Wednesday, April 20, 2005


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

The Yom Tov of Pesach has an almost universal appeal, even to Jews who have regrettably drifted very far from Judaism. Every year more and more hagados are printed and sold. No matter how many hagados we may own, we are eager to add still another one to our collection.

What is it about the Seder that is so appealing?

We are taught that the Seder is to be conducted in a question-and-answer format. The children are prompted to ask questions and if there are no children present, the adults ask each other questions. If a person is celebrating the seder by himself, he directs both the questions and answers to himself. .

What is it about the question-and-answer framework that is so central to the Seder? A look into Chazal’s intentions behind the meticulous organization of the Seder might shed some light.

Chazal instructed us when telling sipur yitzias Mitzrayim to begin begnus and culminate beshvach, to start with the shame and end with the glory.

What is the purpose of beginning the Seder with tales and pesukim that hark back to humble beginnings and epochs in our history which were less than laudatory? Why do we have to revisit the times when we were slaves and idol worshippers?

Why, when presiding at our tables like kings and queens at the Seder and displaying our finest wares, do we dredge up the sad past?

Every person is obligated at the Seder to envision himself as if he had been released from bondage in Mitzrayim. In fact, we recite those very words. “In every generation a person is obligated to see himself as if he personally had exited Mitzrayim.” As we begin the Seder, we also recite the chapter that testifies that if our forefathers had not been released we would still be subservient to Paroh in Mitzrayim.

How can we make this assertion? How do we know that a revolution or other world events leading to the eventual overthrow of Paroh would not have set the Jews free? Paroh and his institutions are but a distant memory today. How then can one assume that the Jewish people would still be subservient to Paroh in Mitzrayim?

Perhaps this sweeping statement can be understood homiletically as alluding to how a person should deal with times of challenge.

Every one of us experiences ups and down; sad events and happy ones. People go through very trying times. There are often occasions of triumph and success. But life can also be very frustrating and cause a person to grow despondent. When all one sees is doom and gloom and it seems that the sun will never shine again, one can easily fall prey to confusion and despair. It is hard to be normal in a crazy world.

Whether it’s illness, parnassa problems, trouble with one’s children, parents or any one of a host of challenges we face in our daily lives, when things don’t go according to our plan, when our path is strewn with obstacles, we sometimes feel like giving up. We think it’s all over.

The Seder speaks to us, shakes us out of this negative mindset and helps us put everything in perspective.

We begin begnus, discussing how originally our forefathers were idolatrous; we recount that we were lowly slaves in Mitzrayim. We don’t just discuss it, we feel it. We eat the maror and relive the pain of servitude. We see the charoses and remember the back- breaking labor. We dip vegetables in salt water to recount the oceans of tears shed.

We think about the tears we have shed over our own problems, the work we have to do and the humiliation we have to put up with in order to put food on our own tables. We think not only about ourselves and our own predicaments but also about the people we care about who are sick, or those who have fallen on hard times. Our minds wander and we think about our own Golus Mitzrayim, and the things that afflict us.

And then we are mesayem beshevach, the hagadah continues and recounts how G-d kept his pact with the Avos and redeemed the Jews from the misery of Egypt. The darkness and gloom came to a radical and abrupt halt. The slavery ended, the decades of being enslaved to an evil master were finally over. We were out of Mitzrayim, free and triumphant.

After hundreds of years of incarceration people had given up and were unable to accept words of consolation from Moshe Rabbeinu. When he appeared before them and told them the avdus was about to end, they ignored him. What he was predicting seemed impossible. They were so overcome by their labor they could not imagine their fetters and chains locking them behind a stone curtain being broken.

The hagadah proclaims to every Jew to never give up. The hagadah reminds every Jew that all that transpires is part of a Divine plan. The plan is not necessarily evident to us as we live through it, but often times when the period of torment is over, with the benefit of hindsight, the entire picture becomes clear. The light at the end of the tunnel shines upon what transpired and gives one a more complete picture and understanding of what happened and why.

“Bechol dor vador chayuv adam liros es atzmo k’eelu hu yotzoh miMitzrayim.” When we say that every person at his Seder has to imagine that he himself left Mitzrayim, we mean that every person has to apply this lesson to his own life. Everyone has to reflect upon the departure from Mitzrayim and transpose it to his own life. Every person has to see that just as he was freed from Mitzrayim, he will be released from the stressful situations encumbering him.

