As Moshe took his first tour of the Jewish section in Mitzrayim he was appalled at the sight of an Egyptian taskmaster brutally hitting a Jewish worker. Moshe could not tolerate such inhumane behavior so he immediately uttered the Shem HaMeforash and the Egyptian fell dead at once.
Word spread swiftly. There was a young man by the name of Moshe who lived on Pharaoh’s palace that killed an Egyptian taskmaster for having beaten a Jew. The story spread quickly. Imagine how proud the Jews felt that there was finally someone in the king’s palace that did not tolerate the Egyptian brutality. He came to the rescue of a Jew. He had the power to kill with a word alone. What a deadly power he had. The amazing story soon spread far and wide. It was whispered everywhere. Certainly it could cause no harm, or could it?
The next day when Moshe went out, he beheld a sight that was even more frightening. Now it was one Jew hitting another Jew. He immediately stepped up to the aggressor and said, “Rosho, why do you hit your friend?” Yet the answer he received was a shocker!
“You think that you will kill me as you did that Egyptian yesterday?” was the man’s reply.
The Medrash says that Moshe was completely taken aback by this answer. How could this person have known that he had killed an Egyptian unless people were guilty of talebearing? That people had dared repeat what he had done to the Egyptian was absolutely astounding. Didn’t they realize that his life was in grave danger if they would find out what he did? If Jews could be guilty of spreading gossip of such delicate nature, then he was extremely worried that they would chas v’sholom not be worthy of being redeemed from Mitzrayim. The entire redemption of the yidden was put into jeopardy because of those Jews who spread gossip.
One can see at once how dangerous it is to spread gossip. So much so, that it threatens the very redemption of the yidden.
Moshe had often wondered, says the Medrash (see Rashi ), why the Bnai Yisroel were being treated in such a harsh and unfair manner. Why were they being singled out from among all the rest of the nations? Why were they being tortured and mistreated? What had they done wrong to deserve all this terrible Golus? When he heard this obnoxious answer he finally understood the reason for everything. It all of a sudden became clear. They were guilty of spreading gossip. It was rampant. He now realized that their suffering might be justified. He now understood why they had been singled out for so much pain. So much for the Medrash, which is also brought down in Rashi. Yet I feel that this very short Medrash must be read over and over again until its meaning sinks into each and every one of us. Until we clearly comprehend the grave danger of simple gossip!
Certainly nobody thought there was anything wrong or disrespectful in repeating the fascinating story of Moshe killing the Egyptian. It certainly would have made the front pages of today’s newspapers or the 10 o’clock news. The Jews were proud of what Moshe had done. It must have been repeated with great joy and pride. Certainly nobody meant Moshe any harm. Yet just notice how it was now being used against him. It was being used to blackmail him. He would be denounced to the king and be accused of murder.
Little do we realize what a supposedly innocent word can lead to. Sometimes we may even think we are being helpful, yet it may turn out that we are causing the greatest harm. Modern technology has made the spreading of gossip so easy that we have nearly forgotten it’s great danger. The newspapers, fax machines, radio, and telephones all generate business by spreading information. Certainly nobody bothers asking a sheiloh before conveying any information. Will it be harmful? Is it allowed? Does it contain any loshon hora? Perhaps it’s motzi shem ra? We’ve become so calloused to gossip that we don’t even realize its deadly poison. We read articles in newspapers without even batting an eyelash, even though it may be filled from cover to cover with rechilus, loshon hora, and motzi shem ra!
When will we come to our senses and realize the great damage we are doing to ourselves? Isn’t 1900 years in golus enough? Don’t we realize as Moshe so clearly says that all out suffering and pain is on the account of gossip? Don’t we realize that this sin is so deadly that it puts the very geuloh into jeopardy?
It may be true – learning to shut your mouth may not be easy. Learning to shut one’s ears and eyes to what’s happening all around us is certainly a most difficult task. Yet let’s just realize the terrible consequences. Let’s learn from this short Medrash the great danger of spreading gossip. Next time you want to tell your friend something, you’d better think it over very carefully before you say it. Make sure your not guilty of spreading loshon hora or rechilus.
One of the greatest reasons for the spreading of gossip is curiosity. We are curious to know everything that’s happening. We must be kept abreast of the latest developments. In order to combat gossip we must stop being so curious. Sometimes the less we know the better off we’ll be. We have to learn to contain our curiosity. Let’s train our ears not to listen to all foolish nonsense happening around us. Let’s be extremely careful not to listen to any gossip. Only by controlling our curiosity can we hope to eliminate this very grave sin.