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When Your Poor Speech Is on the Rocks

Rabbi Chaim Weg

Gemara in Eirichinkal vechomer: If there’s loshon hora on sticks and stones [less severe]; surely on people [more severe].

Question: Rashi [Shelach] says that the meraglim [less severe] should’ve learned from Miriam [more severe].

Answer-they were expected to learn from the punishment meted out to Miriam’s questioning Hashem-kefira– not the loshon hora.  Rashi [Devarim]: Names of travels are fictitious – they’re referencing aveiros. ‘Chatzeiros’-refers to Moshe’s rebuke regarding the meraglim. They should’ve learned from Miriam who was punished for her kefira in Hashem-not on her loshon hora.

Rav Shimon Schwab asks a different question: The aveira of loshon hora was already given –what should they have learned from Miriam that they didn’t know yet? The prohibition on loshon hora was already known at Har Sinai.

Moshe was anav me’od mikol adam-it didn’t bother Moshe at all; nevertheless, she was afflicted.  The ‘leniency’ of Miriam’s loshon hora was that it didn’t bother Moshe, and perhaps loshon hora is only when it causes pain.

The lesson of Miriam is the prohibition of loshon hora even when there’s no pain.


There is a bein odom lemakom component.

Rambam- loshon hora is defilement of the nefesh, and the speech of wicked people. It is a reflection on a negative lifestyle and culminates in heresy-kefira.

Miriam’s sin was between man and Hashem; after all, Moshe wasn’t bothered, as sticks and stones. Her tzara’as should’ve dissuaded the meraglim from their slander on the land.

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