Vol 31.02 - Shmot 2                                     Spanish French Audio  Video

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Chumash     Rambam-Hilchot Avodat Kochavim


"There is among you slanderous speech and how are you fitting for Geulah"  (Tanchuma, our parsha 16:4). The innovation in the boundary of "the people (am) Yisroel" when they left Egypt companed to that which they were a "nation" even before the exodus from Egypt  (5747 Vol XXXI) 


1. On the verse (Ex. 2:14):

“Moshe became frightened and said, "Indeed, the matter has become known!"

the Midrash Tanchuma states that Moshe said:

“There is Lashon Hara among you and how are you deserving of Geulah”

One must understand:

We find in the Midrashim of the Sages, that in the Galut of Egypt there were among Bnei Yisroel those who worshiped idols. Yet notwithstanding this, they were redeemed from Egypt.

If so – what was so simple to Moshe, that since, “There is Lashon Hara among you” that “how are you deserving of Geulah”? Namely, that because of the sin of Lashon Hara alone, they are already not deserving of Geulah?

The Sages greatly debate the severity of the prohibition of Lashon Hara and state:

“Anyone who speaks Lashon Hara is as if he is denies G-d” (כל המספר לשון הרע כאילו כפר בעיקר)

So much so that:

“Whoever speaks Lashon Hara increases sins corresponding to the three (cardinal) sins: idolatry, incest, and the shedding of blood”

Nevertheless, the matter is problematic. For the sin of actual Idol worship did not impede their Geulah, whereas the sin of Lashon Hara did impede the Geulah of Bnei Yisroel?

We also find in the statement of the Sages that there is a severity in the aspect of Lashon Hara even with regard to Idol worship - in the aspect of victory in war (נצחון במלחמה).

The Talmud Yerushalmi states that:

“In David’s generation, they were all righteous. Nevertheless, since there were slanderers among them, they fell (in battle). Achav’s generation, however, were idolaters, Yet since there were no slanderers among them, they would go out to battle and would be victorious”

However, we seemingly learn from this just that there is a special segulah in peace

(and therefore – the absence of Lashon Hara and dissent)

that concerns the aspect of victory in war. However, what is the connection to the Geulah of Yisroel? So much so that the Geulah from the subjugation of the nations is dependent upon it?

2. Moreover:

In the Midrash Shmot Rabba on this verse, the sin of Lashon Hara is emphasized even more so as the thing that withholds the Geulah.

The Midrash states:

“Moshe was wondering in his heart and said, ‘What is the sin of Yisroel that they are subjugated more than all the other nations?’ When he heard his (Dathan’s) words, he said ‘There is Lashon Hara among them. How are they deserving of Geulah’. Therefore, he said, ‘Indeed, the matter has become known! Now I know why they are subjugated’”.

This is explained even more in Rashi‘s commentary on the Torah where he states, in the beginning (comment) that:

“Midrashically, it is interpreted to mean that he was worried because he saw in Israel wicked men [i.e.,] informers. He said, ‘Since this is so, perhaps they do not deserve to be redeemed’”

He further explains (in the heading, “Indeed, the matter has become known”):

“But the Midrashic interpretation is: "The thing has become known to me, for I had been wondering about it. In what respect was Israel's sin more than that of all the seventy nations, to be subjugated by back-breaking labor. But, I now see that they are deserving of it.’”

According to this - since there are “evildoers – informers”, this is the cause (not only) that they are not deserving of Geulah but (also) that they are “deserving of subjugation”– “to be subjugated with back-breaking labor”, more than all the seventy nations.

This is puzzling:

In what pertains the severity the sin of Lashon Hara in this matter, more than other sins?

Moreover, and this is also the most important point:

How is it possible to say that Lashon Hara existed among the Jewish people more than among the other seventy nations, for which, specifically, Bnei Yisroel were subjugated and not the seventy nations?

All this is also in Rashi (in our case, the Midrash that resolves) the simple understanding of the verse.

One must also examine the essence of the explanation of the Shmot Rabba and Rashi:

If the sin of Lashon Hara is the cause for them to be deserving of slavery and to be subjugated with backbreaking labor – what is the innovation in that which Moshe said, “Now, perhaps they do not deserve to be redeemed’”. There is a principle that “two hundred includes one hundred” (יש בכלל מאתים מנה)? (Note: If they deserved slavery they certainly did not deserve to be redeemed).

