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Simcha Groffman

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Kinder Torah
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Parashas Masei

Flattery Will Get You Nowhere

"Have a great day, Mr. Chovos!"

"You too Mr. Glick."

Mr. Chovos and Mr. Glick walk out of the Beis HaKinesses together after the Shacharis (morning) prayers. They part ways and begin walking home. Mr. Chovos begins thinking about his problems.

"It is easy for Mr. Glick to wish me a great day. However, it is not so simple for his wish to be carried out. I owe a lot of money. The bank is threatening to foreclose my mortgage, the power company wants to cut off my electricity, the grocery store refuses to extend me any more credit, and my tuition checks to the Talmud Torah keep bouncing. I have to work hard all day, and also run around looking to borrow money to keep my family afloat. If I could just consolidate all of my debts into one small long-term payment, I would be okay. I just can't get credit for such a loan. Oy vey, what will I do?" Mr. Chovos looks up, and much to his surprise, he sees the manager of his local bank standing in front of him. What a golden opportunity to speak to this important man! Perhaps in this relaxed atmosphere, Mr. Chovos can convince him to approve the loan that he needs. He smiles at the manager.

"Shalom Mr. Manager. I am sure that you do not recognize me, but I am Hammon Chovos, a client of your bank. I live here in the neighborhood. Can I help you with anything? Do you need directions? Are you looking for someone?"

"Thank you very much for your offer Mr. Chovos. I am actually looking for someone - Mr. Bissel Glick. Perhaps you can show me where he lives."

"My pleasure Mr. Manager. I will walk with you to Mr. Glick's house."

"Thank you very much Mr. Chovos. While we are walking, let me tell you something about Mr. Glick. He has big problems. He is the most dishonest person that I know. Not only does he refuse to pay his loans, but he spreads vicious false lies about our bank."

Mr. Chovos winces. Even if these statements are true, they are loshon hora. It is definitely ossur (forbidden) for him to hear these words. However, he does not want to say anything that might possibly anger the bank manager. If he tells the manager that he is speaking loshon hora, he will probably never get the loan. If he tries to defend Mr. Glick, the manager will surely be upset with him. After all, the manager clearly hates Mr. Glick. If he just keeps quiet, the manager will probably think that he is a fool and does not understand. Perhaps he can just smile and nod his head without saying anything. Mr. Chovos is truly confused. What should he do?

- - { - - "You shall not pollute the land in which you are (Bamidbar 35:33). The Chofetz Chaim, in the introduction to his monumental sefer, calls this flattery, and lists it as a negative commandment - number sixteen. He cites several Gaonim who draw the source from the Gemora (Sota 41a). Agrippas the king was reading the Torah. The chachomim praised him. When he reached the verse that states that a foreigner may not become king, tears began to fall from his eyes. He was a descendant of Hordos - a foreigner. The chachomim said to him, "Do not fear, Agrippas. You are our brother." This statement of flattery sealed the fate of the Jewish people.

Included in this aveyra is speaking loshon hora about a person's enemy to flatter the person and gain favor in his eyes. Additionally, approving of someone else's loshon hora in order to find favor in his eyes is also considered flattery. In both cases, the sinner transgresses the sin of speaking or accepting loshon hora in addition to the sin of flattery. The Chofetz Chaim warns that a person should give up all of his money rather than transgress a negative commandment in the Torah. Therefore, Mr. Chovos should not have approved of the Manager's loshon hora. He should trust the Almighty, who has the power to provide him with the loan in a permissible manner.

Kinderlach . . .

Flattering a sinner is terrible. We have a mitzvah to correct a sinner, not to flatter him. The urge may be tempting when the sinner is an influential person who can grant you a favor that you need, or if he is a friend who has helped you in the past. How can you have the heart to correct him? Remember - the Torah forbids us from speaking or accepting loshon hora! When that loshon hora is for flattery, we have an additional aveyra. You are doing him and yourself a favor by stopping the loshon hora. How can you have the heart to transgress two horrible aveyros? Don't you realize that Hashem can grant you the favor without the flattery? Don't get confused! Find favor in Hashem's eyes by not speaking loshon hora.


Exile. A terrible punishment. One who kills a fellow Jew accidentally must flee to an Ir Miklat (Refuge City). He is isolated from family, friends, and familiar surroundings. In the days before telephones and mass transportation, this was a traumatic uprooting of one's whole life. He does not belong to the society in the Ir Miklat. He did not grow up there. His farm (which was his livelihood) was not there.

How do the residents of the Ir Miklat look upon him? Is he a stranger in a strange land, forever condemned to being a foreigner among the natives? Hardly. He is not alone. Other Jews had no portion in the Land of Israel. The Leviim had no farms. Their only source of livelihood was the gifts of maaser that they received from their fellow Jews. They lived in Arei Leviah (Levite cities). The Keli Yakar (Bamidbar 35:6) explains that these Arei Leviah were the Arei Miklat (refuge cities). The exiles could feel comfortable there because they were among other "strangers" who had no land.

Of course, the Leviim would not embarrass the exiles by reminding them of their fate. As the Gemora states, "Do not tell your friend about faults that both of you share" (Bava Metziah 59b). If you tell him that he is a stranger, he will say that you are also a stranger because you own no land. Therefore, we see that the exiles were saved the embarrassment of being reminded that they were strangers.

Kinderlach . . .

"Imma, Chaya was sent to the principal because she talked loudly in class." Upon hearing this, Chaya begins to cry. The mother takes Dov aside to speak to him privately. "Dov, I am glad that you told me about Chaya. However, in the future, please tell me in private. You have embarrassed her in front of the family." Kinderlach, do you see how the Torah worries about the feelings of the exile? Even someone who killed a Jew accidentally should not suffer embarrassment. How much more so our friends, classmates, neighbors, and family members.

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