At the Seder, every Jew chants Vehi She’amdah which proclaims that in every generation the Jewish people are targeted for death, but eventually triumph. In every generation, in some part of the world there is a Pharoh who seeks our annihilation, but G-d foils his plan and rescues us.

So too, in every person’s life there are times when things seem hopelessly tangled and headed for disaster. We feel thwarted at every turn. Curveballs are thrown our way, making havoc of our plans. At times we feel utterly lost.

We often are tormented by questions. Why does it have to be me? Why is this happening? Why don’t my plans succeed? We keep the questions bottled up inside of us, afraid of asking them and perhaps afraid of facing the answers.

True, there are times when our task lies in accepting what Hashem has sent our way without questioning Him, trusting that He alone knows why we must grapple with these particular challenges and that they are ultimately for our own good.

But questions can also lead us to better understand life as well as our mesorah and the yesodos of emunah and those are the questions that we are taught to ask on Seder night.

We are taught that every question has an answer—although we may not be privileged to attain or comprehend the answer- there is one. That is why we recite the story of yitzias Mitzrayim in question and answer format, for our own lives parallel the tale of yitzias Mitzrayim.

The matzoh is refered to in the Torah as lechem oni, as the posuk states in Parshas Re’eih, [Devorim 16: 3] “shivas yomim tochal alav maztzos lechem oni, ki bechipazon yatzasah mei’eretz Mitzrayim, leman tizkor es yom tzeischa mei’eretz Mitzrayim kol yimei chayecha.” For seven days you shall eat matzos, lechem oni, because you left Mitzrayim very quickly. You are to remember the day you left Mitzrayim all the days of your life.”

Lechem oni is commonly translated as “bread of affliction.” The Gemorah in Pesachim [115B] offers another explanation. It teaches that it is called lechem oni because it is “bread upon which we recite many words [at the Seder],” “lechem she’onin olov devorim harbeh.”

Perhaps in this usage of the word onin, from the root word anah, to answer, there is an allusion to the question-answer concept that runs through the Seder.

Matzoh is the bread upon which we answer many questions as we sit at the Seder. Therefore it is referred to as lechem oni. And why do we answer many questions in the presence of the matzoh? Because Hashem rushed us out of Mitzrayim, symbolized by the hastily baked matzos. And that sudden, dramatic reversal is something which we should remember all the days of our lives, the good days as well as the bad. No matter how bad times seem, as long as there is life there is hope, ki bechipazon yatzasah mei’eretz Mitzrayim.

The Yerushalmi in Brachos in the beginning of the third perek seems to support this idea. The gemorah derives from the posuk, “tizkor es yom tzeischa mei’eretz Mitzrayim kol yimei chayecha,” that the mitzva of remembering yetzias mitzrayim does not apply to a person who is preoccupied with the dead. Kol yemei chayecha teaches that one is obligated to remember yitzias Mitzrayim only when among living people, but not in the presence of death.

This limud can be understood according to our concept that recounting yitzias Mitzrayim is meant to remind us not to grow despondent with our personal situations. Just as G-d brought salvation to the Jews and rescued them from Egypt, so too He will rescue us from our stressful circumstances.

The obligation to never give up hope is only applicable as long as there is life. Obviously, once one is confronted with the finality of death and is dealing with a meis, one must apply the Chazal [Avos 4: 18] which states, “V’al tenachamenu beshah shmeiso mutal lefanav - “Do not offer words of consolation to a person while his dear recently departed lies before him.”

As long as there is life, sipur yitzias Mitzrayim and matzoh serve to remind us that yeshuas Hashem k’heref ayin, salvation can arrive as quickly as the blink of an eye. That answers many questions. The affliction is a portion of the salvation and often times a necessary component of it. Many times things happen which at the time you think will mean the end of the world for you, but as time goes on you realize that it was all for the good and in the end you came out ahead, stronger and better.


The seder night is referred to as leil shimurim, meaning that this night was singled out by Hashem as “a night of watching.” Yet doesn’t Hashem watch over us every night of the year? What is it about seder night that warrants this special appellation?

On the night of the seder as we recount the tale of slavery in Mitzrayim and our miraculous exodus, we recognize that even in the darkest days of avdus, Hashem was watching over the Jews as His preordained plan unfolded. Every pivotal event, from Yaakov’s descent to Mitzrayim and the beginning of the enslavement, to the eventual geulah, kriyas yam suf, kabolas haTorah and entry into Eretz Yisroel, was part of the Divine plan.