Moreover, it is also not understood:

In the words of Dathan and Aviram, there was not just the sin of Lashon Hara, but also the sin of slander (הלשנה) (for they slandered against Moshe to Pharaoh).

The sin of slander exceeds the severity of sin of Lashon Hara (and includes it). Therefore, why do the Sages stress that Moshe was (just) afraid of the sin of Lashon Hara, and not on the primary severe matter in their words – the sin of slander?

3. In another place (Midrash), it states:

“R’ Huna stated . .Yisroel were redeemed from Egypt on account of four things; because they did not change their names, they did not change their language, they did not speak Lashon Hara, and none of them was found to have been immoral”.

This means that (refraining from) Lashon Hara is not delineated as a cause in itself (for redemption), but rather that it includes four things. Whereas, according to the aforementioned Tanchuma it appears that the sin of Lashon Hara alone has within it the power to withhold the Geulah.

One must understand what they are arguing about:

(Seemingly, it is difficult to say that they are arguing about the severity of the sin of Lashon Hara.

  • That according to the Tanchuma the sin of Lashon Hara “increases sins corresponding to the three (cardinal) sins” (which is why this sin alone is able to withhold the Geulah).
  • Whereas R’ Huna, who says that because of these four things Yisroel was redeemed (and that refraining from Lashon Hara is just one of them), is referring to the view of the one who maintains that whoever speaks Lashon Hara is (just) as if he denies G-d).

4. One could say that the gist of the explanation in this is:

It is known, that the birth of the Jewish People was at the time of Yetziat Mitzrayim. For until that time, Bnei Yisroel were not considered a nation and independent. (Even according to the simple understanding of the verse).

Only at Yetziat Mitzrayim did they because independent, as it states, “take for himself a nation from within a nation”. This aspect, becoming a separate nation, effected within them unity (אחדות), for they were made one people (עם אחד). In other words, that they are considered one entity of a People (שיהיו חפצא אחת של עם), and not just a collection of seventy souls or twelve Shvatim, and so forth (from one offshoot etc.)

Therefore, in order that they be deserving of Geulah, namely, in order that they become a separate nation, their conduct could not be in a manner of divisiveness and dispute (פירוד ומחלוקת), the opposite of one nation (עם אחד).

Although the aspect of unity in a nation, seemingly, is not specifically unique to the Jewish People. For this also occurs in other nations. For their existence as a nation depends upon their uniting together, and without this it is impossible for them to be a nation. Nevertheless, regarding the Jewish People, the nature of their unity and the necessity for it, is in a completely different manner (which is why, the withholding of the Geulah due to slanderers, is specifically connected to Bnei Yisroel).

5. One can explain this by prefacing what is written by Rambam in the beginning of Hilchot Avodah Zara. After he describes the manner that G-d’s name was publicized through Avraham and later by Yitzchak and Yaakov, he writes:

“This concept proceeded and gathered strength among the descendants of Yaakov and those who collected around them, until there became a nation (אומה) within the world which knew G-d. Until the Jews extended their stay in Egypt etc.”

This is difficult to understand:

If, while in Egypt (before the subjugation) Bnei Yisroel were also considered a “nation” (אומה) – what was innovated afterward, by Yetziat Mitzrayim in the aspect that it was, “the birth of the Jewish People”?

(as is explained in many places, as aforementioned)

One could say that this can be understood according to the continuation of Rambam’s words there:

“When the Jews extended their stay in Egypt, however, they learned from the [Egyptians'] deeds and began worshiping the stars as they did, with the exception of the tribe of Levi, who clung to the Mitzvot of the patriarchs . . Within a short time, the fundamental principle that Abraham had planted would have been uprooted, and the descendants of Jacob would have returned to the errors of the world and their crookedness. Because of G-d's love for us, and to uphold the oath He made to Abraham, our patriarch, He brought forth Moshe, our teacher, the master of all prophets, and sent him [to redeem the Jews]. After Moshe, our teacher, prophesied, and G-d chose Israel as His inheritance, He crowned them with Mitzvot etc.”

From this we learn the advantage of their becoming a nation after Yetziat Mitzrayim compared to their being a “nation” (אומה) even before Yetziat Mitzrayim:

The scope of a “nation” (אומה) before Yetziat Mitzrayim and Matan Torah, is in that which they,

 “became a nation (אומה) within the world which knew G-d”

This means:

  1.  The people “became” (נעשית) meaning they of themselves, through the actions of the people of the nation, Yaakov and his sons etc. (formed a nation).
  2. The making and composition of this nation – is that they “know G-d”. This means that they know that this knowledge is what unites the people of the nation to be called a separate nation.

