Thursday, August 30, 2012

lashon ha'ra - a breach of tzeniyus

The gemara (Kesubos 5) darshens the pasuk in Ki Keitzi, "V'yated t'hiye lecha al azeinecha," as a hint that one should use one's fingers to plug up one's ears (azeinecha is read as if it said oznecha) to avoid hearing lashon ha'ra. The gemara writes as well that Hashem gave us soft earlobes so we can plug up our ears. The Chofetz Chaim (Klal 6) derives a chiddush from this gemara: Just hearing lashon hara, even without giving  credence to what is said, is assur. That's why the only way to avoid the issur is to stop up one's ears -- just not believing or not paying attention is not enough. The Chofest Chaim goes so far as to raise the possibility of this even being an issur d'oraysa -- pretty scary.

Both the Maharal and the Ben Yehoyada raise the question of why two blocks -- the fingers and the earlobe -- are needed. See Gilyon haSha"s of R' Yosef Engel to Shabbos 108 who points out that before netilas yadayim there is a problem of sticking fingers in the ear or other body orifices, but perhaps there is no problem of blocking the ear with the earlobe. The Ben Yehoyada writes simply that perhaps the double protection is meant to teach us the severity of the issur of listening to inappropriate words. Without going into what he says, I just want to point out that the Maharal puts his discussion of the sugya in Nesiv haTzeniyus (ch 2) of all places. Why would you put a lashon ha'ra discussion in Nesiv haTzeniyus? Why not put it in Nesiv haLashon?

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I think we see from the Maharal that tzeniyus means more than how you dress -- it means being a private person. Someone who is obsessed with hearing about the comings and goings and doings of others, someone who orients himself/herself by what he/she hears going on outside, lacks that inward focus that defines the trait of modesty.


  1. Interesting. Sheds light on the two alternative drashos for the opening pasuk of that parsha - venishmarta mikol davar ra - see kesubos 46

  2. i think you are absolutely correct - surely it stems from the passuk holech rachil - megale sod!!

  3. Anonymous4:47 PM

    >>> soft earlobes

    if one has the ears pierced, the better to decorate the social scene with
    all its social chatter, does that hole offer an opening to lashon hara when the earrings come off & the earflaps go up? is that piercing in any way related to the awl at the doorpost, to the self-made slave who failed to listen first & foremost to the Voice of har Sinai?

  4. Anonymous10:31 PM

    the drasha on Kesubos 5 is a twofer:
    Yeshayahu in 54:2, from the haftarah to Ki Teitzei, says to 'strengthen
    your pegs'-- once expansively restored, should any Jew or any nation try to remind Israel of her former shame, She must plug her ears securely...

  5. chaim b.5:40 PM

    Anon1 - you are consistent in your comments and I am consistent in forgetting that derasha.

  6. anon19:21 AM

    Anon1 - you are consistent in your comments and I am consistent in forgetting that derasha.


  7. Anonymous11:07 PM

    gevalt! really nice!.. enjoyed.