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April 22, 1988 - Image 61

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-04-22

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Woolf Roofing & Maintenance Inc.

A Third Generation Roofing Family in Detroit

Life And Death In the
Power Of The Tongue


Special to The Jewish News


he Torah portion for
this Sabbath describes
in a clinically precise
way, certain forms of leprosy
prevalent in ancient times
and the manner of their treat-
ment. The sages, centuries
later, interpreted the entire
portion as a metaphor. The
Hebrew word for leper is met-
zorah. Metzora, they said, is
to be read as "Motzi Shem
Ra," one who brings forth
evil, who is morally diseased.
They declare that the evil of
which this portion speaks is
leshon ha-ra, the evil tongue,
wicked speech and slanderous

II Kings, 7:3-20

words, a disease as loathsome
as leprosy.
The most widespread and
unnecessary cruelty of the
world is encountered in this
transgression to which we are
all, in one form or another, ad-
dicted: the cruelty of
slanderous lips. Leshon ha-ra
is that special pleasure we
discover in talking about our
neighbor's weaknesses, his
failures and transgressions.
The sages declare that
leshon ha-ra kills three: the
one who speaks it, the one
who hears it and the one of
whom it is spoken.
In this crime, the victim
doesn't have to be present,
and indeed the task is made
easier when he is not in our
midst. The injury is not im-
mediately apparent, although
it is nevertheless. real.
Shakespeare expressed it
best: "He that filches from me
my good name robs me of that
which not enriches him, and
makes me poor indeed."
The sad truth is that gossip
has become both a profession
and an industry in our time.
A whole cadre of journalists,
writers and speakers have
achieved dubious fame by
their exclusive preoccupation
with gossip about notables
and celebrities. A great deal
of the contemporary
newspaper is devoted to such
morally questionable
The Jewish tradition, which
has carefully identified the

Irwin Groner is rabbi of Cong.
Shaarey Zedek.

diverse forms and manifesta-
tions of evil speech, has de-
nounced this evil, deems it
one of the most important
moral issues and expresses
outrage when it takes place
on public levels.
It may be that this sense of
indignation about the sins of
the tongue arise out of the ex-
perience of the Jewish people.
As Jews, we have been accus-
ed of every sin, vice and ex-
pression of depravity.
In the First Century, Jews
were accused of indolence
because they refused to work
on the seventh day, when the
concept of the Sabbath was
unknown in the Roman
world. They were charged
with ignorance because they
would not bow down to the
great "gods" of the Roman
In the Middle Ages, when
drought occurred or dread
plagues struck, the masses at-
tributed these disasters to the
evil power of the Jews who liv-
ed in their communities.
Even today, anti-Semitic
journals that publish bizarre
fabrications about the Jewish
people still circulate in many
We, as Jews, have been the
victims of collective slander
which makes a total people
an object of hatred, derision
and contempt.
Is it any wonder then that .
the Jewish community of
America views the candidacy
of Jesse Jackson with great
dismay? Jackson has, in the
past, utilized derogatory
terms and ethnic slurs to
characterize the Jews in New
York. He has issued state-
ments reflecting a lack of sen-
sitivity to Jewish concerns
with regard to the Holocaust
and the State of Israel. He
has embraced Yassir Arafat
and President Assad of Syria.
He has never disavowed his
friendship with Louis Far-
rakhan, whose anti-Semitic
statements are contemptible.
He has linked Israel's right to
exist with support for a
Palestinian state.
Rev. Jackson has declined
the invitation of the Con-
ference of Presidents of Na-
tional Jewish Organizations
to engage in open dialogue.
Until this happens, the
doubts and fears of American
Jews about Rev. Jackson,
which are shared by many
others, will remain.
The great vision and the en-
during hope of religion is the
Brotherhood of Man under
the Fatherhood of God. He
who breeds enmity and
fosters suspicion, divides men.

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