We see from the pesukim in the Torah that foretold these events, that everything followed a clear blueprint. So, too, as we contemplate our own personal travails against the backdrop of yetzias mitzrayim, we relive the redemption from Mitzrayim as if we ourselves were participants. That redemption and the soaring happiness of feeling Hashem’s guiding Hand, renews our faith that our present predicament, as well, is part of His plan.

We recognize that G-d is hovering over us now, too—sometimes in ways which take many years to understand.

On the night of the seder it becomes evident to us that just as He was watching and protecting us so many centuries ago in Mitzrayim, He is with us now too. Leil Shimurim teaches us to recognize His protective presence throughout the darkest hours of our private and national golus.

The posuk states in Micha [6: 15] “Kiyimei tzeis’chem meieretz mitzrayim arenu niflaos, in the end of days I will show you miracles as I did when you left Mitzrayim.”

Why does the posuk use the terminology of niflaos and not nissim, the more commonly used term for describing miracles?

We find that the word nes is used to refer to miraculous events which are supernatural, above teva, while niflaos applies to occurrences which conform to the laws of nature, but nevertheless defy human understanding.

Perhaps the posuk is not only referring to the many miracles which will take place at the end of days, but it is stressing that a day will come when Hashem will lift the veil on all the incomprehensible events down the centuries that befell us as a people and in our individual lives. All the trials that so bewildered us and that tested our faith and our very souls, will finally be understood.

The Michiltah states in chapter 3 of Parshas Shira in Parshas Beshalach, that at the time of Yetzias Mitzrayim, “roasah shifcha al hayam mah shelo raah Yecheskel ben Buzii,” a simple maidservant beheld more of Hashem’s revealed glory than the prophet Yechezkel ben Buzi was zocheh to.

The purpose of all the years of suffering and oppression in Mitzrayim which caused the Jewish people so much anguish was finally made clear.

On the night of the seder as we recount the nissim, makkos and niflaos which occurred at yetzias Mitzrayim, our task is to recognize the niflaos that take place each day in our lives. Just as a simple maid servant was capable of beholding Hashem’s glory, so too, on this night when we study the niflaos of sipur Yetzias Mitzrayim, we can gain the ability to understand the niflaos that take place in our lives as being Divinely engineered by the Keil Rachum Vechanun.

As a preparation for the Seder, the night prior before the Seder, we go through our homes searching in the dark for chometz, holding a small candle to light the way.
Perhaps the darkness of night represents the Golus and the candle symbolizes the flame of Torah and mitzvos, as the posuk states in Mishlei [6: 23], ki ner mitzva v’Torah ohr.

When confounded by the darkness of the exile and the vagaries of life, we turn to the light generated by the study of Torah and the observance of its mitzvos to light our way. With the ner, the proper observance of the commandments, and the ohr radiated by the study of Torah, we can find our bearings in a confusing, turbulent world. With our new insights into Torah, we are able to answer all the questions posed at the Seder.

May we all merit lives suffused with happiness, joy and the light of Torah and Mitzvos.

May we all merit the brachos of the Yom Tov as we depart our work stations for a full week of kedushas Yom Tov, spent in the company of our families and loved ones.

May we sit at the Seder as true bnei chorin asking and answering questions on a night filled with sacred traditions and customs.

And when we open the door for Eliyahu Hanavi this year, may he announce that the time has finally come for him to take us all to the Promised Land. Amen.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Some Yomim Tovim have a way of just creeping up on you. Before you realize they are around the corner, they’ve arrived. Pesach is different. Pesach is in the air weeks before the event, wherever you go in the Jewish world.

The stores are packed with shoppers buying everything from fish to shoes lekavod yom tov. Bochurim are home from yeshiva, giving the home, shul and street a different look.

Wherever you go, you hear vacuum cleaners whirring. That sound may give you a headache the rest of the year, but when you hear it now it sounds so melodious. The machine seems to be singing about the approach of Pesach. “Come on over,” it calls, “Let us together prepare for Pesach.” While we push the vacuum cleaner to and fro, it’s as if we are holding a guitar in our hands, making music.

We are not engaged in some lowly mundane activity—we are cleaning a house for Pesach. How joyous that is! Who can complain about that? Boruch Hashem I have a place to live, Boruch Hashem I have my strength, Boruch Hashem I can clean the home You blessed me with and I can be mekayeim Your mitzvos. Boruch Hashem I live in a time when I can freely eat Matzos without fearing a blood-libel inspired progrom breaking out.

