Darga Yeseira

 

Parshas Tazria Metzorah: Watch What You say

 

                                                                                                                 

A famous story is told about the holy Chofetz Chaim ZT”L, who sat next to a Jew on a train traveling to Radin. The traveler was unaware of the identity of the man sitting next to him and he mentioned he was going to see the great Tzaddik of Radin. R’ Yisroel Meir protested and said that the rabbi of whom he speaks is not so special. Enraged by the disrespect shown by his fellow traveler, whose identity he did not know, the traveler smacked the Chofetz Chaim.

Later, the Chofetz Chaim set the man’s mind at ease. “I deserved to be beaten,” he said, “because, as I have learned, one may not speak lashon hara - even about oneself!”

Notwithstanding this story, one may wonder as to why this should be the case. Seemingly, one’s feelings are his own. Just as one is permitted - although not encouraged - to embarrass oneself if he so desires, presumably he should reserve the right to speak of his own shortcomings as well.

Indeed, R’ Yosef Sholom Elyashiv ZT”L is cited as remarking that no prohibition exists whatsoever against verbal self-denigration. One may, in fact, speak lashon hara about oneself. R’ Elyashiv commented that to the contrary, the above story proves this position, for we see that even the Chofetz Chayim permitted himself to speak about himself. He would not have done so if it was strictly forbidden by halacha. Only in an attempt to alleviate his assailant’s humiliation did he make the comment that he was wrong for talking about himself. In truth, however, it is permissible.

Nevertheless, R’ Elyashiv insisted that this does not grant other people permission to speak about him. This is compared to a situation where one lets another steal his possessions. Undoubtedly, though, the thief who comes along and seizes his property has violated the prohibition against stealing.

Similarly, the fact that a person speaks freely about his own inadequacies has no effect on the prohibition forbidding others from engaging in such talk about him.

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