Exploring the Hebrew Roots of the Faith
* This is our best guess based on Biblical chronology. (See Issue 97-2 for details.)
~ Featured Inside ~
Jerusalem: A Cup of Trembling
A View From
Peace be unto you in the name of our Father in heaven and His fully righteous son, Yeshua HaMashiach. May you be so blessed as to be able to dwell in peace with your brothers and sisters in the Faith, as well as all people with whom you come into contact.
~ A New Year ~
According to the Gregorian Calendar,
which this country uses, another new year has recently begun. The
news media takes this opportunity to reflect on the events of the
past year and look forward to what they expect to happen in the
near future. Usually, they predict the coming year to be much
like the past one, emphasizing the positive and ignoring the
negative. Meanwhile, the tabloids take the opposite tack, using
the new year as a opportunity to proclaim prophecies of disaster
for the country and the world..
As the year 2000 approaches more and more people are coming down with millennium fever. The symptoms vary, depending on the belief system of the individual. Some see it as an opportunity to begin a bright new era in which every dream of man will eventually be fulfilled in a material way. Others see it as a scary time when the world, as we know it, will come to an end. Many Believers look at it as very possibly being the time when the Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus) will return to set up His kingdom over all the earth.
Whatever your about what the impending new millennium might be, it is always wise to watch and listen to what is going on in the world so that you will not be taken by surprise by whatever events might eventually transpire.
But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. ... But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. (I Thess. 5:1-2,4-6)
Watch, be sober, and stay awake spiritually. Stay close to our heavenly Father in both prayer and study, while doing a righteous work of love toward others with obedience toward God. And above all:
Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."
Where will you stand if you are found worthy? In heaven at the very marriage ceremony of the Lamb of God, the Wedding of the Messiah, for you will be a part of the Bride of Messiah.
~ Footsteps Of ~
~ The Messiah ~
~ Conference ~
In late December we
were blessed to be participants in a Bible Study conference held
at the Western Hills Lodge in Wagonner, Oklahoma. The feedback
that we have received has been very positive. The conference,
attended by over three hundred people, was sponsored by the East
Texas Fellowship, a small group of dedicated home fellowship
Believers. We would like to extend a hearty thank you and
congratulations to the men and women who organized and sponsored
this event. They have proven that it does not require a big
church organization to sponsor an event of this type and
magnitude. What it does require is a dedication of physical and
spiritual effort, adequate funding, and especially, the blessing
of the Almighty.
The invited speakers provided the attendees with a balanced cross section of approaches to the theme of the conference. Out of a total of sixteen sessions, seven were devoted to issues that might be considered as concerning the Hebrew (or Jewish) roots of the faith. The other nine ranged from a three part examination of the current state of the Churches of God, to a refutation of the Bible codes that are thought by some to be found in the Torah. While the speakers did not agree in every detail about how certain aspects of the scriptures should be interpreted, a panel discussion seemed to help all to understand that our goals are common, (that is to welcome the return of Messiah, Yeshua and the establishment of the Kingdom of God upon earth) though our paths to reaching that goal may vary to some degree.
In the Churches of God, this divergence of viewpoint is a relatively new phenomenon, resulting in many people wanting to view with clarity, the beliefs, background and customs that were extant in the time of Yeshua HaMashiach. For some, this explosion of deeper understanding, resulting from a different way of looking at scripture, is somewhat frightening. For many others it is liberating.
However, with freedom comes individual responsibility. Just as the Bereans ...eagerly welcomed the message, checking the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) every day to see if the things Shaul (Paul) was saying were true. (Acts 17:10-1l JNT*), so also we must check out every new understanding that is floated. Some ideas can be discarded quickly because they obviously contradict scripture (the only valid and reliable test). However, other teachings must be examined in greater depth to see if they can stand the test of truth. When any particular view of scripture stands out as a pillar of truth, able to further enlighten the minds and hearts of Believers, then (and only then) does it become necessary to embrace it, follow it and teach it as such. Some new understandings may be difficult to accept, especially if they require us to be further set apart from the general society. But take heart, for we are called to be set apart, the called out ones, "...rightly dividing the word of truth. (II Tim. 2:15)
[* Jewish New Testament]
Do not believe everything you read and hear, but:
Test all things; (and) hold fast what is good. (I Thess. 5:21)
Check it out for yourself. Then if it rings true, and does not contradict scripture, hold fast to it, remembering that:
... those who are called, chosen and faithful will overcome along with him."
(Rev. 17:l4 JNT)
~ This Issue ~
In our last issue we explored the
relationship that sin had with the Old Testament disease of
leprosy. In this issue we will focus on one particular sin, that
of speaking evil of other people. In Hebrew it is called Lashon
Hara, and it is perhaps the most prevalent sin that exists within
the Bride of Messiah. So, in a continuing effort to help prepare
the Bride for her wedding, we will examine in detail just what
constitutes lashon hara and what we must do to eliminate it from
In addition, with Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread just around the corner, we take a look at the importance of the fifty day period for Counting the Omer. A companion arc tide, The Starting Point, reveals why we believe that the festival of Shavuot (Pentecost) should always be celebrated on the first day of the week.
In our last issue we examined the so-called Bible Codes or Torah Codes that are creating quite a stir in the general public, as a result of the publication of a number of books on the subject. Due to space limitations, Part II of that article will be carried in our next issue.
