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Did you hear about the pork?

04/08/2021 12:33:55 PM


There was a rhyme that my Jewish day school peers and I used to chant when we caught wind of some juicy gossip that we wanted to hear, but the owner of the gossip didn’t want to share it because it was Lashon Harah (Literally: “bad tongue/language,” Evil Speech.) We’d chant, “Lashon Harah, Lamed Hay, tell it to me anyway.” (“Lamed” and “Hay” being the first two Hebrew letters of each of these lines.) Of course, the bearer of the gossip could always retort, “Lashon Harah, Lamed Hay, go to hell the easy way.” Admittedly, we also had cootie shots and other parts of childlore, but even as school children, we understood the detrimental power of gossip.

In Parshat Shmini, there is nothing said about gossip directly. We get the beginnings of the sacrificial worship of the tabernacle, the early demise of Aaron’s two sons, and then more dietary laws with lists of kosher and non kosher animals. Within this list we encounter the prohibition from eating pork; a prohibition many Jews are careful to keep. Rabbi Israel Salantar points out that this prohibition is mentioned only twice and every Jew knows it is prohibited. Yet the Torah prohibits gossip many times more, and still people gossip without recognizing their transgressions. Thus, he reminds us that not only should we be careful of what goes into our mouths, but even more importantly, what comes out of it. 

Not only do people not always internalize how their gossip is hurtful to the one whom it is about, but people also fail to recognize how their participation in gossip deteriorates their reputation. By being someone who is less careful with refraining to share gossip, others subconsciously recognize that we pass judgment on others and are people to be more guarded around. And what kind of society are we building when we raise our hackles, wear our emotional masks (but keep wearing your pandemic ones), and can’t be truly present and our full selves around others?

Shabbat Shalom

Tue, December 5 2023 22 Kislev 5784