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Re'eh 5769

Re'eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! The Talmud (Arakin 15b) tells us that Loshon Hora (literally: "evil speech") kills three people - the one who speaks it, the one who hears it and the one who is spoken about.

What is Loshon Hora? There are three essential types of defamatory speech: (1) The facts are true, but are related for no positive purpose. An example of a positive purpose: "Be careful when you consider a business deal with George. He's been in prison three times for embezzling." (2) The facts are false and the story is told to besmirch someone's reputation. (3) Talebearing - "Did you hear what Martha said about you"?

What do you do if someone starts speaking Loshon Hora? How do you stop him without getting into a fight or embarrassing him?

For years I have had a "vest pocket" question to pull out if someone started speaking gossip, slander or defamatory words. I'd just ask, "Who do you think will win the World Series?"

It works perfectly! People look at me aghast and say, "What are you talking about? It's football season!" Or, "Who cares? I hate baseball." And then the conversation continues in a whole other direction!

Lately, I've added a new question, "What pitcher threw two consecutive no-hitters?" The reason why this is such a great question is that it absolutely doesn't matter. It's a piece of trivia that is perhaps interesting to someone who likes baseball, yet it is a prodigious feat to anyone who knows anything about baseball - and it absolutely turns the conversation in another direction!

What one speaks about begins with his thoughts and perspective. The following is from "Why Not Jump to a Good Conclusion?" published by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation (845-352-3505 or check out their website at, which effectively educates Jews about the Laws of Speech.


The Torah teaches that, whenever we experience or hear about the negative behavior of another person, we must "judge favorably." In simple terms, that means giving the benefit of the doubt. But how can one follow that advice when it seems that the facts clearly point to someone's guilt?

Sometimes we jump to the wrong conclusion because the facts are different from what we perceive them to be. Even if our facts are accurate, we often misinterpret the intent behind them. When we drop the assumption that there was a negative intention behind someone's actions towards us, we automatically deflate much of the anger and hurt that we feel.

Here are six possible ways to analyze a situation and jump to a good conclusion:

  1. Are you sure it happened at all? Sometimes our perceptions of what we see and hear are mistaken.
  2. Are you sure the details are correct? One small detail can completely alter the scenario. Something may have been exaggerated or omitted that would make a big difference.
  3. Do you know if the other person intended harm? Often the consequences are unforeseen.
  4. Do you know the assumptions the other person was operating under? Maybe the other person was operating under a misconception that would explain their behavior.
  5. Could the other person's act have been the result of an innocent, human error? Everyone has limitations. Perhaps this person lacked experience, was forgetful, distracted or simply didn't think carefully enough before acting.
  6. Do you know what events preceded the negative action? The other person may be enduring a great deal of pain, frustration or stress. This might be a response to a specific situation, like an illness or financial loss. Or it could be a deeper, more pervasive problem that effects the person's entire life.

Although the Torah requires us to judge others with favor and compassion, we are not required to accept abusive behavior from others. Physical, verbal or emotional abuse must be addressed and corrected.

There is a fabulous book, Guard Your Tongue, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin which is highly readable, easily understandable and has lots of stories to illustrate the laws of proper speech. I highly suggest buying a copy. If you want spirituality, one of the best paths is to be careful about what you speak. It is available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.

And for those who want to know - it was Johnny Vander Meer. He pitched two consecutive no-hitters in 1938 for the Cincinnati Reds. The first against the Boston Bees and the second against the Brooklyn Dodgers. If you really want to "wow" the person you are diverting from speaking Loshon Hora - or you need a second question to strengthen the diversion -you can ask "And who was the last person he struck out?" Leo Durocher.

For more on "Loshon Hora" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week

This week is a jam-packed portion. It begins with a choice: "I set before you a blessing and a curse. The blessing: if you obey the commandments of God...; the curse if you do not ... and you follow other gods."

The portion continues with rules and laws for the land of Israel primarily oriented towards staying away from idol worship and the other religions in the land. In verses 13:1-12 you will find the section that caused a missionary's face to blanch and silenced him from continuing to proselytize a renowned rabbi.

One of the indications of the existence and necessity of the Oral Torah - an explanation and clarification (later redacted as the Talmud) of the written Torah (The Five Books of Moses) - comes from verse 12:21 "You will slaughter animals ... according to the manner I (God) have prescribed." Nowhere in the Torah are we instructed in the manner of shechita, ritual slaughter. One might conclude that there was a very sloppy editor. Or -one might conclude that there are additional teachings (the Oral Law/Talmud) clarifying and amplifying the written Word.

The source of the Chosen People concept is brought this week: "You are a nation consecrated to God your Lord. God has chosen you from all nations on the face of the earth to be His own special nation..." (Deut. 14:1-2). We are chosen for responsibility, not privilege - to act morally and to be a "light unto the nations."

The portion then gives instructions regarding: permitted and forbidden foods, the Second Tithe, remissions of loans every 7 years, treatment of those in need (to be warm-hearted and open-handed), a Jewish bondsman, the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot).

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

The Torah states regarding serving the Almighty in the Bais HaMikdosh, the Temple:

"And you shall rejoice before the Almighty" (Deut. 12:12).

The Sforno comments "Serve the Almighty with joy - as is befitting everyone who serves Him from love." When a person loves someone he is happy to do any action that will manifest that love. Joy is a by-product of love for the Almighty. Included in the constant commandment of loving the Almighty is the concept of feeling joy whenever you focus on your love for the Almighty!



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Jerusalem 6:49
Guatemala 6:07 - Hong Kong 6:38 - Honolulu 6:44
J'Burg 5:29 - London 8:07 - Los Angeles 7:24
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Wise men talk because
they have something to say;
fools talk because
they have to say something.
--  Plato


With Special Thanks to

Leonard Simkovitz


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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