Our regular features round out this first issue of 1998.
~ Tape Offer ~
Once again we are
offering two audio tapes to those who want and request them. (We
do not have an automatic tape mailing program.)
The first tape is a continuation of the new series, The Early Church. It covers the crucial Jerusalem Conference, which defined the basis for fellowship between Jew and Gentile in the fledgling Church.
Our second tape, entitled; Pentecost; A Day of Revelation, addresses some key issues pertaining to the festival of Shavuot or Pentecost which is speedily approaching.
If you wish to receive either or both of these tapes, and/or other materials, please complete and return the Tape Offer Form, or the Materials Order Form, and be sure to include your name and address.
We pray that you will find this issue, and the taped messages, useful in your spiritual walk with our Father in Heaven, and with His Son, our Husband and Saviour, Yeshua HaMashiach.
May the peace of God, be with you always,
Dean & Susan Wheelock
| Hebrew Roots
is supported entirely by the prayers and freewill
donations of its subscribers. It is published
several times a year by Dean & Susan Wheelock.
Subscriptions are free (based on availability of funds)
to anyone who sincerely desires to "...grow
in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus
(II Pet. 3:18)
Those wishing to assist financially in this teaching ministry can do so by sending a check or money order, payable in US funds, to:
Copyright © March, 1998
Preparing the Bride:
Do you desire life? Would you like to see many good days? Of course you would. Everyone wants to live a good life, and there is a way to do it no matter what may be your age, gender, health, financial status or position in life.
Who is the man who desires life,
And loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking guile.
Depart from evil, and do good;
Seek peace, and pursue it.
The way to achieve the good life is really very simple. However, that does not mean it is easy. In fact, one of the chief requirements for reaching the good life is that we bring into submission that member of our body which is most difficult to control; our tongue. To do this means that we must also learn to control another part of our body, our mind, for our tongue only speaks what is in our mind and heart. As Yeshua said:
Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
Just how can we bring our mind (and
tongue) under control? Well, take heart, for if you are one of
those people who truly believes in the Creator God (the God of
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), and who looks to the Scriptures for
guidance; and if you are diligently seeking to follow the
instructions found in the Torah, then you are already
tuned into the manner of living that produces the good
In addition to learning to follow the Torah, one who desires life must also allow themselves to be led by the Ruach HaKodesh (Rue-ahk Hah Kohdesh = The Holy Spirit). For the Ruach (Spirit) will always lead us in a way of life that is in total harmony with the Torah, and will help us to manifest righteous characteristics in our lives. These characteristics are likened in Scripture to good fruit:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control Against such there is no Law.
And those who are Christs have crucified the flesh with its passions arid desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
While living the good life may not be easy, it really is very clear and quite simple what we must do to achieve it. If we truly are Believers in, and followers of, Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah), then we will desire to live righteously before the Father, just as He did. The Apostle Paul (Shaul) wrote of his struggle with sin:
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.
"O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
There are usually many changes that Believers must make in order to bring their life into compliance with the instructions found in the Torah. Such changes may involve things like ridding our lives of idols, cleaning up our speech habits, and learning to be truthful and kind. These (and many others) are very real and necessary areas where change must be made, as Shaul made clear when he wrote to the Thessalonians:
"Therefore brothers, just as you learned from us how you had to live in order to please God, and just as you are living this way now, we ask you -- indeed, united with the Lord Yeshua, we urge you -- to keep doing so more and more. What God wants is that you be holy... For God did not call us to live an unclean life but a holy one.
(I Thess. 4:1-3,7JNT)
However, there is one area which
often does not get changed along with the others. That has to do
with the manner in which we talk about other people. It appears
that Shaul also addressed this issue as he continued his letter
to the Thessalonians:
"Concerning love for the brothers we do not need to write you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other; and you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do it even more.
"Also, make it your ambition to live quietly, to mind your own business and to earn your living by your own efforts -- just as we told you. Then your daily life will gain the respect of outsiders, and you will not be dependent on anyone.
(I Thess. 4:9-12 JNT)
The apostle Peter, also addressed this issue:
"Therefore, laying aside all malice, all guile, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
(I Pet. 2:1-3)
~ Sin and Leprosy ~
The 97-5 issue of Hebrew Roots
contained an article entitled; Sin and Leprosy. In it we
discussed the ten sins which tradition and scripture say were
punishable (in the days of the Tabernacle and the Temple) by the
disease of leprosy. While God does not currently punish sinners
through the agency of physical leprosy, it is our contention that
sin does manifest itself today in the form of spiritual
leprosy, and that the Bride of Messiah (the church of
called out ones) is currently in a spiritually leprous state due
to the sins which still beset her, especially the sin of speaking
evil of others. This may be one of the primary reasons why the
spiritual gifts found in Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12 are so
lacking in todays church. One of the main objectives of Hebrew
Roots is to assist the Bride in identifying those areas in
which she has need for spiritual cleansing, so she can properly
prepare for her soon coming wedding to her long awaited Messiah, Yeshua.
With this in mind we will now zero in on the one specific sin (of the ten mentioned in the previous article) which is said to have been always punishable by leprosy during Bible times.