Wherever you go in the Jewish world you will pick up the scent of soap at work. The whiff of ammonia, bleach and easy-off attack you from all corners. All year around, those odors force you to run and open the window to escape them, so offensive are they. But when you walk into to a Jewish home during these weeks and are greeted by these pungent smells, they evoke a pleasant association, and you embrace them. They send so many memories rushing into your psyche. They remind you that in a few days, chometz will be but a distant memory and you will soon be sitting like a king or queen at the Seder.

Reminders confront us from all sides about the impending z’man cheiruseinu. Shloshim yom kodem hachag, thirty days before the holiday, we are told that we must begin reviewing the intricate laws of the chag. We have Parshas Parah to remind us to purify ourselves in preparation for the korban. Parshas Hachodesh reminds us that Chodesh Nisan is about to arrive.

Unlike the other major holidays of Sukkos and Shavuos, Pesach demands a heightened degree of preparation. The home must be spotlessly cleaned, matzos must be baked, special foods purchased, a different menu prepared, and on and on. The hachanos are especially taxing on the women. For weeks they work themselves to the point of exhaustion making sure everything is perfectly in order in time for the Seder.

When it comes to “bringing in Pesach,” family members have to be careful to share in what can be an overwhelming task if shouldered alone. At no other time of the year is cooperation so vital.

If everyone leaves everything to Mommy to worry about, chances are that Mommy will have a hard time pulling it all together. It is only when every member of the family pools their efforts and abilities that Pesach becomes that rich and rewarding experience that we so eagerly anticipate.

That spirit of cooperation that marks Pesach-preparation has its parallel in one of the core elements of Yetzias Mitzraim—our transformation into a cohesive nation, a family unit on a national scale.

We went from being slaves scattered around Mitzrayim to becoming an organized community of Bnei Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov. A community is defined as a group of people with common interests joining together to contribute towards the public good. When each person cares only about himself and what is good for him, the community suffers. In a community everyone sacrifices a bit for the common welfare.

And so it is on Pesach. Perhaps this is the reason that the Rema begins Hilchos Pesach with the minhag of Maos Chittin, obligating all Jews to help those less fortunate who can not afford to make Yom Tov.

We demonstrate to what extent we are part of the greater Jewish community by the way we respond to appeals to come to the aid of those who have difficulty meeting Yom Tov expenses.

For the past several years, together with my dear friend Reb Yossel Czapnik, I have been inserting an envelope into the paper before Pesach on behalf of Keren Hachesed. We depend upon our good readers to assist the Keren Hachesed volunteers and the people they help.

Boruch Hashem, the response has always been truly magnificent and is a tribute to the righteousness of our readers who are no doubt bombarded with so many pre-Pesach appeals. Those envelopes are mailed back throughout the course of the year and Keren Hachesed counts on the donations inside to help repay the loans they took out to help people with Yom Tov.

People often wonder what Keren Hachesed is exactly and they deserve to know. It is an organization founded by bnei torah to help Kolel yungeleit and rabbeim and other hard-working people who make a living but can’t afford to make ends meet when it comes to Pesach, but will not accept help from public organizations. The Keren carefully screens all potential recipients.

They help the people who live next door to you in the most bakavodik and respectful way possible. The Keren helps the very people you would be helping if you only knew how to approach them and offer assistance. Contributing to the Keren is a perfect way to help a family just like yours make Yom Tov. In doing so, you are contributing to one of the greatest tzedakos in our area.

If you live in a Torah community within 90 miles of New York City chances are you have a neighbor who is enjoying the benefits of Keren Hachesed this Yom Tov. They are good people, with nice, fine, families, who dedicate their lives to doing good for the community and have everything but enough money to properly celebrate Yom Tov. Keren Hachesed helps them accomplish that in a myriad of ways I can not describe, lest the recipients recognize that they are benefiting from Keren Hachesed. In fact the recipients don’t even know that Keren Hachesed exists.

Keren Hachesed, working behind the scenes, comes to the rescue in hidden ways.

They are so dedicated to their cause, that the volunteers who run the chesed group would rather work harder at raising the finances necessary to do their work, than permit me to describe their work. They place the dignity and self respect of the people they help above all else.

Several years ago, some Keren volunteers were involved in multiple mishaps for a few years in a row. They became disturbed by the thought that a Divine message was being sent.

They approached Rav Chaim Kreisworth, a towering talmid chochom, who was well known for his untiring efforts for tzedakah and chesed. He replied that the only one who would be able to interpret what had occurred was the Steipler Rov.

