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Code 35

Friday, 11 April 2008

Did you hear the news? The Frummies are moving!! That’s right. We bought a house in Irvine and the congregation is raising dues in order to pay the mortgage.

Exciting news, don’t you agree? Except that it’s not true. Not one word of it. But that didn’t stop someone from starting this rumour. Or sharing it with people. And if you remember the old shampoo commercial, one person tells her friend, and they tell their friends, and so on, and so on.

What’s the harm? Who really gets hurt when a tale is passed from person to person?

The Torah is pretty clear; You shall not be a talebearer among your people (Lev. 19.16). That’s right. You spread a rumour and you are breaking Jewish Law, pure and simple. The Rabbis use this as their prooftext to draw out three types of negative speech.

1. non-defamatory and true
2. negative and lies
3. lies and rumours

The Talmud then points out that listening to gossip is actually worse than spreading gossip for the listener is the one who has the power to determine the course of conversation. A righteous person will gently (and privately, if need be) alert the talebearer that he or she does not want to hear the gossip.

It is hard to be that righteous! Everyone loves to tell stories. It is how we create intimacy within a community. Sharing a juicy bit of gossip can give the impression that we are “in the know” or that we have an in “with the in crowd.” Or sometimes we share stories in order to elevate ourselves in the eyes of the listener.

LaShon HaRa — evil speech. The numeric value equals 35. So if you want to gently caution someone, you can simply warn “Code 35” without causing embarrassment.

For more information, I HIGHLY recommend one of my favourite rabbis, the Chofetz Chaim who codified the concepts and laws of proper speech.

May the words of my mouth…be acceptable to You, O God, my Rock and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:15).

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Nita permalink
    Saturday, 12 April 2008 6:53 pm

    Dang, and here I thought you were getting a big new house in time for the next Genesis event. 😉
    Congratulations on Peach’s big day, btw.

  2. Saturday, 12 April 2008 7:27 pm

    this is how rumors get started, you know:-) just kidding…great post.

  3. Saturday, 12 April 2008 10:18 pm

    You had me going for a bit there!

  4. Frume Sarah permalink
    Tuesday, 15 April 2008 1:13 pm

    Sorry girls. Just a rumour. A big, fat rumour.

    And anyone who knows us would have known that too because why would we move to Irvine when FV is a “nice place to live?”

  5. Sara permalink
    Tuesday, 15 April 2008 1:35 pm

    I was thinking the exact same thing — why wouldn’t the Congregation want to move them to Fountain Valley?

    That’s funny — I must say, I have not heard that one floating around the shul.

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