~ Lashon Hara ~
The sin in question is called, in Hebrew, Lashon Hara (Lah-shown Hah-rah = the evil tongue). It is said that if a person can overcome the carnal tendency to speak lashon hara it proves that he is able to control all of his other sinful appetites, for the tongue is the most difficult of all body members to control and is the quickest to rise up in a sinful manner.
Whoever guards his mouth and tongue
Keeps his soul from troubles.
While the scriptures abound with passages and verses that warn us about the tendency of the tongue to speak evil and get us into trouble, they also tell us that if a person can control the tongue, so that he only speaks good, his speech can become a veritable tree of life to him.
A wholesome tongue is a tree of life,
But perverseness in it
breaks the spirit.
The tongue then, is a most powerful
weapon that can be used for either good or for evil. Since the
Bride of Messiah still resides in the home (this world) of her
evil former father (HaSatan = Satan the Devil), she is
still prone to use her tongue in the evil manner she learned
before she became betrothed to her Husband, Yeshua.
However, now that the Bride has been brought into the family of HaShem
(Hah Shem = the name, or YHVH) , she should
no longer be using her tongue in the old evil way, even though
she still resides in this evil world among unconverted people.
It was James, the half brother of Yeshua (his real name was Yacov or Jacob), who made the definitive scriptural statement about the difficulties encountered when dealing with the tongue.
"For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses mouths, that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at the ships, although they are so large and are driven of fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.
"Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. Behold, how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.
"For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
"Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring can yield both salt water and fresh. (James 3:2-12)
James is telling us that our tongues can be used for either good or evil, but should not be used for both. Therefore, when one does succumb to speaking evil, those words, by nature, negate all the good that may have been previously spoken. Just as the murderer is powerless to bring his victim back to life, so also the one who murders with his tongue can never erase the loveless words that were spoken, or resurrect the righteous reputation that he has maimed or destroyed.
~ What Is Lashon Hara? ~
It is easy to give a general definition of lashon hara by saying that it is speaking evil with the tongue. But the truth of the matter is that lashon tiara is more than just speaking evil. In actual fact, lashon hara is speaking anything (including truth) that will bring any type of hurt or loss to another person.
To fully understand this concept it is necessary to begin with a different word and concept. That word is mitzvah (meets-vah), and it literally means commandment. Abraham was promised that his descendants would be like the stars of the heavens:
...because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge (mishmereth), My commandments (mitzvah), My statutes (chukaw), and My laws (torah).
It is significant to note that HaShem (YHVH) did not use the word mitzvah (or mitzvoth = plural form) in scripture to describe the Ten Commandments. There, the Hebrew word translated as commandments is actually the word davar (dah-vahr), and literally means a word. Thus, in English it would be more correct to call the Ten Commandments the Ten Words. This is how they are known in the Hebrew world.
"...And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments (davar = words)."
Mitzvah implies more than just commandments. It also carries the connotation of doing good deeds. Thus, when a person observes a scriptural commandment he is also doing a good deed. Likewise, when a person performs a good deed he is, in some way, fulfilling a commandment. In Hebrew thought, good deeds and commandments are inseparable. It is by performing mitzvoth that we build spiritual muscle, for they can be likened to spiritual exercise. The more mitzvoth we perform today, the stronger we will become spiritually, and as a result we will be able to perform even more mitzvoth tomorrow.
Our focus then, in preparing the Bride for the wedding, is to be continually performing spiritual exercise. By so doing, we build our spiritual character and become clothed in righteousness, the very
garment which the Bride is to wear for her wedding to Messiah, Yeshua.
"Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints."
It is said that merely by guarding
our speech one can perform up to thirty-one different mitzvoth
(commandments or good deeds). What a marvelous way to
condition ourselves spiritually while preparing for the wedding.
The Jewish sages have developed a very complete teaching about what constitutes lashon hara. It is part of Jewish halacha (hah-lah-cah) or traditional law, and it literally means; the way one walks. In other words, halacha is a way of life, based primarily on the Scriptures. Shaul (the apostle Paul) taught halacha that was central to the Believing community.
"But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets."
An important question with which every modern Believer must deal is this: How did the halacha or Way taught be Shaul differ from the halacha or Way that was taught in the Jewish synagogues of that day? We all know that the chief difference was their belief that Yeshua was the promised Mashiach (Messiah) and that He had been crucified and resurrected from the dead. In addition, there were some differences in the interpretation of the oral traditions. But let us give Shaul the privilege of answering this question himself:
"And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death. (Acts 28:17-18)
Notice that Shaul is not
speaking to the Believing community in this passage, but to the
Jewish Rabbis of the Roman synagogues. He denies having ever done
anything contrary to ..she customs of our fathers...
Was Paul a liar? I think not.
While Believers are definitely not under the rule of modern Jewish halacha, it is self evident from studying their teachings on the matter of lashon hara, that if we were to follow their guidelines we would seldom, if ever, hurt another person through improper speech. The following examples and teachings on lashon hara are taken from halacha.
The two major examples of lashon hara which need to be avoided are:
Some important points to know about lashon hara are:
As you can see, lashon hara is both a very serious sin (punishable by leprosy in the times of the Tabernacle and Temple), and one that has wide acceptance in the world around us. Sadly, we can see that most of what passes for news in the modern media is nothing more than lashon hara on an international scale.
