Rabbi's Letter

January 10, 2019
4 Shevat 5779
Dear Friends,

I can’t tell you the joy that I experience every week when the One Room Shul House meets. We gather children, parents, Grandparents and a whole lot of good Jewish learning. Each week I teach one major Jewish ethical idea, and it gets introduced when the entire school, parents and all, are in the chapel learning our prayers. The Torah comes out, and this beautiful rhythm of Jewish life gets a chance to dance around the school and stick to the souls of our families. Invariably, the message from that weeks Torah will have something important to say about the ethic of the week. (Okay, so rabbi writes her rhyming messages from God) but they do introduce the wisdom that has crafted our beautiful and eternal heritage for thousands of years.  

This past week we learned about the most important prohibition of all, the command not to gossip about other human souls. Gossip, or La Shon Hara in Hebrew. It is considered to be the worst form of moral disease that humans suffer from and almost everyone has a touch of it. 

Please enjoy God’s message to our congregation,

La Shon Hara/Gossip
  A message from God

Hi Kids, its ME God, your friend
I’ve got an important topic to defend

It's called La Shon Hara, or gossip better known
And it’s the worst kind of poison that our words can throw

La Shon Hara is when you use your words to hurt another
By speaking mean about them and doing it undercover.

It’s talking about someone who isn’t there to defend
So their side is never heard and the story comes out bent

It’s the way to destroy and hurt a soul
By pretending that you have the right to act like a troll

We see it today everywhere we go
People tear apart others without a care to show

They say that sticks and stones can hurt when they hit
But words hit even harder into the heart’s deepest pit

Your mouth you see, was a gift God did create
For words to be used to elevate
The world in which we live day to day
Words can breathe hope into a heart gone astray
Or they can cut like a knife and strike with pain
Tearing apart your soul with utter disdain

Words are like gifts waiting to bring alive
Or words can be like weapons destroying everything in sight

When you talk about another who isn’t there to defend
It is considered the worst kind of human sin

To say things that tear a person asunder
Robs from them the chance to get up from under
The words that fly away like a driven leaf,
can never really ever be retrieved,
You steal someone’s soul and their reputation all in one
Gossip and ugliness can never be undone.

Words we say are like the feathers in a pillow made of down
And if you threw them into the wind they would be impossible to find.
Where they all went and how they traveled through time
Saying mean things about another
Is the worst kind of crime.

Even when someone hurts you, it’s best not to be mean in return
You never know their motives or the daemons that in them burn

So leave the judgment to Me, that’s my job as God above
And try to make peace by showing some love

I know I know, it’s not easy to do
To be kind to someone who has been mean to you

But this you must know to be true
I will balance the scales; when I see what you do.

So when you resist and keep your words kind
I will not forget what a treasure you are inside

But when you turn around and spread ugly news
and being a bully is what you choose

Well, that is not a good way to live
That is not a path to forgive
That’s not the way to make the world whole
Instead it’s the way to destroy who world’s soul

So learn today this lesson so true
One of the ways to be a good Jew
Is to watch your words and don’t let them be cruel
Stop gossiping, especially at shul

When you use words that hurt or destroy
You suck out of the world a parcel of joy.

Words can be one of two
Gifts of love or bullets, its up to you

Take the gift I gave you, the gift of talk
And promise not to speak ill of others no matter what they wrought

I gave you speech knowing what I sought

For words to show kindness, patience and love
That’s the final message I’m sending from above.
Our Sages denounced the sin of slander and malicious gossip as a loathsome moral disease. They taught that La Shon Hara kills three people; the person who speaks it, the person who listens to it and the person about whom it is about.

We have to learn how to say to people who begin to gossip, that we can’t listen in, that we don’t want to engage in gossip. We have to say it loud and clear or the crime we commit shines a loathsome light on our hearts. Who wants that on your soul when you know God is watching? 

