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    Tisha B’Av and Beyond

    As we take leave of Tisha b’Av, we joyfully once again enjoy barbeque while happily listening to music. We once again can look forward to getting into the refreshing swimming pool and indulge in our favorite pastime of shopping. Importantly though, we should really try to take something concrete away from the Three Weeks.

    Of course, it’s elementary that we should say with more meaning in Shemone Esrei, “Ki lishu-asecha kivinu kol hayom – For Your salvation we hope every day.” Likewise the desire of “Al kein nikaveh lecha, Hashem Elokeinu, liros meheirah besiferes uzecha – And therefore I hope to You, Hashem our G-d, to see speedily Your splendid might,” which we say by every prayer in Aleinu, should be uttered with more concentration. Our “Racheim na Hashem Elokienu, al Yisroel amecha, v’al Yerushalyim irecha – Please have mercy, Hashem our G-d on Yisrael Your nation and Yerushalyim Your city,” which we say in bentching should be pronounced with more passion, especially since Eretz Yisroel is in the throes of an active pandemic. In our Shabbos morning Kedushah, when we beseech Hashem “Masai timloch b’Tzion, b’karov b’yomeinu l’olam va-ed tishkon – O! When will You reign in Tzion, to make Your dwelling there forever,” we should say that request with more emotion after being sensitized to the subject of the Churban during the Three Weeks.

    I’d like to share with you another takeaway. After the spies gave their dire report of how forbidding and unconquerable Eretz Yisroel was, it says about the Jews “Va’teiragnu ba-ahaleichem.” Rashi interprets this to mean that they spoke Lashon Hara about the land. This of course led to the bechia shel chinam, to the Bnei Yisroel crying over nothing, which resulted in the Divine punishment of bechia l’doros, crying throughout the generations over the destruction of the two Temples and many other Jewish calamities which we recalled with sadness and tears as we said the Kinos. It therefore obviously follows that we should work on purging Lashon Hara from our regular behavior.

    I’d like to share with you an anecdote from Rav Zilberstein’s sefer Borchi Nafshi. He relates that a man came to him and shamefully confessed that he did a terrible thing. He spoke Lashon Hara about someone and because of his Lashon Hara that person lost his job. Although he knew that the proper thing to do was to ask the person for mechilah, he felt that it would only make matters worse. He asked Rav Zilberstein whether there was anything else he could do to begin to atone for his terrible crime. Rav Zilberstein told him that it is known that the metzora, the Biblical leper, is punished because he was a motzi ra (a play on words on the word metzorah [Eruchin [15]). As part of the punishment of the leper, it says he should tear his clothing and let his hair grow wild. The Chofetz Chaim, in the Second Cheilek of Shmiras Halashon, wonders what this has to do with Lashon Hara. He suggests that slandering other people stems from a posture of arrogance. One who is haughty looks down upon others and talks disdainfully about them. One who feels lowly doesn’t talk about other people’s deficiencies. The Chofetz Chaim further suggests that this is why we use cedar, hyssop and scarlet thread in the purification ritual of the leper. For, if one feels haughty like a cedar, he should take himself down a few notches to feel like a lowly hyssop and sola’as (which means both scarlet and also a lowly worm).

    Rav Zilberstein noticed that the man who talked Lashon Hara was dressed in very fancy clothing and was driving an expensive car. He informed him that as part of his rehabilitation he should dress less fancy and drive a simple car. This would help him have a less arrogant view and consequently mitigate his tendency to speak Lashon Hara. As we try to eradicate Lashon Hara from our repertoire, we should bear in mind that acting more humbly is a good way to start.

    In the merit of intensifying our hope for salvation and being more careful with the sin of Lashon Hara, may Hashem bless us with good health, long life, everything wonderful, and the Moshiach Tzidkeinu bimheirah biyameinu.