Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Rebbe Story: The Power of Words

The Chofetz Chaim (HaRav Yisroel Meir HaKohen Kagan zt”l) once set out on a trip with another Rav for the purpose of a Mitzvah.  Along the way, they stopped at an inn, whose impeccable Kashrus standards were well-known, to have dinner. 

After the meal, the proprietress of the restaurant came over and asked them if they were pleased with their dinner.  The Chofetz Chaim immediately responded in the affirmative.  The other Rav concurred, but added that a bit more salt would have helped.  

 As the woman left, the Chofetz Chaim turned white and exclaimed: “I cannot believe it.  All my life I have avoided hearing or speaking Lashon Hara.  Now I travel with you, and I hear Lashon Hara……” 

When his companion saw his reaction, he became frightened and said: “What did I say that was so bad?  I only mentioned that a bit more salt would have been appreciated!” 

“You do not realize the impact of your words,” cried Rav Yisroel Meir zt”l. “Our hostess probably does not do her own cooking.  Her cook could very well be a poor widow who has been forced to take this job to support her family.  As a result of your criticism, the owner will complain to the cook, who, in self-defense, will deny the claim and say that she did put in enough salt.  This will escalate to an all-out argument between the owner and the cook, resulting in the poor widow’s dismissal.  So, you have caused unnecessary strife between two people, as well as a loss of livelihood for a widow and her orphans.  Look how many sins you committed with your “innocent” words.  You spoke Lashon Hara, and you caused the owner and myself to hear Lashon Hara.  You caused the owner to repeat the Lashon Hara, which created a situation in which the cook was compelled to lie.  You also caused pain to a widow and an argument between the owner and the cook……” 

The Rav looked at the Chofetz Chaim, smiled and said: “You know, you are carrying this a bit far.  Surely a few words could not have caused such harm.” 

Rav Yisroel Meir said: “Come, let us go to the kitchen and see for ourselves.” 

They went and entered the kitchen, only to see and hear everything that the Chofetz Chaim described would happen:  The owner was berating the cook, who, amid tears, was gathering her few things together and preparing to leave the employ of the restaurant.   

The Rav absorbed all this and felt terrible.  He immediately went over to the cook and begged forgiveness for any distress he caused, and pleaded with the owner to reconsider her position against the cook, which she did. (The Peninim Anthology; p. 69-70).

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