Rabbi Levi Yizhak taught, “The words we use to pray can elevate the words we use when we are not praying." Imagine, uttering such high and elevated ideas in prayer, only to turn around and denigrate another soul with crass and mean spirited words. From the same mouth, how wrong is that?  Gossip is the language of the mean-spirited. Don’t listen, don’t participate, don’t spread that disease, for what we all know to be true is that the one who gossips is merely showing the world what the inside of their own soul looks like. 

I have to tell you that Ms. Judy had a deep and meaningful conversation with the littlest children about La Shon Hara, and every single child in her class shared feelings and experiences of being gossiped about. These are 5, 6 and 7 year olds. They all had much to say about being hurt by words. 

Every child in my class did the same. We could have spent a week just letting the children talk about all of their feelings and experiences about La Shon Hara, every child knew what this topic was and knew that it was an important moral issue. They intuitively knew.

And, I heard that the parents and Grandparents who are themselves given the texts and asked to study, they also had a very meaningful and honest exchange about La Shon Hara. 

This disease hurts everyone. How beautiful to see our entire school so deeply dedicated to learning, sharing and trying to be the very best people they can be.  In our little school, we talk about the realness of life, the good and the bad. It’s a beautiful safe space.
Please remember that this coming Shabbat, Friday the 11 th , we have a Pre-neg, that means we meet at 5:30 and we have wine and cheese and visiting for an hour before services begin at 6:30 . Thank you to all who have joyfully supported our 6:30 service. I look forward to the time when sharing a Shabbat meal together following services will be commonplace for our community. Shabbat is such a beautiful blessing and the way our tradition has honored it, is so very worth our emulation. The 6:30 service is a great beginning.
We had a wonderful class today with our monthly Lunch and Learn, and Nikki and Noa served up a delicious lunch while we studied about the never-ending attempt to define Judaism.
Thank you to all who came to cook, serve and spread some kindness to the Good Shepherd center/ As always it was wonderful bringing some love to a needy corner of our world. Thank you!

I know that each one of us can easily relate to a time when we were the one gossiped about. We all know how deeply it cuts into our hearts and how difficult it is to mend the damage done. As your Rabbi, I too experience this kind of hurt when gossip is spread about me. This issue of gossip is so profoundly important to me because there is no chance of building a strong, united and loving community if gossip has its way. 

La Shon Hara erodes the foundation of decency and is dangerous for our world; and it is especially heart-wrenching when it happens in a House of God. Please, please heed the tradition, its wisdom is of a Godly nature. If you have something to say about someone, please speak face to face with that person. I for one, have an open door policy, everyone is welcomed to come in and share with me your concerns.

To be fair and decent people, we must not either speak ill of someone who isn’t there to defend themselves, nor are we to sit and listen. So when someone begins to gossip in front of you, simply say, “Why are you telling me this?” And then pray that they stop, but if they don’t, make sure you do!
Last week, I had the great pleasure to catch an early morning flight up to New York City for the day to visit Elaine Lathrup who is in the ICU at New York Presbyterian Hospital. We were able to spend three hours visiting, laughing, sharing philosophical quandaries and enjoying each other’s company.  Her body has gone through a lot, yet her spirit was bold and funny and strong. It was so very good to see and to feel her drive to get well.

I headed back to the airport and many hours and planes later, I made it back home by 10:30 PM. It was a long day but a wonderful day. Please enjoy the pictures. Elaine gave me the thumbs up to share the pictures with all of you. I pray for her continued strength.
Let’s continue to strive for greatness with our speech. It is the foundation of any healthy and unified community. When you hear someone begin to gossip, ask them, simply,  “Why are you telling me this?” They will stop.  We pray three times a day at the end of the Amidah, please God, strengthen me to curb my words, to insure that I don’t hurt anyone by carless speech. Help me God to use my words to elevate our world, not to demean it. What a great lesson for all of us this week.

באהבה ושלום

Shabbat Shalom to all!
הרב אלישבע בת דוד ודבורה
Rabbi Julie Kozlow
(910) 762-1117 ~ B'nai Israel phone