shall confess their sin that they committed; he shall make restitution for his guilt… and he shall give it to the one to whom he is indebted" (Bamidbar 5:7)

The verse begins in the plural "They shall confess", and then surprisingly, goes on to use the singular form "he shall make restitution", "he shall give". What can we learn from this?

The Tzadik Rabbi Mordechai of Neshchiz zt"l answers with a clever insight:

Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that there is a great gap between a promise and its implementation. For instance, many people can be seen banging 'al chet' and confessing aloud certain sins they transgressed. But when these same people are faced with fulfilling the obligation of returning a stolen object or other similar situations, it often becomes clear that the words they confessed with their mouths are not followed by any practical application.

When talking about interpersonal relationships, this unfortunate reality is demonstrated by this change in terminology. "They shall confess" is a mitzvah many fulfil, while "he shall make restitution" and "he shall give" is fulfilled only by a few select individuals…

Sharing in the Shechina's Pain

"So shall you bless the Children of Israel, saying to them" (Bamidbar 6:23)

Various commentaries explain the deeper meaning of these seemingly extra words: 'saying to them'; we shall examine one.

The sefer Igra D'kallah discusses it in the following way: "The talmidim of the Holy Baal Shem Tov have a tradition from their esteemed master that when someone prays for a fellow Jew experiencing a certain lack, G-d forbid, he should also aim for a loftier need with his prayer. For if, G-d forbid, a Jewish person has some lack, that lack is considered as a blemish in the Holy Shechina, so to speak. In this vein the Gemara (Sanhedrin 46a) writes: 'Rabbi Meir said, what does the Shechina say when a person is in pain? "My head is heavy and My arms are heavy".' Therefore, the purpose of his prayer should be to perfect the deficiency [in the Shechina], and then automatically everything will be rectified... However, if his aim is only to fill the material lack, it is not certain his prayer will be accepted. Then one must rely on Hashem's kindness, 'for He has neither despised nor loathed the supplication of the poor', although now is not the time to elaborate.

"And so, concerning the blessing Hashem commanded the Kohanim to bless Am Yisrael, the One who decrees said it out of love for His children, and therefore it is not necessary to have the higher intentions [the Shechina's pain] in mind. It is sufficient just to say to them: 'May Hashem bless you…'" It is enough to bless the people for their personal needs, according to the simple meaning of the words.

A Novel Look at the Parshah

The Promise for Heavenly Protection

Simply Listen and Concentrate on the Priestly Blessing

In the approbation to the sefer 'Birkat Kohanim B'ahava', Rabbi David Cohen, Rosh Yeshiva of Chevron notes:

"Some time ago I was at Maran Rosh HaYeshiva, HaGaon Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman zt"l, and he told me the following:"

"I am very surprised to see so many people suffering hardships who require salvation, rushing around to seek blessings. Often they will even travel to distant places for this, even though they are not certain this person's blessing will bring them salvation. They do not realize that right at their doorstep they have a blessing that Hashem Himself promised has power and generates abundant blessing! At the time of the Priestly Blessing, Hashem Himself blesses His people through the Kohanim, as it says, 'And I shall bless them.' If so, why do people not try to run after the merit of the Priestly Blessing?"

This question remains unanswered.

Gedolei Yisrael wholeheartedly recommend this exclusive segulah; a most valuable gift that the Giver of the Torah bestows upon us in this week's Parshah.

This is a mitzvah that is so easily attainable (in Eretz Yisrael). It is saturated with blessings, chock-full of gifts, and bursting with mercy. The more we are meticulous with this mitzvah, both those who bless and those who receive the blessing, the more fervent our concentration, the quicker we will merit salvation, G-dly abundance and blessings!

Often when HaGaon Rabbi Ya'akov Eidelstein zt"l was asked to bless a sick person r"l, he would give the following piece of advice: Tell the Kohen that when saying the words 'peace' during the Priestly Blessing, he should have in mind the name of the sick person and with Hashem's help it will be beneficial. "The Priestly Blessing is the most suitable place to receive a blessing and merit salvation. And the correct place to have this in mind is during the word 'peace', for as we know, the blessing of peace includes everything."

Furthermore, Rabbi Eliyahu Pinchas of Rein zt"l, in his sefer Chesed L'Alofim, details various requests and the correct places to have them in mind during the Priestly Blessing. It also details several requests and entreaties which the Kohanim can have in mind when they offer their blessing, and thereby merit the congregants with their influence. He points out that the condition for meriting the effect of the blessing is to repent before the blessing, for this enables the blessing to have an effect.

The Holy Zohar explains that at the time of the Priestly Blessing, there is an influence of mercy in all the spheres, and at that very time judgement is transformed into mercy!

How appropriate to bring the words of the Eretz Chaim, written by a talmid of the Ba'al Shem Tov zy"a, in the Likutim of the holy Gaon, Rabbi Shimshon of Ostripoli zy"a: "He has transmitted a tradition, 'The following are particularly powerful times for one's request to be fulfilled: When opening the Aron HaKodesh, when lifting up the Sefer Torah, and during the Priestly Blessing. Therefore, if someone has a request he should ask at these times and his prayer will certainly be answered.'"

HaRav Menachem Eliezer Moses relates that once as a young boy he went with his father, HaRav Shlomo Zalman zt"l, to accompany Maran the Chazon Ish zt"l on his daily early morning walk. He approached the Chazon Ish and said, "Rebbe, please bless me." The Chazon Ish replied, "You should see the fulfillment of 'May Hashem bless you and safeguard you', with all its interpretations..."

Similarly, HaGaon Rabbi Yitzchak Weiss zt"l writes in his sefer Alef Ktav, "When someone asks me for a blessing, I am accustomed to replying, 'You should merit the fulfillment of the Priestly Blessing, with its sixty letters, with all the blessings that are derived from the verses of the blessings, detailed in the Shas, Midrashim and Zohar."

The esteemed Admor of Housiatin zt"l, was approached by a Chassid whose face was visibly lined with traces of stress and anxiety. "Rebbe," he said, "I began working as a money changer and now must walk around the entire day with huge amounts of cash in my pocket; dollars, shekels, every kind of currency… I carry it all with me and it causes me much tension. What can I do?"

The Rebbe thought for a moment and then replied: "Birkat Kohanim. The Priestly Blessing begins with "May Hashem bless you" – your assets, and continues with "and safeguard you". As Rashi explains, this means bandits should not come and steal your money. If you are particular to hear Birkat Kohanim every day, you are promised Heavenly protection!"

From then on, the chassid was particular to listen to Birkat Kohanim every day. Indeed, throughout the years he worked as a money changer, he was never harmed. Nothing was ever stolen from him, no thief ever tried his luck in his pockets!

For tens of years he was meticulous about the blessing, and the blessing protected him, as Rabbi Gamliel Rabinowitz shlita testifies in his name, in his sefer Gam Ani Odeka. For when Hashem promises protection, it has much greater significance than any safe, insurance or security personnel. While these are important and necessary because of our hishtadlut obligation, it is much more worthwhile to be protected by the lofty Promise that will guard all our possessions; that they not be stolen, that expensive jewelry should not get lost, that our homes should not attract thieves…


Hevrat Pinto • 32, rue du Plateau 75019 Paris - FRANCE • Tél. : +331 42 08 25 40 • Fax : +331 42 06 00 33 • © 2015 • Webmaster : Hanania Soussan