15 Adar B 5779 / Friday, March 22, 2019 | Torah Reading: Tzav
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The Invisible Murderer    

The Invisible Murderer

Sharon Roter writes about the worst kind of murder, the kind that looks pristine on the outside though on the inside the soul is bleeding and hurting…


Translated by Chana Cohen


These days Lashon Hara has been escaping my mouth before I can stop it.


I know it’s Lashon Hara before I open my mouth but then there’s a split second of indecision and I start rationalizing why it’s really okay to say it.


And then it just bursts out all at once, like the uncontrollable need to regurgitate.


Afterwards I feel so bad about myself. Why did you just say that? Why? What exactly did you gain from it? I keep asking myself agonizing questions.


The euphoria created by talking about someone else is now replaced by a sense of failure and self-disappointment.


I can be sitting with a friend and talking about someone else, while in my head there are two little guys talking to me at the same time.


“Hey, ma’am, what you’re saying right now is forbidden speech. Why are you talking about someone who isn’t here?” He’s still talking and I feel like I’m sitting on pins and needles (like they say in my son’s kindergarten). I feel an uncomfortable sensation all over my body. I need to escape, to hide, to cancel this whole conversation. But now it’s too late. It takes on a life of its own and I can’t control it.


Then the second little guy takes over. “So, what happened already?” he asks with derision. “You’re not saying anything evil or harmful. You’re just trying to clarify a specific point which would be so unclear without this example. And you made it better by saying so many good things about her. You didn’t even judge or criticize her.” I’m feeling a little calmer as he continues, “You did a big favor for her, for yourself and for the friend you’re with now. Besides, everyone already knows about it so it’s not even counted…” He continues rationalizing and meanwhile my mouth continues to produce “precious pearls”.


When I finally realize that what’s happening is not really okay, it's too late. The words left my mouth, expanded and lengthened, far beyond my intentions. If I could I would rewind the entire conversation. Like a movie, with the accompanying rewinding sounds. Really.


What’s my story with the gossip? Really, why is it so hard for me to just shut my mouth?


Again and again I fall into the same trap, even when I’m speaking with people who are aware of and careful to avoid evil speech, as I am.


I once tried studying the Laws of the Chofetz Chaim. Every night before bed I would learn a few laws. This happened quite a few years ago.


Once my husband walked in and found me sobbing.


“What happened?” he asked, very concerned since I hardly ever cry.


“I don’t know what to talk about anymore. Not to you and not in general. I feel like I can’t let even one word out of my mouth”, I responded with a nasal voice. “It’s forbidden to talk about anything at all.” I kept sniffling.


My husband proceeded to do what he does best in these kinds of situations--he closed the book and told me to take a break from it for a while.


He calmed me down and I returned to regular life. But I was left slightly traumatized and I never dared open the book again after that.


The thought of learning these laws again every day really scares me. Knowledge is power. Knowledge is commitment. On the other hand, not having that knowledge and thinking that you’re sinning is an in-between kind of situation that is problematic and disturbing.


If I was unaware of the significance of being careful with my speech, I would manage to get through this somehow. But the problem is that as time passes I understand more and more that evil speech is the foundation of baseless hatred, which ultimately leads to division, destruction, delaying the final redemption and strengthening the Sitra Achra (the other side).


That’s speaking generally.


And more specifically? It can simply kill a person. It’s invisible murder. There is no blood spraying all over and we can’t see the shattered soul inside the body....


Oy, oy, oy, Father in Heaven, it looks like we’ll have to gather up the courage and dive into a law or two.


What do you say?



* * *

Sharon Roter is a wife, mother, musician and writer. She loves asking questions and getting answers. You are invited to contact Sharon Roter at sharonroter@gmail.com.

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