~ Willing to Be Shamed ~
Sometimes people speak lashon hara in order to protect themselves from being ridiculed by others, and not primarily for the purpose of putting down another person. According to the traditions associated with lashon hara this too is unacceptable. One may not speak lashon hara:
In other words, it is a mitzvah to allow people to think poorly of you, rather than for you to bring shame or ridicule upon another person, even if they have done something wrong. It is far better to suffer the arrows of shame for another person rather than put them to shame, especially if that person is a brother or sister in the Faith.
It is written:
"A friend loves at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity.
So, if we are a mature
brother/sister in Messiah, we will even suffer shame in
anothers place. It in a way that puts some one down, but it
is even worse if what one says creates a bad name for another
PLEASE REMEMBER: IF THE WORDS YOU SPEAK HURT ANOTHER PERSON IN ANY WAY, YOU HAVE JUST SPOKEN LASHON HARA.
Consider the following statement which I once heard spoken: The book he has written is really quite good for a person with an IQ of 80.
Now if the author in question actually had an IQ of 80, then the remark could conceivably be taken as a compliment. But it was obvious to everyone who heard the statement that it was meant as a put down, even though the comment was spoken in a joking manner. Although the statement did not inflict physical or monetary damage on the other person, it was still a case of lashon hara, for it was belittling, and could very well have inflicted emotional (and quite possibly psychological) hurt upon the other person.
~ Listening to Lashon Hara ~
Not only is it wrong to speak lashon
hara, it is also a sin to listen to it. If the speaker
had no audience for his hurtful words he would have to quit
speaking them. A good principle to follow is this: ANYTH1NG THAT
IS FORBIDDEN TO SAY IS ALSO FORBIDDEN TO HEAR. Even if the lashon
hara being spoken is true, you are not to listen to it
because it may cause you to lower your opinion of the person
about whom it is being spoken.
Sometimes it is very difficult to refrain from hearing lashon hara due to a particular circumstance in which you find yourself. In such a case you may reject what you are hearing as untrue on the basis of a number of points:
In circumstances where you are unable to refrain from hearing Lashon hara, it is best to give the object of the story the benefit of the doubt.
"You shall do no injustice in judgment. ... But in righteousness you shall judge your neighbor."
Remember, the way you judge others is the way in which HaShem (YHVH) will judge you. If you wish to be given the benefit of the doubt, then you need to give others the benefit of the doubt when lashon hara about them comes up in your presence.
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you."
~ Scriptural Examples ~
~ Of Lashon Hara ~
There are a great many examples of lashon
hara in the scriptures. The following is a sampling,
given to help the reader to more fully understand what
constitutes lashon hara and some possible
consequences for speaking or accepting it.
The very first case of lashon hara is found recorded in the opening chapters of Genesis, when the serpent confronted Eve in the Garden of Eden. In the course of their conversation the serpent casually asked Eve:
"Has God indeed said, "You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?""
This statement by itself does not
necessarily constitute lashon hara, but because
of what the serpent is trying to accomplish, it probably does
already fall into that category. Perhaps it was accompanied by a
sarcastic tone of voice, or the all-knowing raising of the
eyebrows. Intent is often a key element when one is called upon
to discern whether something that has been spoken is actually lashon
hara or not.
Eve answers the serpent innocently and truthfully.
"And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said,
"You shall not eat it, nor touch it, least you die.""
Some have thought that Eve was the
one who embellished HaShems original command,
which did not include the part about not touching the
fruit. However, Jewish tradition teaches that Adam was in fact
the one who added that part to the command. It is the very first
example of a fence around the law.
Now comes the first verifiable case of lashon hara. The serpent tells an absolute lie about the Creator God, casting doubt in Eves mind about His veracity and causing her to have a lowered opinion of Him.
"And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
The result of this first act of lashon
hara was the entrance of death into the world.
However, two more examples of lashon hara follow right on the heels of the first. When Adam is confronted by God about his eating of the fruit he does not accept the blame (and shame) for doing it, but rather tries to place the blame upon his wife, Eve by also speaking lashon hara.
"Then the man said, The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate."
Even though this was a true
statement, according to the principles of lashon hara
Adam should have accepted full responsibility and not blamed Eve
for his own personal sin.
Likewise, the woman, when questioned, spoke lashon hara by placing the blame on the serpent.
"And the LORD God said to the woman, What is this you have done? And the woman said, The serpent deceived me, and I ate."
The words of the serpent were the
initiating cause for the action taken by Eve, and subsequently by
Adam, and that action led to the necessity for all of us (their
descendants) to die the first death. If it were not for the
beautiful plan of redemption, fulfilled for us by our Husband, Yeshua
HaMashiach, we would all come to death with absolutely
no hope, and all because of lashon hara, for without that first
act, there would have been no temptation and therefore no death.
For his act of lashon hara, the serpent is said to have incurred the punishment of leprosy. The circles on the snakes body are, according to Jewish thought, signs of the leprosy that he carries. According to tradition, the serpent will never be healed of his leprosy, even during the Messianic kingdom. Also, he is cut off from society and must live outside the camp as an unclean thing.
~ Even Great Men Sometimes ~
~ Speak Lashon Hara ~
To emphasize the fact that it is extremely easy to let Lashon hara pass through ones lips, HaShem (YHVH) allowed some of the leading Biblical figures to have their lashon hara recorded so that we might learn from their errors.
