16 Jun Coronavirus (Part 14)
In this week’s parsha, it says “ V ’ y a m u s u h a ’ a n o s h i m motzi’ei dibas HaAretz ra’ah bamageifah lifnei Hashem – The men who brought back the evil report on the Land died of the plague by the will of Hashem.” We discussed in the past that Rav Chaim Kanievsky said at the onset of the coronavirus and the quarantining that it generated, that in only one place in the Torah does it speak of quarantine. This is by the metzora, and the plague of leprosy which comes because of motzi rah, those who speak ill about others. Here also we find that the ten Nisi’im, princes who spoke badly about Eretz Yisroel died horribly from a plague. The Gemora in Arachin [15a] teaches us a kol v’chomer, a fortiori that if one who speaks against wood and stones (the Land) receives such a harsh punishment, imagine how much more severe the retribution will be should one speak ill about others. Similarly, we learned recently in the Daf Yomi in Masechtas Shabbos that when Moshe Rabbeinu was up in Heaven, he successfully explained to the angels why the Torah rightfully should be given to the Jewish People. The Gemora further relates that in gratitude for his explanation, the angels gave Moshe Rabbeinu gifts. The Gemora reveals that the Malach HaMaves, the Angel of Death, also gave Moshe Rabbeinu a gift. He taught Moshe that ketores, incense halts a plague. Elsewhere we are taught that the ketores atones specifically for the sin of Lashon Hara. Thus, once again we see the connection between Lashon Hara and a plague. We therefore have to be very mindful of the pitfalls and traps that the Yeitzer Hara cleverly sets for us during this Covid-19 crisis. Here are some examples. “I can’t believe it! Look at him. We’ve just come back into shul after 14 weeks and he’s already talking during davening. Didn’t he learn anything from all of this?” Or, “I feel so bad for Chaim’s wife. He’s so OCD about the virus that he won’t even let her go out for a breath of fresh air.” Or, what about this? “Did you see those chassidim dancing at a wedding without masks and social distancing? What a chilul Hashem they are!” Or how about this this? “Yeah. Yankle didn’t even come back to shul yet. He enjoys sunning on his porch. We’ll never get him back. This is perfect for his lazy personality.” Or, “Did you notice that Shmuel only comes to shacharis on Shabbos? The rest of the time he’s at home. If it’s safe enough for him to come in the morning, why isn’t he by the rest of the prayers? Well, he always looked for excuses to stay home and now he thinks he can get away with it.” Here’s another one. “Could you believe that they’re just frolicking in Florida while so many of us lost our jobs and don’t even have food on our tables.” Let’s remember two things. It’s Lashon Hara even if it’s the truth. If we have an ax to grind with the chassidim or with Lakewood, that doesn’t give us a free pass to talk about other people. The only time we can do so is if we meet the seven conditions laid out by the Chofetz Chaim for when we are allowed to speak Lashon Hara l’toeles, for a constructive purpose. The second thing is there is an awful lot of confusion about masks, social distancing, antibodies, etc. We should certainly protect ourselves and also follow governmental regulations. At the same time let’s take that malach hamaves’ own advice, when plague is lurking take extreme caution against Lashon Hara. In the merit of guarding our lips from speaking evil, may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.