21 Iyar 5779 / Sunday, May 26, 2019 | Torah Reading: Bamidbar
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My Shabbat Host    

My Shabbat Host

What do you do when you're a guest in someone's home and the host starts up with the worst kind of slander and gossip? Do you nod in agreement, ignore, or jump out of the window?


My Dad was visiting. I couldn’t wait for him to see me in uniform, to hold my rifle, and just hear about all my different experiences as a soldier. It was a wonderful treat to splurge after being on the border of Lebanon doing stakeouts in middle of the forest. But what really was special for me was to see my Dad connect with the spirituality of Shabbat.


Friday night I slept on a huge bed after eating a meal fit for a king. The Jerusalem air was clean and the silence that engulfed the city was breathtaking. No cars, just the wind and people walking from the Western Wall. As Shabbat morning came, my father and I slept in and found ourselves hurrying to a nearby synagogue for prayers. But there was a huge problem. Our hotel cancelled the Shabbat Morning meal due to a lack of guests.


There was no food for my Dad to eat! My mind was racing.


We prayed quickly and the entire time my mind was just focused on getting my Dad some good food. I noticed a tall man, dressed in a long black coat, with the fur hat. Figuring that he was a tzaddik I placed my bet and asked him to invite us over. It was so uncomfortable to do, but to my great surprise this man agreed.   We walked out the synagogue with him and as we arrived to his apartment, we found ourselves in one of the most expensive complexes in Jerusalem. Entering the living room I noticed an ark for a Torah. The long Shabbat table was immaculate and I was dancing in my heart “Now this is the type of Shabbat I wanted to show my Dad, Thank You Hashem!”


We made Kiddush and started our meal dining on the finest delicacies one could imagine. Everything was perfect. That was until the conversation shifted to the synagogue Gabai (Hebrew for manager)…  For fifteen minutes, our host began to spread the worst gossip on this poor man.


“He’s an idiot!” “He is brain damaged” “He has no idea about anything other than being a complete idiot!”


The gefilte fish was falling out of my mouth, and a cramping sensation made it hard for me to breathe. By this time our food had no taste, everything tasted like heavy rocks and I didn’t know what to do.


I couldn’t take it, I tried to play nice boy and be respectful, after all this man did not have to invite me into his house. He was doing me a big BIG favor inviting us in. But I remembered as a kid how my Dad really set a good example for us by not allowing such conversations at the dinner table.


Let’s learn some Halacha about forbidden speech. The Chofetz Chaim teaches several principals what we are supposed to do according to Torah law when we are in such situations. In short here they are:


1. You can rebuke the gossipers in a respectful way, reminding them that what they are saying is just as bad as if one were to eat a bacon and cheese burger.


2. If you know that they won’t listen to you, “it is a great mitzvah” to get up and leave.


3. If you find the above two impossible, then you must decide firmly in your mind to refuse any gossip spoken about the other person.


4. Your facial expression should not hint at any approval of what’s being said and instead convey strong disapproval.


After weighing it over in my head again and fighting it out with myself I just interrupted the host and said, “ENOUGH, STOP! I’m so sorry I can’t hear any more please can we change the subject? Maybe to the Torah portion?”


Only then realized he was speaking inappropriately.  We left the meal shortly thereafter and I had tears in my eyes, I told my Dad I needed a few minutes alone.


I pleaded with Hashem, “Why Father, why this, why now? Life is crazy as it is for me already, why can’t I have a simple meal with my Dad! I’m sorry I know were not supposed to rebuke others, I know I’m not on that level. But help me, please forgive me for anything that was wrong in Your eyes. Help me start again!”


So what do we do if we are caught in the crossfires of gossip. Here are a few tips:


1.) Interrupt the speaker and say that you need the bathroom.

2.) Say that you have an important phone call and pretend to answer it.

3.) Stay focused and end the conversation politely and quickly.


It’s not easy to perfect ourselves in speech but with steady learning we can change our lives for good.

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