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Kedoshim: Gossip and Bloodshed

“You shall not go as a peddler of gossip in your nation, you shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor, I am Havayah.”  The Chofetz Chaim counts ten types of forbidden speech, from which a person must beware: Evil speech, gossip, falsehood, flattery, foolishness, deception, shaming, pride, contention, and anger.

According to the inner dimension of the Torah, these ten types of forbidden speech parallel the ten sefirot, the ten basic powers of the soul. In short: pride is a blemish in the attribute of Chochmah, wisdom. Anger is a blemish in the attribute of Binah, understanding. Shaming is connected to Da’at, knowledge. Flattery is a flaw in the attribute of Chesed, lovingkindness. Foolishness is a flaw in the attribute of Gevurah, might. Evil speech is the opposite of Tiferet, beauty (condemnation instead of glorification). Contention is a blemish in the attribute of Netzach, victory (negative quarreling). Gossip-peddling is a flaw of Hod, splendor, as we will explain. Falsehood is a blemish in Yesod, Foundation (which is called “the symbol of truth”). And deception is in Malchut, kingdom. We can also add idle talk, which is a flaw in the attribute of the superconscious Crown, to this list.

Let us focus on our verse, “You shall not go as a peddler of gossip in your nation…”  Gossip peddling is connected to walking, which we can see from the similarity of the roots of the two words: Rachil (gossip) peddling and regel (foot, as Rashi explains). Walking is an action that is done by habit (hergel, cognate to regell). It is automatic and instinctive and thus corresponds to the innate dimension of the soul, the lower sefirot of the powers of action – particularly to the sefirah of Hod (which parallels the left leg in the body). The rectified inner, soul dimension of Hod is sincerity as in the verse, “He who walks with sincerity walks with confidence”, with acknowledgement, thanksgiving, and devotion.

Gossip peddling is “counterfeit sincerity”. It is when a person – while figuratively walking, peddles gossip as if he were just innocently talking, with no harm intended.

The flaw of Hod is connected to the spilling of blood. If we re-arrange the letters of Hod ( (הודwe get דוה  (ill or menstrual bleeding). Thus, gossip peddling brings about bloodshed: “You shall not go as a peddler of gossip in your nation, you shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.”   

Master of the Universe, may it be Your will, merciful and gracious God, that you will merit me today and every day to guard my mouth and tongue.”

Photo by saeed karimi on Unsplash

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