The Root Cause
By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
We have just celebrated Passover, the deliverance of our forefathers from 210 years of servitude in Egypt. We focused our attention on the servitude and our deliverance. Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (known as the ‘Chofetz Chaim’) points out that it is crucial to cast our attention on the root cause of our national servitude and suffering.
Joseph spoke negatively of his brothers to their father, Jacob. This resulted in his brothers’ hatred towards Joseph, selling Joseph as a slave and the ultimate exile of the Jewish people to the land of Egypt. Lashon Hara (speaking disparagingly about others) was the cause of tremendous national suffering.
Our sages say that Moses was perplexed upon seeing the suffering of the Hebrew slaves – why should the Jewish People suffer backbreaking labor more than any other nation? Upon hearing that word had spread concerning his smiting of the evil Egyptian, and that Jews were quarreling with each other, he finally understood the cause of their oppression. The Maharal of Prague writes that the greatest thing one can do for our national salvation is to avoid speaking negatively about one another.
Negative speech has the power to cause pain, disunity, war, and tragedy. On the other hand, words of Torah, prayer, kindness, encouragement, and compassion have the power to bring comfort, joy, peace, and redemption. Let us all commit ourselves to positive speech of this nature, and, in so doing, to the deliverance of the Jewish people and all mankind from bondage and suffering.
In so doing, we also make ourselves into greater people. As Eleanor Roosevelt so brilliantly put it: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”