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Ki Seitzei: Guarding our Ears from Lashon Hara and Judging others Favorably

ויתד תהיה על אזנך והיה בשבתך חוץ וחפרתה בה ושבת וכסית את צאתך

“You should carry a nail with your munitions, and if you will go out of the camp for your needs you should cover up after yourself.” (Devarim 23:14)

Our holy sefarim constantly discuss the importance of guarding one’s speech. A person is not only held responsible for speaking lashon hara and rechilus, but he must be careful not to listen to forbidden speech. Chazal tell us that lashon hara kills three people, including the speaker and the listener.

The Gemara (Kesubos 5a) interprets the above verse as follows: “A nail should be with your munitions.” The word oznecha – your munitions, has the same spelling as the Hebrew word for “your ears.” Hashem made our fingers pointy, like nails, so that we should be able to stick them into our ears when someone tries to tell us lashon hara.

The holy Rebbe, R’ Shmelke of Nikolsburg explained the above verse as follows: Every Jew must be careful to spend every waking moment serving Hashem. His day should be full of Torah and tefilla, and he should spend his time on spiritual pursuits. What happens if a person forgets his mission, becomes lax in his Divine service, and instead of davening and learning, he spends his time on frivolous matters? If he is ashamed of himself about this and has a guilty conscious, then he will surely return in the end and do tshuva. However, if he is so wrapped up in his activities that he doesn’t pay a thought to what he is doing – he doesn’t even feel ashamed of the way he leads his life, then he is in great danger of slipping farther away, G-d forbid.

This message is seen in the above verse: “If you will go out of the camp” – if you distance yourself from holiness and spirituality, but v’chafarta – you will be ashamed, then v’shavta – you will return!

We can see another message in this verse. A person’s spiritual pleasure on Shabbos depends on his spiritual level throughout the week. A person who is careful not to listen to lashon hara and rechilus, and feels ashamed of himself if he slips away from the Camp of Holiness, will be worthy of achieving greater heights on Shabbos. The word “v’shavta” has the same letters as the word Shabbos. When we guard our ears and our actions throughout the week, we merit true spiritual greatness on Shabbos.

In this week’s parsha, we read about Amalek and our obligation to remember their iniquity forever. The Midrash Tanchuma tells us that we have another obligation to remember something; we must remember the Shabbos in order to keep it holy. How to these two obligations connect? The Midrash explains that one of these two things must be remembered for annihilation, and the other must be remembered to be kept.

The connection between these two obligations is that if we honor the Shabbos and keep it holy, the power of Amalek is diminished. We can also overcome the power of Amalek by guarding our speech and our ears, and staying within the Camp of Kedusha. Since this will help us feel the holiness of Shabbos, the power of keeping Shabbos will overcome the power of Amalek.


וכי יהיה ריב בין אנשים ונגשו אל המשפט ושפטום והצדיקו את הצדיק והרשיעו את הרשע

“And if there will be contention between people and they will be brought before judgment, they shall be judged, and the righteous should be justified and the guilty should be condemned.” (Devarim 25:1)

Why does the Torah have to tell us that the righteous should be justified and the guilty should be condemned? Isn’t this self understood? After all, this is the purpose of judgment.

The Mishna tells us, “Judge each person favorably.” (Avos 1:6) How can we judge a person favorably if we’ve seen him commit a wrongdoing?

The key to judging others favorably is to put ourselves in their place. When a person does something wrong, he has an endless supply of excuses to defend his actions. Therefore, if you see someone else commit a wrongdoing, try to think how you would defend this deed if you would have done it in error, or in a moment of weakness.

Every Jew has two forces in his heart - the yetzer tov and the yetzer hara. The yetzer tov pulls us towards holiness and spirituality, which is what all of us really want. Unfortunately, we are sometimes led astray by the yetzer hara. However, following the yetzer hara is never our true intention. Every Jewish soul strives for closeness with Hashem; every Jewish soul is a true tzaddik, supremely righteous. When a Jew commits a wrongdoing and we blame him entirely, we are condemning a tzaddik, because his soul is essentially pure.

This is the meaning of the verse: “If there will be contention between people.” This refers to the constant state of contention between the yetzer tov and the yetzer hara. When it comes to judging another person, always remember that “the righteous should be justified and the guilty should be condemned.” The neshama is a tzaddik; don’t condemn the person’s complete essence! Condemn the evil yetzer hara who led him astray, but remember that deep inside he is still essentially pure.

If we will judge others favorably, we will merit being judged favorably by Hashem during the upcoming Days of Judgment, and He will inscribe us in the Book of Life.

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