"This is the genealogy of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. And the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his fathers wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father."
Joseph (Yosef = Yoh-sehf)
is considered to have been guilty of speaking lashon hara
about four of his brothers. Even though it is quite probable they
were doing some things that they should not have been doing,
unless their acts were such that in some way would jeopardize
other people or the family as a whole, Yosef should have
kept quite about it. In other words, lashon hara
forbids being a tattletale.
As a result of his speaking lashon hara about his brothers, Yosef was cut off from his people. Needless to say, the later act of his brothers in taking him prisoner, and the plan of some of them to actually murder him, were not acts of men who were operating in the realm of righteousness. However, it is highly unlikely that it would have gone to this extreme if Yosef had not brought evil reports about them to their father.
Of course, we learn later that HaShem permitted all of this to happen so that a way could be prepared for the children of Israel to be saved from the future famine, and be given a comfortable place to live in Egypt while Yacov (Yah-cove = Jacob) and his twelve sons were still alive. Often times HaShem uses mistakes in our lives to teach us valuable lessons.
While Yosef was not stricken with leprosy for his lashon hara, he was given the punishment of a leper. He was cut off from his family and had to live outside the camp of Israel for many years (including prison time), before finally being reunited with them.
Moshe (Moh-shay = Moses) too had a problem with lashon hara. It occurred when he was confronted by HaShem (YHVH) at the burning bush.
"Then Moses answered and said, But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, "The LORD has not appeared to you.""
This statement by Moshe is considered to be lashon hara against both HaShem and the children Israel. It is lashon hara against HaShem because Moshe is suggesting that He is unable to turn the hearts of the people so that they will listen to Moshe. It is lashon hara against the children of Israel because Moshe is implying that they will not listen to him, even though he is being sent by HaShem.
The result of this encounter is that HaShem caused Moshe's hand to become leprous. True it did not last, for as soon as Moshe put his hand back inside of his clothes the leprosy disappeared. Nevertheless, the symbolism of leprosy was there, and it was directly connected to the speaking of lashon hara. Likewise, when any Israelite spoke lashon hara, by questioning Moshe's divine commission, Moshe was to show them the leprous hand so they would both hear and fear what HaShem was doing through him, and understand that they needed to support Moshe lest they too should become leprous.
~ A Man After Gods ~
~ Own Heart ~
Of all the people mentioned in the
Scriptures, King David (pronounced Dah-veed in Hebrew)
seems to stand out as the man selected to give us both very good
and very bad examples. It should come as no surprise that David
also had at least one problem concerning lashon hara.
On the other hand, David also set us a good example when he
refused to act against an individual that was speaking lashon
hara against him personally.
The first story revolves around the lame grandson of King Saul, Mephibosheth, whom David had befriended after Saul and Jonathan (Mephibosheths father) had been slain and David had become King. David restored all of King Sauls land and belongings to Mephibosheth and invited him to dine at the Kings table on a regular basis. Mephibosheth had a servant named Ziba whom David appointed as overseer of all Mephibosheths belongings. However there was one problem, Ziba was greedy and wanted the land and possessions for himself.
Ziba found his opportunity when King David was forced to flee Jerusalem during the rebellion of his son Absalom. As David was making his escape he ran into Ziba on the east side of the Mount of Olives.
"When David was a little past the top of the mountain, there was Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth, who met him with a couple of saddled donkeys, and on them two hundred loaves of bread, one hundred clusters of raisins, one hundred summer fruits, and a skin of wine.
"And the king said, What do you mean to do with these? So Ziba said, The donkeys are for the kings household to ride on, the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat, and the wine for those who are faint in the wilderness to drink.
"Then the king said, And where is your masters son? (meaning Mephibosheth). And Ziba said to the king, Indeed he is staying in Jerusalem, for he said, Today the house of Israel will restore the kingdom of my father to me."
"So the king said to Ziba, Here, all that belongs to Mephibosheth is yours. And Ziba said, I humbly bow before you, that I may find favor in your sight, my lord, O king!"
(II Sam. 16:1-4)
Here David made the mistake of
listening to and believing lashon hara. The
truth of the matter was that Mephibosheth had wanted to join
David but had stayed in Jerusalem be-cause he was deceived by his
trusted servant Ziba.
But the story does not end here. After the rebellion was over and David returns to Jerusalem, Mephibosheth comes out to meet him.
"Now Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king. And he had not cared for his feet, nor trimmed his mustache, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came back in peace. So it was, when he had come to Jerusalem to meet the king, that the king said to him, Why did you not go with me, Mephibosheth?
"And he answered, My lord, 0 king, my servant deceived me. For your servant said, "I will saddle a donkey for myself, that I may ride on it and go to the king," because your servant is lame And he has slandered your servant to my lord the king, but my lord the king is like the angel of God. Therefore do what is good in your eyes. For all of my fathers house were but dead men before my lord the king. Yet you set your servant among those who eat at your own table. Therefore what right have I still to cry out anymore to the king?
"So the king said to him, Why do you speak anymore of your matters? I have said, "You and Ziba divide the land"
"Then Mephibosheth said to the king, Rather, let him take it all, inasmuch as my lord the king has come back in peace to his own house."
