When we were kids we discovered that with a pocket magnifying glass we could cause serious damage. All you had to do was go out on a sunny day and by focusing the sun through the glass you could burn a hole into anything. (Ah, the things that thrill a misspent youth)! This little trick could even melt snow, and in time the only way to save the world was to take the magnifying glass away from me.
This little tidbit came to mind today when I started to look at this kapitel. When it comes to the sin of speaking gossip, it is like that glass; it has the power to burn a hole into the very fabric of life. Come with me and put yourself in the shoes of a victim of such gossip.
Firstly there is the pain; it is always indescribable pain. Where does it begin? Is it in your brain, or the pit of your stomach? Perhaps it is from that place that is hard to define – your heart. No matter, wherever its inception, it soon overwhelms you at all levels. Evil gossip is so corrupting, so soul destroying that those who are its victims soon become overwhelmed by its totality. All thought stops, every action becomes a reaction to what has been said, and nothing makes sense anymore. This incredible pain is so debilitating that the victims become harassed seemingly beyond all hope. The gossip-mongers think nothing when they unleash their arrows of evil; in fact their twisted thinking allows them to create this bloodshed in the name of Hashem. Simple families are laid to waste by innuendo, and the most wonderful of relationships are ruined by the filthy tongues of the tittle-tattle purveyors.
Now, as a writer, and one used to finding descriptive metaphors for all of life’s trials and tribulations, I should be able to come up with something unique on this subject. The plain truth is that there is nothing one can say when it comes to such pain. Everyone who has suffered the slings and arrows of lashon hara in its full furry will tell you that the anguish it wreaks upon the victims is unique in its intensity. Day loses all light, and the nights are given over to keenly felt torment.
With such a fulsome reputation for bleak misery, you would think that we would all be wary of this lethal mix of hate. Yet, lashon hara is still a national sport played in all circles of our community. We may excel when it comes to so many different things, be it charity giving, Torah study and so very much more, and yet we allow this poison to gather ever more victims. We learn shemiras halashon, and we know that it is wrong, yet, come the moment, and we find ourselves wallowing in yet another pekala’ of juicy slander.
Recently the British government muted an idea of how to get even more folk to stop smoking. They would print on every package of cigarettes a picture of a cancerous lung, or a diseased heart. They figure that with such a graphic reminder of what one is doing when he inhales, he would think twice. How about if we could show the gossipers a quick picture of the tearful faces of those they are destroying, or perhaps a two-minute film of the ruined husband trying to console his wife. Do you think it would help?
This pain is all the more unbearable because it is often brought upon those who are the most vulnerable and in need of support. Instead of giving gentle warmth, this evil creates a fire that is all consuming.
Now, I am not offering any new insight to all this, everything has been said on the subject by those far more worthy than me. I merely state the obvious because it needs to be said time and again.
Tehillim is about our real lives and how we can learn to cope. David Hamelech suffered greatly from those who spoke evil about him. We are in his everlasting debt that he wrote down the words he used in approaching Hashem whilst in the throes of his pain. Think for a moment, how many “heroes” are ready to tell all future generations about their personal hurts and worries? How often do you come across a General who is ready to admit to doubt and fear? This is David’s greatness for all time. He has left us with his words and we can take them and by using them find a path in approaching Hashem with our own broken hearted needs.
Yes the pain is searing, and the hurt corrupts the heart, but you are not alone. David the sweet singer of Psalms was there before you.
Chaltzeini Hashem Mei’adam Ra… “Free me Hashem from the evil man, from the violent man preserve me.” David asks Hashem that he become free from men of evil. When one becomes the target of those who are corrupt, it is as if he is enslaved by their talk. Your freedom has been denied you; instead you are captured by their relentless ill will.
Shanenu Leshonum… “They have sharpened their tongue like a serpent; viper’s venom is under their lips…” David describes that just as a snake may lie in the grass hidden from view, so too the evil talebearer, his lips seem normal but beneath them is the venom of death.
Amarti LaHashem… “I have said to Hashem, You are my G-d,’ give ear, Hashem, to the voice of my supplications.” There is one address that will hear the cry of the downtrodden and that is Hashem. Just as we have accepted His Oneness in times of tranquillity, so too, we can turn to Him with our broken hearts.
Rosh Mesibai… “[As for] the head of those who surround me, let the mischief of their own lips cover them. Let burning coals settle on them, let them be cast into the fire, into conflicts from which they cannot rise.” The fire of conflict is fueled by the mischief of those whose lips cannot stay still. With their own words they will fall, and in the end they will be unable to rise.
Ish Lashon… “A slanderer will not be established in the earth; an evil man of violence will be trapped by his own evil in the pits.” David tells us that those who slander are no better than openly violent men. Often we find those who speak slander do so under the pretence of seeking only the good for others, even their victims. They are trapped by their own arrogance, and their evil will bring them down into the pits.
Yadati Ki Yaaseh… “I know that Hashem will perform judgement for the poor, the justice of the needy.”
The Psalmist cries out the one great truth – Hashem will support us in our darkness. His is a justice that cares for the needy of spirit, and to Him we can turn at all times.
I know that in the heat of the battle, when one is besieged by the wagging tongues of those who slander, he can easily despair. The light is gone, everything is against him. Share David’s prayers, for he too saw that darkness, and with his words we can hope to find strength.