Therefore, due to this it was possible, G-d forbid, to be the nullification of the nation through that which,

“When the Jews extended their stay in Egypt, however, they learned from the [Egyptians'] deeds and began worshiping the stars as they did . . Within a short time, the fundamental principle that Abraham had planted would have been uprooted, and the descendants of Jacob would have returned to the errors of the world and their crookedness.”

However, in Yetziat Mitzrayim, it was innovated that,

“G-d chose Israel as His inheritance”

In other words, that:

  1. Their becoming a people and nation came due to G-d’s choice of them, and not due to the actions of the nation.
  2. The quality of their being a people is in a manner of inheritance (נחלה), that Bnei Yisroel are G-d’s inheritance.

Therefore, it is not applicable that there be the aspect of nullification and termination () G-d forbid. For G-d’s choice is an everlasting aspect () that is without change or pause (). This is the aspect of “inheritance” for ‘inheritance has no cessation’ ().

We can now understand the reason that they were redeemed from Egypt, even though they were in a condition of “returning to learn their deeds and to worship idols, like them”:

It is known that the true aspect of choice is when the thing that is chosen, comes solely from the desire of the one choosing - and not because of a certain quality of the thing that is chosen. For when one desires a thing because of the quality of the thing, it is not called (free) choice. For the decision is not due to the choice of the one choosing - but rather due to the quality of the thing that is chosen.

Since in Yetziat Mitzrayim “G-d chose Yisroel as an inheritance”, therefore, the spiritual standing and condition of Bnei Yisroel (which is their quality), was not (so) critical (נוגע). For everything was due to G-d’s choice.

However, all this was just with regard to other sins and transgressions, as opposed to the sin of Lashon Hara as will be explained.

6. The explanation of this is:

There are three aspects in Lashon Hara, in general:

  1. The harm to one’s fellow through the Lashon Hara, as is understood simply. As it states: “The Sages said Lashon Hara, kills three etc. (the speaker, the listener and the subject of the gossip)”
  2. The existence and revelation of the evil within the person, which is why he is speaking derogatively of his fellow etc.
  3. The speech (הדיבור) of the Lashon Hara (that which one is speaking about his fellow), even when he does not intend to harm him. Moreover, even when his intent is not to speak derogatively of him, and he does not speak with animus. Rather the essential speech concerning the evil that is within his fellow, causes the detriment (הלא­טובה) of his fellow, and so forth). This depicts and emphasizes that divisiveness and difference between one and the other.

The first two aspects in Lashon Hara are similar to other sins:

Just as other sins (in knowledge, Middot or deed) do not affect (פוגעים) G-d’s choice of Yisroel, since the choice is due to the one choosing (G-d) and not due to the quality of the thing being chosen. So too, is it with Lashon Hara - it does not affect G-d’s choice.

However, Lashon Hara‘s causing divisiveness and discord, is contradictory to this choice. The choice is with the entity of the Jewish People, one nation.

In other words, even though G-d’s choice is not due to the (spiritual) quality of Bnei Yisroel, but rather solely due G-d’s free choice. Nevertheless, there must be the “entity” (חפצא) of the Jewish People, of which is the choice. When there is dissent between one and his fellow, (at least outwardly) the being of the “entity” (חפצא) of “one (People)” is lacking.

This is the explanation of the precise wording of the Sages that Moshe was worried “that there is Lashon Hara among you”.

(In other words, their statement to Moshe, “Who made you a man, a prince, and a judge over us? Do you plan to slay me as you have slain the Egyptian?”), (and he did not emphasize the slandering to Pharaoh).

For this is the main impediment to the Geulah:

The essential aspect that a Jewish person does not refrain from speaking Lashon Hara on another person of Bnei Yisroel shows the division that is among Bnei Yisroel. Therefore, this specifically (even if he did not slander him before Pharaoh) awakens Moshe’s worry and he said, “Perhaps they do not deserve to be redeemed”.

7. Accordingly, one could say that even the essence of R’ Huna’s words (above Par 3)

“Yisroel were redeemed from Egypt on account of four things”

is from the aforementioned reason. Namely, that this affects G-d’s general choice of the Jewish People.

However, there, the intent is from the perspective of the division between Bnei Yisroel and the Egyptians. Whereas here, the main aspect is due to the unity of Bnei Yisroel, in and of themselves.

