It’s interesting that in the parashiyot of the Shabbat right before Lag B’Omer we read the words “v’ahavta l’rayacha kamocha.” Coincidence? Of course not.
We all know there are no coincidences and everything happens for a reason. Rabbi Akiva taught these vital words to us all and we all try to teach it to our children.
But it is difficult to love others as you love yourself, as we can all attest. Some of us still search for the true meaning of that statement and I’m sure we have heard many beautiful divrei Torah explaining how to achieve this lofty level in our everyday lives.
Another interesting point in last week’s parashiyot was the prohibition of speaking lashon ha’ra. Again, the timing was perfect, right before Lag B’Omer. And again, a difficult test for us all. Yet, these two important mitzvot are definitely intertwined. After all, if you love others as you love yourself, you’re not going to talk badly about them, are you? So do the v’ahavta and you should not have a problem with the lashon ha’ra. Oh, if it were only so easy….
My seventh grader came home the other day visibly upset. Luckily, she still likes to tell me everything and let me know that a few friends were talking about another classmate. She tried to change the subject so they would stop talking about the other student. Her plan didn’t work so well and the conversation reverted back to speaking about the other child, so my daughter left her friends and said she had to get something from her locker. “Good,” I said praising her, “you didn’t join in the conversation.” “But, Ima,” she said, “I didn’t stop them, or tell them it was wrong, so I’m also guilty.”
Now, I don’t want you thinking I’m raising angels, or am one myself. Believe me, far from it. I love my kids to pieces and think the world of them, but know that they are totally human as we all are. We do our best to instill in them Torah and mitzvoth; and it is far from easy, and not always successful.
It just so happens that my son decided almost a year ago that our family should learn a lesson a day from the Chofetz Chaim’s halachot on lashon ha’ra. Due to our busy schedules, the lesson a day quickly became lessons during weekends, during our Shabbatot/chagim meals. But, over 150 lessons later, each of us is much more aware that rechilut and lashon ha’ra are two things we need to stay away from, which is why my daughter was upset. She felt she should have stopped the conversation, not merely walked away from it.
Giving your friends a bit of musar is asking a lot of a 13 year old, especially one who still wants to have some friends. She tried it once, and it was yours truly who suggested to her to change the subject, or walk away, but not deal with it head on. Seventh-grade girl drama is tough enough; I don’t need to make it harder for her. Did I give her the right advice? Not so sure. But she really tries to avoid gossipy conversations.
If my daughter had had the z’chut to know her grandfather, z’l, my father, she would have met a man who never spoke ill of other people. He would also have told her to never say you hate anyone. As children he would admonish my sisters and me if we ever used the word “hate.” It’s amazing that my father, who saw so much hate, witnessing antisemitism firsthand growing up in prewar Europe, did not want his children feeling hatred towards anyone.
I began this article by showing how the parashah connects so beautifully with the concepts of Lag B’Omer, but I have to share with you that my father, who lived these values of v’ahavta l’rayacha kamocha and distanced himself from lashon ha’ra, actually passed away on Lag B’Omer.
Coincidence? Of course not. In life there are no coincidences. I remember the awful grief that engulfed me when I lost my dear father, but also at the same time I felt a great sense of comfort that Hashem took him on such a special day, clearly showing my family that my father’s noble character did not go unnoticed by Shamayim.
Dedicated in loving memory of Yehoshua ben Eliya and Miriam, z’l.
Klara has been an educator for the past 30 years in the United States and in Israel. She holds a master’s degree in education and a bachelor’s degree in English literature. Klara teaches at a Jewish day school and has been involved in Jewish day schools in the United States and Canada. For questions or comments, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.