One of the people involved in the Keren traveled to Eretz Yisroel and described to the Steipler, zt”l, the organization’s work and the misfortunes that had been happening to the volunteers. He asked for the Steipler’s insight into the significance of these episodes.

The Steipler answered him that not only was there nothing wrong in what they were doing, but that the tzedaka they perform was on such a high level that the Satan was trying to derail them from their noble work.

He suggested that from that year on, all those involved in Keren Hachesed should observe Yom Kippur Kotton on Erev Rosh Chodesh Nisan, including blowing shofar.

Since then the only problem the Keren has had is raising sufficient funds to keep pace with the need.

As we run around loading our shopping wagons with everything that we need for Yom Tov, let us keep in mind the people who can not afford to fill their wagons. As we try on new suits and shoes, let’s keep in mind those who have to make do with old clothing. Let us show we care about those not as financially blessed as we are. Let us show hakaros hatov to the Ribono Shel Olam for all we have.

Every dollar given to Keren Hachesed will bring a smile to Jewish faces of all ages. You will be contributing to their simchas Yom Tov as well as your own.

When contributing to your local Maos Chittin campaign, and other good causes, including those advertised in this newspaper, please remember that Keren Hachesed envelope.

Shabbos Hagadol comes early this year. Shabbos Hagadol, literally The Great Shabbos, heralds the traditional Pesach drasha but its significance is broader than that. It is the day on which, 3317 years ago, our forefathers rounded up sheep for the korban pesach. It is the day which announces that the chag hageulah is about to descend upon us. Every Shabbos is “great,” every Shabbos is a gift from G-d, but since it comes around every week, we tend to take it for granted.

Shabbos reminds us that G-d created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Shabbos is a day which raises us up to higher spiritual plane than we are on during the rest of the week.

Yetzias Mitzrayim, when we were taken from bondage in Mitzrayim and separated as the Am Hashem, started on Shabbos with the preparations for the korban pesach; that seminal event is remembered every year on Shabbos Hagadol.

Shabbos Hagadol is greater than every other Shabbos of the year because it announces that the days which commemorate that aliyah of the Jewish people—and have the spiritual power to renew that aliyah—are once again with us. Shabbos Hagadol heralds the arrival of the sanctified period of time that took our nation to a new and higher level for eternity.

Let us all pray that in the merit of the mitzva of tzedaka and the areivus our acts of kindness demonstrate, this coming Shabbos Hagadol should be our last Shabbos in golus. May it herald the arrival of the geulah. Amen

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

This week, in parshas Tazria we are introduced to the concept of tzora’as. We are all familiar with the Gemorah in Eirchin (15) that tzora’as comes as a punishment for sins connected with lashon horah. The Gemorah also discusses that this dreaded consequence is triggered by Shefichas Domim, Shvuas Shav, Gilluy Arayos, Gasus Ruach, Gezel and Tzoras Ayin.

In the times of the Mishkon and the Beis Hamikdosh, people who spoke ill of others were punished with tzora’as. They developed skin discolorations and lesions and were banished to a place outside of the camp. They were isolated from the entire community for at least one week. Upon returning, these individuals brought special korbanos. The entire experience exerted a profound impact and instilled lasting lessons.

In those days, fueled by the fear of public humiliation and banishment, people were certainly more careful with their speech. Today, we no longer have tzora’as to remind us when we have betrayed the gift of speech. To keep ourselves in line, we have to rely upon our fear of G-d as well as our intelligence, which often fails us.

The underside of lashon horah is the debasement of others. Those who engage in speaking lashon horah are not just engaging in idle talk, they are compensating for their own lack of achievement.

When a person looks at himself and wonders why he is not accomplishing much with his life, he may grow despondent. When he compares himself to others who are achieving, he questions his own worth. “Why can’t I be as good as that person?” he asks himself. “Why can’t I be as charitable as my neighbor? Why don’t I learn as much as that other fellow? Why don’t I have as many friends as this one or that one?

So he tells himself that the other guy doesn’t really learn that much. Besides, he rationalizes, that fellow can’t learn without the help of an Artscroll Gemorah and I know how to learn better than he, because I went to a better yeshiva. He soothes his wounded self-esteem by telling himself that his neighbor, the so-called baal tzedaka, doesn’t really know how to give tzedaka and he only gives where he gets a lot of kovod. He tells himself that the person he is jealous of is not really successful, it just looks that way. Really, he is corrupt and not bright and it is all a façade.

