April 10, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
April 10, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Tragic Outcome of Lashon Hara

Part II

In my last article (April 23), we considered “cyberbullying” as a form of lashon hara, circa 2016. We also began to answer the question of why it is so important to resist the magnetic draw of this prohibition. In this article we will delve into the mystery of why it is so difficult to move forward in our commitment to eradicate this destructive force in our lives. In the past few months, starting with our discussion on the Mishkon Construction Project, we have been focusing on the metaphoric value of the Mishkon, its utensils and services. We considered the idea that since Hashem needs nothing from us, all He asks of us is meant as a paradigm for the manner in which we are meant to interact with one another; and so, despite the obstacles in our path, I do believe that for those whose lives are dominated by the knowledge that Hashem is watching us and impacted by our actions, if the interest and motivation is there, we can indeed transcend these temptations and as a result strongly reduce the collateral damage caused by lashon harah.

In Parshiot Tazriah/Metzorah, we discovered reasons for the prominence lashon harah assumes in our Torah. We also observed the contrast between the diagnostic processes for the leprosy-like condition called Tzora’as, and the medical diagnosis of leprosy. We learned that Tzora’as is considered a spiritual ailment, punishment for lashon hara; moreover, it is dished out in a “Measure for Measure” fashion. In addition, the strength of this temptation is evidenced by the fact that some of our holiest ancestors, even Moshe Rabainu, who talked directly with God, were not impervious to its force. In Parshat Shemos we read that when Hashem first approached him at the “Burning Bush,” with the prospect of leading the nation, he maligned them with the words: “They will not believe in me” (Exodus: 4:1). According to the Talmud, in Shabbat, 97a, Hashem’s response to this accusation was: “They are believers… the children of believers…but in the end you will not believe” (Talmud, Shabbat 97a).

In his column, “Covenant and Conversations” Rabbi Sachs responds to the question of why the Torah assigns such prominence to this transgression, “branding it as one of the worst of sins.”  He reminds us that speech is the special gift Hashem endowed us with, which specifically distinguishes us as “homo sapiens.” In my articles dedicated to “Lessons from the Bereishit Stories,” we also learned that the gifts of intellect and speech were meant to be used in the service of spiritual growth. As a result, we must go to the greatest extent possible to avoid misusing these precious gifts. Given these insights, the mystery surrounding the difficulty in combatting the temptations surrounding this prohibition grows.

When I first began my certification in psychoanalysis, one of the seminal principles I learned is that when we hold on to an emotion or behavior that seems to bring us emotional or physical pain, it is because of the “secondary gain,” we derive from remaining “stuck.” Even though it is difficult to consider that one would hold onto painful emotions or actions, by delving into my own past, I came to understand that this was in fact true. I also learned that it is only when the pain of “holding on” becomes greater than the prospect of “letting go,” that one is ready to release the bonds of the emotions or behaviors that impact negatively on the quality of one’s life.

Armed with this knowledge, we are ready to identify those strategies that can be helpful in applying the principle of “secondary gains” to eradicating lashon hara from our lives. The initiatives directed towards cyberbullying offer some useful suggestions. An excellent video, appropriate for adolescents as well as adults, “Sticks and Stones,” demonstrates that a major factor leading one to participate in bullying either through “active participation,” or “complicity through silence,” is the belief that it will protect one from becoming the next victim. On a far simpler level, it allows one to be part of the “crowd.” This is especially true in the case of adolescents; but even as adults we are social beings, and the prospect of removing ourselves from the “gossip circle” creates a sense of isolation, which for some can be difficult to bear.

Yet, when so challenged, it is helpful to tap into our Torah study and enlist the memories of Torah role models such as Avraham Avinu who never felt alone, even when he was the only one on this earth who believed in God; and it was because he was fully connected to Hakadosh Baruch Huh, always engaged in giving with his whole heart and soul, that he never stopped feeling the warmth of Hashem’s embrace. The intimacy of Avraham’s connection with Hakadosh Baruch, rooted in the emphasis on “giving” rather than “taking” is consistent with current theory and practice in “Relational Therapy.” Data collected through observations of couples spanning over 40 years, indicate that successful marriages that endure over time are rooted in the desire to give rather than receive, even to the point of self-sacrifice; moreover, it is this giving that creates intimacy and connection, and allows love and passion to grow and mature. Thus viewed, the quality of our relationship with Hakadosh Baruch Huh can be applied to our relationships with our spouses, as well as others we love and care about; moreover, once achieving this level of connection, it would be easier to resist the temptation of violating and destroying it with the sharp arrows of lashon harah. It also helps to remain mindful in the prayer we say three times a day at the beginning and end of the Amidah: “May Hashem open up my lips and speak…words of praise” and “May God, guard my tongue from evil and my lips from deceitful speech…”  Indeed, these Torah insights, as well as these simple strategies can go a long way in combatting the temptation of lashon harah.

By Renee Nussbaum, PhD

Renee Nussbaum is a practicing psychoanalyst, with special training in Imago Relational Therapy. She can be reached at: [email protected].

 

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles