Friday, November 09, 2007

וּבְמוֹשַׁב לֵצִים, לֹא יָשָׁב

(Picture courtesy of AP)

Received via e-mail from a reader:

Don’t Be a Leitz
By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss

The Torah teaches us, “V’eileh toldos Yitzchak ben Avraham; Avraham holid es Yitzchak – And these are the offspring of Yitzchak, the son of Avraham; Avraham begot Yitzchak.” Rashi comments on the obvious redundancy of the verse. After having just said that Yitzchak was the son of Avraham, why does it have to repeat that Avraham begot Yitzchak? He answers that it is to reveal a great miracle that occurred. The leitzonei hador, the scoffers of the generation, were promulgating that Sorah Imeinu, after all those years of not having children from Avraham, probably didn’t conceive from her husband. Rather, on the celebrated night when she was abducted by Avimelech, the king of the philistines, was the time when Yitzchak must have been sired. In order to disprove this evil rumor, Hashem changed the facial features of Yitzchak so that he looked exactly like Avraham. Thus, everyone would know with an absolute certainty that “Avraham holid es Yitzchak.”

Rav Pam, Zt”l, Zy”a, makes the observation that such an open miracle was necessary because of the grave potential consequences of these scoffers. If they had succeeded in planting the seeds of belief in their accusations, it would have undermined the very underpinnings of Klal Yisroel. People would be saying throughout history that we aren’t the children of Avraham at all, but rather the descendants of the Philistines. Thus, Hashem made a celebrated miracle to completely uproot such leitzonus.

I believe this is gives us a profound understanding of the terribleness of leitzonus. Dovid HaMelech, in the very first chapter of Tehillim, makes the very empathic statement, “…U’b’moshav leitzim lo yoshav – In the assembly of scoffers, a Jew should never sit.” This is because a scoffer is not merely speaking lashon hara. His cynicism and put-downs threaten to uproot all that is good. This is why the Gemora teaches us the scary admonition, “Leitzonus achas doche mei’ah tochachos – One scoffing comment can diffuse one-hundred words of wise rebuke and chastisement.” So, for example, a rabbi could give a moving sermon motivating his congregation to pray better, to learn more Torah, to spend more time with their spouse, to be more attentive to the children, etc. Then, from the back of the room, one caustic comment such as, ‘He said that speech three times already,’ or, ‘He doesn’t even do that himself,’ of ‘He didn’t have time to prepare! That was a canned speech,’ will, with one swoop, uproot all of the possible inspiration that the drasha strove to accomplish.

This is the horrific reality of leitzonus. It is interesting to note that the word ‘leitz’ is made up of the same letters as the word ‘tzeil,’ which means a shadow. For, just as a shadow has no tangibility, no mamoshos, substance, whatsoever, so too, the leitz is really no more than a lot of hot air. Looking at it a different way, the word ‘leitz,’ when reversed, becomes the word tzeil, shadow. That’s because a shadow is an accurate and even exact description of the object that formed it, while the leitz depicts a description very far from reality. Finally, the word leitz is made up of the letters ‘lammed’ and ‘tzadik,’ for the leitz thinks that he is learned and righteous (which is a meaning of the words ‘lammed and tzadik’) and that’s why he is empowered to spout his scoffery.

One should realize that the leitz is the very antithesis of the Mishnaic definition of a chacham. The Mishna teaches us, “Eizahu chacham? Halomeid mikol adom – Who is wise? He who is able to learn something from every man.” The ability to do this entails the talent to be able to see the good in even difficult people. This is the very opposite of the leitz who automatically sees the dark side and what’s wrong with most people and most situations.

On a very practical level the scoffers usually gravitate to the back of the synagogue instinctively drawing further away from what is going on in the front. One should try to avoid sitting there and to train, with great emphasis, their children to avoid doing so as well. (This is not to say that everyone who sits in the back is a scoffer, G-d forbid. There are many fine people who choose to be humble and unobtrusive, sitting towards the rear. As with most things, we have to make a judgment call in making this decision.)

May Hashem grant us the wisdom to always see the good in every situation and save us from the evil tongue and the heinous influence of the scoffers and may Hashem bless us all with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.


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