Behaalotecha -The folly of Lashon Haraa

At the recent American Psychiatric Association Meeting in New Orleans, George Vaillant spoke of the way the world’s religions have been responsible for upholding for humanity a framework of positive values, which since the enlightenment, he argued, have been lacking at times  from western culture. These values include hope, compassion, forgiveness, the care of the sick and needy, trust, faithfulness and love. He was arguing that there had been a spiritual evolution of mankind and that psychiatry’s thinking needed to acknowledge that after decades of focus on negative emotions, a balance between positive and negative perspectives was required.


One of the lessons in this week’s parasha concerns the gossip by Aaron and Miriam with regard to Moshe and his wife. The specific detail of their concern was omitted and R’ Eli Munk wrote that this implied that the prohibition against slander is therefore not limited to any specific case, whether of a neighbour, a relative, a leader or anyone else. He wrote that any word that has the potential for hurting someone is proscribed, whoever it may be and whatever it may be.


Aaron and Miriam were summoned into the Tabernacle with Moshe, They were told by G-d that Moshe stood alone as the pre-eminent prophet and how could they then speak against him?They should have treated him with the respect that G-d would have wanted to be given to the man who He held in high regard and affection. Miriam was stricken with “tsora’at” and when Aaron pleaded with Moshe for forgivenes he used the words “do not cast sin upon us’ recalling the fact that Moshe had also been afflicted with the condition after earlier slandering Israel


The Chafetz Chayim wrote a whole book on the subject of Lashon Haraa. If Aaron and Miriam had been mindful of the situation and kept their mouths closed, significant hurt could no doubt been avoided.


George Vaillant “Spiritual Evolution” 2008.

Chafetz Chayim “On Slander”


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