The explanation is:

The theme and aspect of all these four things:

  • They did not change their names,
  • They did not change their language,
  • They did not speak Lashon Hara,
  • None of them was found to have been immoral

is that since they are unique in these qualities, Bnei Yisroel were separated as an independent nation – from the Egyptians.

Even though the emphasis in this statement of the Sages is not just on the negative lacking that blemishes (הפוגם) the unity as being one nation (for they … said Lashon Hara etc.).  But rather, even on the (positive) qualities in the actions and conduct of each individual. For each one did not change his name etc. Nevertheless, the main aspect in this is – that they are separated from the Egyptians, as aforementioned. Therefore, even Lashon Hara is included in the four things. For “they did not slander upon each other” means (that they did not slander) to the Egyptians who have the ability to harm Bnei Yisroel.

Whereas in the Midrash on this verse, where Moshe worried that perhaps they are not deserving of being redeemed, the intent is due to the general deficiency in the “People”, namely that there are “slanderers” among them.

(And not the deficiency of Lashon Hara as being one of the four aspects).

For the concern here is not the perhaps they will slander him to Pharaoh, but rather that they are in a condition of division between them (which is the third aspect, that is mentioned above in Par. 6).

8. According to all the aforementioned, one can explain (in Pnimiyut) why Rashi divides the words of the Midrash Shmot Raba here ““Moshe was wondering etc.,” into (the two headings and) aspects (as aforementioned Par. 2)

  • “Midrashically, he was worried . . He said, ‘Since this is so, perhaps they do not deserve to be redeemed’”.
  • “Midrashically, ‘The thing has become known to me, for I had been wondering about it. In what respect was Israel's sin more . . to be subjugated by oppressive work. But, I now see that they are deserving of it”.

To preface:

The (inner) reason that “Lashon Hara and slanderers” affect just the Jewish People and not the other nations is understood according to the well-known (and also the simple understanding of the verse) that the aspect of holiness is unity (שקדושה ענינה אחדות).

This is why is states regarding (the enumeration of the descendants of) Yaakov (the word) “soul” in the singular – even though there were seventy people).

Whereas the opposing forces (בלעו"ז) are in a manner of division and discord (which is why (when enumerating of the descendants of) Esau – it states the word, “souls” in the plural, even though there were only six people).

The root of the matter (in Pnimiyut) is:

Division and discord comes as a result of self and ego (ישות וגאוה). A person feels himself to be an important thing and being (יש ודבר חשוב). Therefore, he is not able to be united and included with his fellow – for the other person detracts from his being.

Whereas, regarding Bnei Yisroel of whom it states, “For you are the least of all the peoples - You diminish yourselves”. In other words, that they stand with bitul-selflessness (the opposite of self). Therefore, each one yields to the other (נותן מקום לזולתו), until they are united and inclusive.

One sees in actuality, that even regarding one who possesses a strong self and ego, when he is in a condition of subjugation and especially one that is back-breaking, that this affects a breaking and lowering of his spirit (שבירת ונמיכות רוחו) and the nullification of his self and ego,

(The opposite of what is stated, “Yeshurun grew fat and rebelled”)

This is Rashi’s intent in dividing the two aspects:

  • “He was worried . . perhaps they do not deserve to be redeemed’”.
  • “The thing has become known to me . .with back-breaking labor . .they are deserving of it”.


  1. Since there are slanderers – perhaps they are not deserving of being redeemed. However, since, in the end, the Future Geulah is coming, therefore,
  2. “Indeed, the thing has become known to me” – that they are deserving of back-breaking labor. The intent of this is – not that they deserving of this due to a punishment (for their the sin of Lashon Hara) but that they are deserving to be “subjugated with back-breaking labor”, “With hard labor that crushes the body and breaks it” in order to prepare them to be deserving of the Geulah.

As has been explained, above, through the breaking of their spirit and the humbling of their ego and self (the cause) - the division that is among them (the result) – Lashon Hara and slanderers - is thereby nullified.

They are then worthy of being redeemed. For the completeness of the aspect of Geulah is not just that they be One People due to their quality and aspect

(In other words, that which “they did not change their names . . they did not speak Lashon Hara etc.”).

Rather (also) due to G-d’s choice.

Then they become an eternal nation, where it is impossible for them to be further nullified (להתבטל עוד) as a nation, as it states “G-d chose Yisroel as an inheritance” - an everlasting People.

MSichas Shabbat Parshat Tzav 5726



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