In this Parsha we read about the encounter of Moshe and two Jews striving together. While Moshe tries to stop their fight he only gets himself endangered and has to run away from Egypt. During the encounter Moshe says: “So the matter is now known”. Besides the simple meaning of his words, our sages (Shemos Raba 1:30; Tanchuma, Shemos 30 brought by Rashi 2:14) tell us a fascinating insight: “Now it in known why the Jewish people have to suffer in exile without being redeemed. Because there is enmity among them and they speak badly of each other, they deserved this punishment”. Our sages reiterate this concept numerous times. Why is it that these particular sins cause punishments to befall our people?




It is well known that the various mitzvos of Torah are generally divided into two categories: those that are between us and Hashem and those that apply to other people. In some ways, the second group of commandments is even more important than the first. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, even the commandments that guard our relationship with others are commandments between us and Hashem as well. The one who broke one of the prohibitions against a fellow is not only guilty before him and needs to make amends and seek forgiveness, but also has to repent for sinning before the Creator. On the other hand, if he only repents before Hashem this is not sufficient and he does not get forgiven until he makes restoration and asks for forgiveness from the one he had hurt (see Talmud, Yoma 85b).


Moreover, the one who commits transgressions against other people often profanes the Divine Name. The more careful he is with regards to the mitzvos that apply only to Hashem, the greater is the damage he causes when not treating others according to the Torah’s principles. The reason for such a tremendous damage is that the more “religious” a person is, the more is he expected to be a decent human being[1]. His unjust behavior causes others to think that Hashem’s Torah can tolerate mistreating others. In fact at times we do hear that such and such “religious Jew” did this and that. The immediate reaction of listeners is: “They are all like this …” The damage caused by people who look religious and behave improperly towards others can not be overestimated.


Besides what we mentioned above there is yet another fundamental reason why certain sins between people cause enormous damage to all of us. This is based on a type of spiritual Hanhaga (Divine Rule) that we can not notice but which we know about by tradition. The way the world was set up is through fair judgment. In fact, there exists a Divine Court with real prosecution and defense. The advocates and the accusers are special angels given these tasks. The Zohar (33:99b) asks why all of this is needed? After all, Hashem can judge Alone? It answers that this way the judgment is seen as fair by all the angels and souls of people who are present (an of course by the person himself when he dies).


Now the prosecution is headed by the Satan and consists of many angels that are at his disposal. Some angles were actually created by the sin itself. Just like each mitzvah creates a holy angel, so too each transgression brings into being an extra prosecutor!


However, there is one other condition for the prosecuting angels to be able to open their mouths. It is known that the world is judged “measure for measure[2]”. Generally, accusations in the Heavenly Court are aroused through accusation in this world down below. When the Jewish people hate each other and speak Loshon Hara and other words of gossip, the angels are given permission to accuse the Jewish nation[3]. These could be collective accusations against our entire people. Their result can be collective punishments. Rather then suffering being decreed on a certain individual, the suffering may be decreed on a whole city or country. Then even the righteous can suffer together with the wicked[4]. About these types of punishments, our sages give advice to run away from that city or country[5].


At other times, the accusations may be specific against the gossiper. All his previous transgressions are “remembered” and he is judged for all of them. Now, obviously nothing gets “forgotten” even in case of a person who is careful with his mouth. However, since Hashem is merciful, the punishment for other sins may be delayed. Meanwhile this person may atone for his transgressions through Teshuvah (repentance) and good deeds. However, if the person speaks badly, the punishment swiftly comes to this world. The GR”A thus writes in his commentary to Mishley 26:20 “When there is no wood the fire stops, [and so too] when there is no talebearer, strife comes to an end”, that the Gehinom burns through transgressions of wicked in this world. And similarly, when there are not talebearers, there are no accusations on high[6].


Similarly the Chofetz Chaim in the very beginning of Sefer Shmiras Haloshon (starting with the second chapter of Shaar Hazechira) describes in great detail this special Divine Hanhaga. He quotes the Zohar (2:264b) where various levels (spiritual chambers) of Gehinom are described. When the third chamber is described, the Zohar mentions a special ruach (spirit) that gets aroused only when Loshon Hara is spoken in this world. He then immediately starts bringing accusations and demands the worst retributions including catastrophes and deaths[7].


Now we can better understand the various statements of our sages regarding the damage of Loshon Hara. Even during the best times the Jewish people were loosing war because of this sin. On the other hand, the generation of idol worshippers was successful in war since they were united and loved each other[8]. Since there was no “accusation” against them, their sins were “overlooked” for the time being.


All of what we mentioned above regarding the effects of gossip is besides the fact that Loshon Hara is in general a terrible transgression. The reason is that Loshon Hara is exactly the opposite of learning Torah. Just as Torah is equivalent to all other mitzvos[9], so too Loshon Hara includes the worst sins[10]. There are two organs in human body where the word covenant is used: the organ which gets sanctified in a male on the eighth day and the mouth[11]. The first organ is used to produce physical children, while the second – for teaching the students, spiritual children. Hence the great number of mitzvos and prohibitions applicable to these two organs. The first is used to fulfill one of the greatest commands: to be fruitful and multiply. One the other hand, half of the prohibitions punishable by Kares (spiritual incision – cutoff of the soul from its’ spiritual root) are for various forbidden relations[12].


Similarly, the mouth is used for the mitzvah of learning and teaching Torah, prayer, consoling, giving good advice or rebuke etc. It can also be used for gossiping, false and vain oaths, lying, cursing, jesting, hypocrisy and breaking many other sever prohibitions. If we can sanctify the two key organs in our body, we can saves ourselves and the entire world from punishments and disasters. We will then deserve a full redemption, when even the nations of the world will serve Hashem with (Tzfania 3:9) “Safa Verura” (with rectified lips)!



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[1] See also Talmud, Yoma 86a.

[2] See our words in Parsha Toldos.


[3] At times we may see a projection of this when the nations of the world gather together and speak badly of the Jewish people. The Chofetz Chaim therefore used to say that statements made by Hitler and others like him are actually projections of what “they think about us” in Heaven.


[4] See Talmud, Bava Kama 60a: “The punishment is only decreed because of the wicked, but it starts from the righteous”.


[5] See Shulchan Aruch, Yore Deah 116:5.


[6] See also Mishle 29:22, and the GR”A there.


[7] See also Zohar Chadash Rus, that people who habitually speak Loshon Hara are judged in this chamber.


[8] See for example Yerushalmi Peah, 4b; Vayikra Raba 26:2; Bemidbar Raba 19:2; Devarim Raba 5:9; Tanchuma, Chukas 4; Pesikta Derav Kahana 4:2.


[9] When we say that Torah is equivalent to the other mitzvos, we do not mean that the one who learns the Torah without keeping the commandments will be rewarded. Actually the exact opposite is true (see Talmud, Yevamos 109b). Rather Torah is able to raise the mitzvah observance to a much higher level. Understanding the laws of Torah gives us an opportunity to keep the commands of Hashem correctly, while the one who does not know all the details of laws cannot possibly keep them. Moreover, understanding the deeper meaning of mitzvos can enhance their observance.


[10] See Tosefta Peah 1:2.


[11] See Sefer Yetzira 1:3.


[12] Including the relations with a woman who is Nida – did not go to the mikva after her period.