(II Sam. 19:24-30)
One can feel the great disappointment in Mephibosheths voice as he realizes that King David had actually believed the evil report (lashon hara) that Ziba had brought concerning him. According to Jewish tradition, it was at this very point (when David divided Mephibosheths possessions with Ziba) that HaShem first decided to divide the kingdom of Israel. Volume III of The Midrash Says, by Rabbi Moshe Weissman, states on page 154:
"When David pronounced the words You and Tziva (Ziba) shall divide the estate, a Heavenly Voice proclaimed, Your kingdom shall be divided..."
We just never know what impact speaking or listening to lashon hara might have on other people.
~ David Refuses to Retaliate ~
The second example concerning David and lashon hara is one from which all of us can learn. Here we find David being vilified by one of his subjects, and yet he refuses to allow a hand to be raised against him. Interestingly enough, this event takes place on the very same journey as the one just mentioned. David is fleeing Jerusalem because of the rebellion of his son Absalom. In fact, it takes place immediately following Davids encounter with Ziba, when he first listened to the lashon hara against Mephibosheth.
"Now when King David came to Bahurim, there was a man from the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei the son of Gera, coming from there. He came out, cursing continuously as he came. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David. And all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left.
"Also Shimei said thus when he cursed: Come out! Come out! You bloodthirsty man, you rogue! The LORD has brought upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the LORD has delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom your son. So now you are caught in your own evil, because you are a bloodthirsty man!
"Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Please, let me go over and take off his head!
"And the king said, What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? So let him curse, because the LORD has said to him "Curse David." Who then shall say, "Why have you done so?"
"And David said to Abishai and all his servants, See how my son who came from my own body seeks my life. How much more now may this Benjamite? Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the LORD has ordered him. It may be that the LORD will look on my affliction, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing this day.
"And as David and his men went along the road, Shimei went along the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went, threw stones at him and kicked up dust."
(II Sam. 16:5-13)
Despite having just listened to and acted upon Zibas lashon hara, David now musters the strength of character which only comes through closeness to HaShem (YHVH). It enabled him to resist the temptation to have Shimei killed, even though David had every right to order it done. As we all know, it is extremely difficult to resist lashing back at someone who is speaking lashon hara against us personally. Usually we feel the need to defend ourselves against such attacks. Yet all of us need to resist this impulse. Yeshua also set this same example for us when He refused to defend Himself before His accusers.
He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;
And like a lamb silent before its shearer,
So He opened not His mouth.
In His humiliation His justice was taken away.
And who will declare His generation?
For His life is taken from the earth."
They accused Yeshua of
blasphemy but He, knowing it was not true, did not try to defend
Himself and let the evil accusation stand. He did this so that He
might bring glory to His Father in heaven through His crucifixion
and resurrection, and the resultant forgiveness of sins.
The result of Davids humility and self control is found in the book of Esther.
"Now in Shushan the citadel there was a certain Jew whose name was Mordecai the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite. Kish had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captives who had been captured with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away.
"And Mordecai had brought up Hadassah, that is Esther, his uncles daughter, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman was lovely and beautiful. When her father and mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter."
This particular Shimei apparently
was a brother to King Saul, whom David had replaced as king of
Israel. No wonder Shimei heaped such derogatory filth upon
Davids head. Yet by letting Shimei go free, David
allowed a genealogy to continue that led to the birth of Mordecai
who, along with his cousin Esther, are looked upon as being
saviors of the Jewish people, when they were dwelling under the
rule of the king of Persia, Ahasuerus. Scripture is silent, but
it is quite possible that Esther too is descended from Shimei.
Truly, the ways of HaShem are awesome. We cannot know, when we speak lashon hara, the impact for evil that it might have on the spiritual well being of another Believer. Our thoughtless words might be the proverbial "straw that broke the camels back," and be the very thing that causes a member of the Bride to tear themselves away from the Body. Likewise, our refusal to accept or speak lashon hara may also be used by HaShem (YHVH) to produce much good further down the line. If we stay close to HaShem and are always desirous of doing His will, He will guide us into the proper manner in which we should respond to others. By keeping ourselves in line with HaShems ways we can allow ourselves to be used for wondrous things.
"0 LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, 0 LORD, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.
(Psalm 139: 1-6)
~ The Talebearer ~
There is another form of evil which
proceeds forth from the mouth of men which is considered to be
even worse than lashon hara. This evil is
called, in Hebrew, Rechilis (Rehkh-he-loose). Its
literal meaning is peddler, like a traveling merchant
selling his wares throughout the countryside.
Rechilus is used to depict someone who goes to a person and tells them what someone else has said about them. In other words, the spreader of rechilus listens to the slander of lashon hara and then reports to the person, who is the object of that slander, what has been said about him. He is a peddler of hurtful tales.
Many times a person tells someone what so and so is saying about them thinking they are doing that person a favor. Nothing could be further from the truth. In actual fact they are slaying that person in the spirit by reporting the slander of others.
The Scriptures warn about this unrighteous act:
"You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD."
The major problem with speaking rechilus is that it causes unnecessary strife between people. This is one of the most unloving things that a person can do to a brother, and it is said to be that which HaShem hates more than anything else.
"These six things the LORD hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren."
