Speech, Suspicion, and Security

My God, help me remember that “just as the hand can kill, so can
the tongue,” tweet, blog, or Congressional hearing….

Update from House Committee on Homeland Security — “On March 10, the Committee will convene the first in a series of hearings examining radicalization in the American Muslim community and the community’s response to it. Additional information about this hearing will be distributed in the coming days.”

(Jump to “Meditation for Early Spring 2011”)
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Derekh Eretz: Pursuing Connections

Vayikra: A Path to Follow quotes a Talmud passage linking this week’s Torah portion to rules of etiquette and ethics. Specifically, the first verse is linked to “Don’t speak until you’ve first called to the person with which you’re trying to communicate” and to “Don’t repeat what anyone says without express permission.”

Either or both of these rules are fine fodder for study and discussion and/or for a congregational dvar torah [“word” of Torah]. For those interested in becoming more comfortable with finding such connections to share with others, here, for what it’s worth, is how I found the quote shared in the previous post.
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Vayikra: A Path to Follow

And the Lord called unto Moses, and spoke unto him [Leviticus/Vayikra 1:1], why does Scripture mention the call before the speech? — The Torah teaches us good manners: a man should not address his neighbour without having first called him. This supports the view of R. Hanina, for R. Hanina said: No man shall speak to his neighbour unless he calls him first to speak to him. Rabbah said: Whence do we know that if a man had said something to his neighbor the latter must not spread the news without the informant’s telling him ‘Go and say it’? From the scriptural text: The Lord spoke to him out of the tent of meeting, lemor [saying*].
— Yoma 4b**

In his book, A Guide to Derech Eretz, Rabbi Saul Wagschal (Southfield, MI: Targum Press/Feldheim, 1993) adds:

This rule [about calling out] appears explicitly in the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 246:12): A Rabbi should not be asked questions upon his entering the beis midrash; one may only approach him after he has settled down.
— Wagshal, p.66

There is a more general note on the concept of derekh eretz at My Jewish Learning. There is a great deal of information about the concept of “guarding the tongue” [shmirat ha-lashon] on the internet and in print. I have not found cites to particularly recommend, despite extensive looking; if anyone has good ones to recommend, please suggest them.

The 19th Century author Chofetz Chaim (R. Yisrael Meir Kagan) and the contemporary Joseph Telushkin famously focus on this topic. There was an article written some years back about gender considerations — does the prohibition of “evil speech” [lashon hara] effectively prohibit topics important to inter-personal and communal relationship, i.e., what was understood for centuries as “women’s speech”? — but I can’t locate the citation.


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*Footnote: “Lemor here is taken to mean ‘to say it (to others)’…
**Soncino translation of Babylonian Talmud Tractate Yoma [“the day”], from Seder Mo’ed [appointed seasons]; see Source Materials for citations and more details.

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The “Opening the Book” series was originally presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group that for many years pursued spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.
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Pinchas: A Path to Follow

Our masters taught: The man gathering was Zelophehad. Thus is is said, “And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks of wood upon the Sabbath day….and they stoned him with stones, and he died” (Num. 15:32 and 15:36); while elsewhere the daughters of Zelophehad said, “Our father died in the wilderness” (Num. 27:3). Just as in this instance Zelophehad is meant, so, too, Zelophehad [is meant] earlier. Such was R. Akiva’s opinion. But R. Judah ben Betera said to him, “Akiva, in either case you will have to justify yourself: if you are right, then you have revealed the identify of a man whom the Torah shielded; and if you are wrong, you are casting stigma upon a righteous man.”Continue Reading