17 Cheshvan 5782 / Saturday, October 23, 2021 | Torah Reading: Vayeira
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Tripping Over Tongues    

Tripping Over Tongues

People roll their eyes in self-righteousness and whine, "Hashem, why do I deserve these tribulations?" Maybe they tripped over their tongue?


Translated by Rabbi  Lazer Brody

Rebbe Nachman wrote Sefer HaMidot, known in English as the Aleph-Bet Book, when he was very young, less than ten years old according to Breslever tradition. This is an amazing book of Jewish ethics, whose every word is gleaned from the Gemara and pure Torah sources. Many Breslever Chassidim finish this book every year and some even complete it every month. Others teach their children this important text, and many children in Breslev know entire sections of it by heart.
What's so vital about the Aleph-Bet Book? With no exaggeration, it can save your life. In the least, it's a phenomenal tool for self evaluation. Here's how:
Suppose you're having social difficulties and you don't feel like you're liked or accepted in your peer group. Don't try to force yourself on others - simply take Rebbe Nachman's advice from the Aleph-Bet Book: "Whoever prays with dedication for the Jewish People, everyone loves them." Rebbe Nachman is in fact showing us that we have insufficient unconditional love for our fellow Jews because we don't pray for the Jewish People with dedication. When's the last time you went out to the field and prayed for someone other than yourself? You'll find that when you pray sincerely for others, others will love you.
We should all be devoting daily or at least weekly segments of our personal prayer to the Jewish People. Look how many sick people there are, even children with terminal diseases, G-d forbid! Look at the threats against us on all of our borders. Look at the growing world-wide antisemitism. Look at the dissension among Jews. We must pray for our people, so that everyone learns emuna and ahavat Yisrael, faith and love of fellow Jew. Let's pray that every unmarried person should be able to find his or her soul-mate. Let's pray for everyone's health and livelihood. Praying for others opens a floodgate of Divine compassion, which we sorely need, especially during the notorious Three Weeks.
But what happens, instead of listening to Rebbe Nachman and praying for others, so many people want to be a "Rebbe" themselves, striving for their own aggrandizement and self-interest. In doing so, they trip over their tongues, speaking lashon hara (slander and evil speech) about other people because they consider themselves better. I'll save them the trouble - I'll give them a signed certificate that they're better than everyone else; then, they won't have to speak about everyone else.
But there's a big problem: those who trip over their tongues and speak harmfully about others soon encounter major difficulties in life. Rebbe Nachman warns of this, also in the Aleph-Bet Book. His warning is enough to make a normal person's hair stand up: "One who speaks lashon hara, Hashem says to the Minister of Purgatory, 'I'll tend to him from above and you tend to him from below'."
People roll their eyes in self-righteousness and whine, "Hashem, why do I deserve these tribulations?" Maybe they tripped over their tongue? As soon as a person speaks lashon hara, he is liable to suffer health and income problems. On the spiritual plane, people with wagging tongues lose all desire to learn Torah and ultimately become heretics. And don't say that you know "religious" people who speak badly about others - they are only disguised in Purim costumes of hat and beards. Sounds sharp? They're not my words, but Rebbe Nachman's, again, from the Aleph-Bet Book: "A person does not speak lashon hara until he becomes a heretic, sinning in the heavens and on earth."
Suppose you still want to be a Rebbe; one cannot be one of Israel's luminaries until one loves every single Jew. One cannot love every single Jew until one purges his or her speech from forbidden things. To do that, we all need to go back and review the laws of shmirat halashon, guarding our speech. If you notice, the great leaders of every generation were the greatest lovers of Israel, the ones that had good things to say about every Jew.
There is no such thing as genuine Torah excellence without ahavat Yisrael, the unconditional love of every Jew. Why is that? Rebbe Akiva teaches us that the light of Torah brings a person to love every Jew. So, if an apparent Torah scholar does not love every Jew, then he's not authentic, for he lacks the inner light of Torah that he should have attained had he learned properly, in other words, to refine himself instead of advertising himself.
Let's all stop tripping over our tongues, and start using them to pray that Hashem should redeem us mercifully, without missile attacks and push-button wars. Know full well that every emuna CD neutralizes an enemy missile; every emuna book thwarts a terrorist's schemes. You can help with this - by spreading emuna, we're fighting the real war of redemption, and with Hashem's help, we'll prevail, amen!

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