~ Selected Scriptures ~
~ Relating to Lashon Hara ~
~ And Rechilus ~
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."
This is the granddaddy of all the scriptures concerning lashon hara. All of the following ones hang upon this great principle of not dealing falsely with you neighbor.
"You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. You shall not follow a crowd to do evil;..."
"Cursed is the one who attacks his neighbor secretly. ..."
"Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor,
Him I will destroy;
The one who has a haughty look and a proud heart,
Him I will not endure."
Few things are more evil than putting your brother to shame by speaking evil of him. It is said that slander kills three: the person slandered, the slanderer, and the person who passes on the slander.
"Take heed in an outbreak of leprosy, that you diligently observe and do according to all that the priests, the Levites, shall teach you; just as I commanded them, so you shall be careful to do."
The thing that the priests and Levites were commanded to teach the people was to follow all the mitzvoth of the Torah. If a person at that time did follow the mitzvoth (commandments) of the priests, they would have avoided leprosy altogether.
"You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shall fear your God; I am the LORD."
It was considered putting a stumbling block before the blind to speak lashon hara about a person. Since the person being spoken about did not know you were maligning him, he is like a deaf or blind man to that fact, since he neither sees nor hears it. Later on, when he does hear it from a talebearer, it could well become a stumblingblock to his own spiritual development.
"You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him."
If you truly have something to say to a person, or about a person, you should do it directly to them in private. To do so is an act of love. Conversely, to speak about the problem to someone else is an act of hated, for it may cause the hearer of your lashon hara to have a diminished opinion of that person.
"You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD."
If you recall that someone refused to grant you a favor, you are considered to be bearing a grudge. However, refusing to grant a favor in return is considered to be vengeance.
"One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established."
If a person truly has committed a sin, then it must be personally known by at least two or three people before any legal action can be taken.
"Keep yourself far from a false matter; ..."
Most lashon hara has enough untruth or half-truths to be classified as a false matter, therefore, it is best to stay far from it.
~ Blessings for Tongue Control ~
On the positive side, if one can learn the difficult task of controlling their tongue, many blessings will come their way.
"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you."
It all begins right here. If you cannot honor your parents you will be unable to honor HaShem (YHVH), who is your primary parent. Also, if you cannot honor both HaShem and your parents, you will be unable to honor your friends and your neighbors, much less your enemies.
"You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD."
Rather than ridiculing the old person, we are commanded to honor them.
"Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."
If you truly love someone you will not speak lashon hara against them, or rechilus to them. This includes people of different nationalities, races and creeds as well.
"And if one of your brethren who dwells by you becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you."
The principle here is to help this person, not talk about his problems.
"The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments (mitzvoth or good deeds) of the LORD your God and walk in His ways."
One of the major good deeds that all of us can begin doing immediately is to stop speaking lashon hara or peddling rechilus. Once you have learned how to avoid speaking lashon hara, there is one more thing that you must do: "...teach them diligently to your children..." (Deut. 6:7)
~ Is It Ever Permissible ~
~ To Speak Lashon Hara ~
~ Or Rechilus? ~
After all of these admonitions not to ever speak lashon
hara or rechilus, the fact of the matter is
there are rare occasions when it is not only allowed, but it is
required to relate a matter about someone to another person.
However, we must all be very careful not to use these exceptions
as an excuse to fall into the habit of speaking lashon hara,
and then try to justify what we have done just because it is
permitted on occasion.
According to Jewish Halacha (Hah-lah-cah = the way one walks) one person you can speak against is a known rasha (rah-shah). A rasha is someone who knows that the Torah forbids something but does it anyway on a deliberate and regular basis. This persons lifestyle indicates that he is in open rebellion against HaShem (YHVH) and His Torah. However, the purpose in speaking lashon hara about such a person is not to hurt him, but rather to bring him to such shame that he will repent of his evil ways and return to HaShem in complete repentance.
However, you still must not speak lashon hara against such a person unless you have personally gone to him first to try and persuade him to change his ways. The only exception to this rule is if the person is in a position that makes it impossible for you to contact him.
In such a case the following guidelines must be followed:
Another case in which it is permissible to speak lashon hara is when someone causes another person physical or psychological pain, steals from someone, embarrasses another person, or damages someones property. If the offending person does not rectify the problem, it is permissible to speak lashon hara about him in order to warn others of possible danger from him.
Again, there are cautions that need to be heeded:
Two other cases where it is not only
permissible but required to speak lashon hara
about another person is if you know something about
someones future mate or business partner, and you are
positive it is not already known by the individual entering into
that relationship. By relating what you know, you may be saving
that person from great emotional trauma or financial loss.
As you can see, there needs to be a lot of prayer involved before any lashon hara is communicated about another person.
~ Did Yeshua Speak ~
~ Lashon Hara? ~
Yeshua had some pretty harsh things to say about some of the practices of the Scribes, Pharisees and lawyers. The question that we, as Believers, must answer is this; did Yeshua actually speak lashon hara, and if He did, was it justified?
"And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. And when the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner."
The question here had to do with ritual hand washing before eating a meal, not with physical cleanliness. Some of the Pharisees contended that every Jew had to perform the ritual handwashing before eating, even though the Torah only commanded it for the Priests. This passage shows us that this particular Pharisee belonged to the School of Shammai, for that was their teaching. The more liberal School of Hillel, did not require ritual handwashing for the ordinary Jew.