The person who is unhappy with himself will then go around badmouthing the other person to anyone who will listen. He will spread stories to prove his contention that the person is not nearly as good as everyone thinks he is. Thus, he kills two birds with one stone. He calms his own conscience that is criticizing him for wasting his life away, and at the same time ruins the reputation of the person who is actually doing something worthwhile with his life.

Is anyone perfect? Is there anybody we know who has no room for improvement? Is there anyone so pure that nobody can dig up a little morsel of derogatory information about him? Of course not. As the posuk testifies, “Ein Tzadik B’Aretz Asher Yaaseh Tov Velo Yechtah, There is no righteous person who does good and who has not sinned.”

Every person, great as he may be, has sinned at some point in his lifetime. A baal lashon horah will seek out the tzadik’s failing and proclaim it to the world. “How can you say he is a tzadik, don’t you know he did this and that?” A G-d fearing and intelligent person who is content with what he has will concentrate on the person’s positive attributes and look aside from his failings. He will note the shortcomings but will look at the whole picture. He will understand that although a person may have committed wrongdoing at some point, it does not detract from his being a tzadik.

The baal lashon horah is not just a gossiper; he is a person who seeks to destroy the order of the world. The world needs tzadikim and people who others can look up to. It needs people to dedicate themselves to good causes. The baal lashon harah, with his cynical and negative broadcasts, attempts to destroy the heroes of this world and discourage people from doing good and contributing to society.

He would rather have a world in which every person’s faults are publicized than actually accomplish something noble in his own life. He would rather see people destroyed than assist in bettering mankind.

Therefore, the punishment of a baal lashon horah is that he is afflicted with a wound on the surface of his body which is visible to one and all. Furthermore, he is banished and sentenced to live in isolation. A person who can not look aside from another’s blemish can not live among people. Anyone who thinks that it is a mitzva to advertise other people’s failings can not live among the community of men, for there is no man who is unblemished.

If you notice a fault in your friend you should point it out to him. Tell him in a nice way, “You are such a good person, but if you would only rectify a certain aspect of your personality, you’d be so much better off.” If you do that you have helped your friend and have done something constructive for the world.

But if you don’t make the attempt to assist him and instead let everyone know that you have figured out what is wrong with Yankel, what have you accomplished? You have brought down not only Yankel but his family, too. You have done nothing productive for yourself or for anyone.

There are people who derive their greatest satisfaction in life from bashing others. Sometimes they are quite justified in perceiving serious flaws in another person or organization or movement. Nobody is perfect and there is nothing wrong with constructive criticism. But it should not be taken to an extreme. Good people do not deserve scorn and contempt for making mistakes. They can be given mussar and corrected with love and respect. It can be done without rancor, without hate, without wild-eyed glee; and without lashon horah.

Lashon horah is permitted if it is spoken for a positive purpose, “letoeles,” because if the person is accomplishing something good with his remarks they are not sinful. They are only sinful when you are looking to destroy someone’s communal standing. Lashon horah is evil because it is a negative. If you demand nothing but perfection from others you are punished by having to remain alone, forced to contemplate your own sins in order for the tzora’as to depart from your body.

We all know that lashon horah is a serious sin and now we have another understanding of why this is so. It assuages a person’s feelings of not having achieved anything with his life and destroys those whose lives are marked by accomplishment, despite their personal failings.

The oft-quoted posuk in Tehillim [34:16] states, “Mi ha’ish hechofeitz chaim ohev yomim liros tov. Netzor leshonchah mei’rah usefosecha midabeir mirmah.” These lines are commonly translated as, “Who is the person who wants to live, who wants to see good in his days? Let him watch his tongue from speaking ill and his lips from speaking bad.”

Perhaps we can understand the posuk homiletically to also mean that one who seeks life and loves to have more days of life should try to see good in others – liros tov. In addition, he should watch his tongue and lips from speaking bad of fellow Jews.

Liros tov; look for good; it will help you live long and save you from lashon horah.

It is so easy to take the easy way out and destroy people; it is so much harder to focus on the good and look away from what is objectionable. But do it anyway. That approach will benefit the world; it will benefit others and it will benefit you.

We no longer are blessed with the Divine disciplinary measure of tzora’as to keep us straight, to remind us to guard our tongues and not to engage in anti-social behavior. But since we all seek life, let us keep in mind that watching how we treat and talk about other people is a good way to earn it.