Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Lashon Hara Lamed Hei, Go to Heck the Easy Way

A Guest Post by JS

So just before Tisha B'Av my wife comes home from work and says she has a great story about lashon hara (gossip, slander, evil speech) to share with me. We are taught that the Temple was destroyed because of lashon hara so the story seemed especially apropos.

Wife: So I heard this story from Matt at work. Many years ago, in a small village in Europe there was a woman who was well-known for being the town gossip. Anyways, one day she is stricken with a terrible illness. The illness is so terrible, that she seeks out the advice of the town's sage. The wise, old sage tells her to find a pillow stuffed with goose feathers and to climb up the town's bell tower and rip open the pillow scattering the feathers to the wind. The woman dutifully does so and yet she doesn't feel any better, she is still ill. She goes back to the sage and complains. The sage says this was only the first step, she must now find each and every feather and place it back in the pillow. The woman screams this is impossible! The feathers could be anywhere! The sage says, so too with words of gossip. Once you slander someone the slander is carried, as if by the winds, and no one can possibly repair all of the damage done.

Me: That's a really nice story with a good lesson. I've heard that story before. I think it's a chassidish tale. I forget who, but the sage is some chassidic rabbi.

Wife: What? No. I heard the story from Matt who's Catholic. He heard it in church and told me. I think the sage was an Italian priest.

Well, what do you know? Wikipedia identifies the sage in the story as an Italian priest named Philip Neri who lived in the 1500's! The story is an example of the Catholic concept of "Detraction" (revealing unknown faults or sins of Person A to Person B) and how difficult it is to repent of this sin.

So who stole who's story here?

More importantly, does it matter if the story was stolen or adopted from a neighboring culture? After all, the lesson about gossip is a good one and does fit in to Jewish theology.

Buy DB's book. (please)

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