"But the Lord said to him, Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you.
"But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
"Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them."
Indeed, this is very strong
language. Although it is being spoken in the privacy of a home,
apparently a fair number of people are present, including some of
Yeshuas own disciples. Therefore, Yeshuas
words should be viewed as a public statement. Is this lashon
In this writers opinion, this is not a case of lashon hara because Yeshua is speaking directly to the people involved. Also, Yeshua did not begin the attack, but rather it began when they questioned him about His lack of ritual observance. Another thing to remember is that Yeshua spoke with authority because He had received His authority from His Father in Heaven. Yeshua knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the spiritual condition of these men.
"For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak."
Today, we Believers do not find ourselves in a similar position. Instead:
"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known."
(I Cor. 13:12)
Truly, if the Apostle Paul (Shaul)
only knew in part, can we claim to see clearly? It is sometimes a
great temptation to attack another religious person or group in
the manner in which Yeshua confronted the Pharisees and the
lawyers. In most cases this is a very great mistake, for most of
us have neither the knowledge nor the authority to do so. If you
ever feel called upon to make a verbal attack on someone
elses religious beliefs or actions, do it only after much
prayer and in an attitude of complete humility.
Yeshua did not speak lashon hara against others, but there was plenty of lashon hara spoken against Him.
"For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, "He has a demon." The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, "Look, a gluttonous man and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!"
"But when the Pharisees heard it they said, This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons."
Both of these are classic examples of lashon hara.
~ Repentance for Lashon Hara ~
Like any other sin, that of lashon
hara can only be forgiven if the perpetrator is willing
to come to complete repentance. In Hebrew, the word that is often
used for repentance is teshuvah (teh-shoe-vah). It
literally means to return. When we fully repent, we
return with all of our heart and mind to our Creator God. The
same is true when repenting for having participated in lashon
hara or rechilus.
Whenever a person participates in lashon hara or rechilus, the sin is against both HaShem (YHVH) and against the person who was the object of the evil talk. The participant sins against HaShem by breaking the various commandments (mitzvoth) that prohibit such behavior. The participant sins against the individual, about whom the lashon hara was spoken, because the speaker has caused their good name to be besmirched.
Repentance before HaShem requires these steps:
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
(I John 1:9)
"Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother."
So there is an obligation on the part of both individuals. However, never go to your brother until you have spent much time in prayer, seeking wisdom.
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him."
~ The Purpose ~
~ For Our Tongues ~
The tongue is a most powerful object. It can be used as a tool to do good, or a weapon to do evil.
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat of its fruit."
The tongue does hold the power of
life and death in many cases. People have actually died because
of what others have said about them. That is why it is so
important to learn to control it even in the smallest of matters.
If a person can control their tongue in every small thing that
comes along, it will be far easier to control during a major
If a person has really come to love another person as himself, he will not harm that person verbally by spreading evil reports about him. Above all, we must learn to never speak lashon hara about another member of the Bride. When one member hurts we all hurt, and if we speak against the Bride, we are in reality speaking against ourselves.
What then is the purpose of the tongue other than to provide the communication necessary to function within our families and society? It truly has a very great purpose, and that is to praise God.
"Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name."
Whenever we get the urge to speak lashon hara about another person, or when someone in our presence begins to speak lashon hara, we need to refocus our thoughts on:
"...whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever, things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely- whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy --meditate on these things."
The result of this practice will be that you will come to find favor with both your Father in heaven and your brother on earth.
~ Summary ~
LASHON HARA IS ANY
SPOKEN OR WRITTEN WORD, OR AN EXPRESSION OF THE BODY, THAT CAUSES
ANOTHER PERSON TO BE HURT IN ANY WAY.
The antidote for lashon hara is to keep our tongues and our pens (and computers) so busy focusing on good things (with praise for HaShem and thanks for our Husband and Saviour, Yeshua HaMashiach), that we do not have time and/or desire to hurt others.
It is a sad commentary on the state of the Bride of Messiah to realize that much lashon hara is being spoken by people who claim to be Believers. All of us have been guilty of this sin, and all of us need to repent for past lashon hara. Equally important, is that each of us make a solid commitment to refrain from speaking evil of others. When that goal is reached we will indeed be blessed more abundantly.
"He who follows righteousness and mercy
Finds life, righteousness and honor."
"Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."
(I Cor. 5:7-8)
And may we all pray as did King David:
"Set a guard, 0 LORD, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips."
"O Lord, open my lips,
And let my mouth declare Your praise."
(Psalm 5 1:15 Tanakh)
"May the words of my mouth and the prayer of my heart be acceptable to You,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer."
~ Sources ~
Greenwald, Yisroel, We Want Life!,
Feidheim Publishers, Jerusalem/New York, 1996.
The Open Bible, The New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1965.
Pliskin, Zelig, Guard Your Tongue, Aish Hatorah Publications, Jerusalem, 1975.
Weissman, Moshe, The Midrash Says, 5 vols. Kenel Yakov Publications, Brooklyn, 1982.
From the Sages:
What is lashon hara?
Lashon hara (gossip or slander) is not necessarily
untruthful. The Torah forbids saying something derogatory
about a person even if it is completely true.