30 June 2006

Jive talkin'

I'm much better today. My friends in the computer reminded me that I don't hate the whole world, just a few people who inhabit it. Even if it's not really their fault since they have no idea that being fertile and talking about it was what they did wrong (well, most of them, anyway).

But to take my mind off my TroublesTM, I turned to the one thing guaranteed to take away the pain: TV!

I watched an episode of Shalom in the Home with ubiquitous Orthodox Jewish tv personality, Shmuley Boteach, aka Rabbi to the Stars. He takes families with TroublesTM, tells them what they're doing wrong and shows them how to fix it. Actually, I think the two psychiatrists that consult on the show tell him what to tell them.

Anyway, so me-n-Hubby are sitting there watching the show, commenting on the fact that Shmuley gives hugs to the women who appear on the show. Obviously, he is not Shomer Negia. Then we started discussing the family that was featured.

In Judaism, there is a concept of Lashon Harah (literally, "evil speech"). It is forbidden to gossip. Whether the gossip is good (Chavie got that promotion!) or bad (Chavie got that promotion by sleeping with her boss), it is not allowed. There are loads of books on the subject, the most famous being "Chofetz Chaim" by Rabbi Israel Meir HaCohen Kagan (who is also known as the Chofetz Chaim). Lashon Harah is such a big no-no that there are websites, classes, lectures, even a foundation dedicated to the topic.

As we're discussing this family, and talking about what a media whore great family facilitator Shmuley is, I suddenly realized that Hubby and I are committing serious Lashon Harah by discussing Shmuley and this family. Shmuley created this show and hosts it, and presumably wants people to watch it. Research has shown that the success of these reality shows is primarily based on the viewer's reaction of superiority. "We're so much better than these people - we don't fight like that; we would never give in to our kids like that; we wouldn't raise our voices like that" etc., etc. And the very nature of holding someone up in public for criticism inspires the public to agree or disagree with that criticism, thereby causing them to discuss that person. Shmuley must know this. Doesn't that mean that this Orthodox Rabbi is not only providing an environment that facilitates and encourages Lashon Harah, but is also profiting from it?

And yes, I realize that this post is also a perfect example of Lashon Harah.


At 1/7/06 12:05 a.m., Blogger Lut C. said...

I'm sorry but that principle just doesn't make any sense to me. What CAN you talk about then? The weather?
Gossip (good and bad) is the basis for social networks.

I'm sure it's because I don't understand all the subtleties involved.

Blogging is allowed as long as you only talk about yourself then? But not about your husband?

At 1/7/06 12:30 a.m., Blogger ms. x said...

And yes, I realize that this post is also a perfect example of Lashon Harah.

Well, as long as you realize it... ; )

Ah, lashon harah...the oft forgotten law. Every shul I have belonged to has rubbed me the wrong way because I just knew that I was being judged and talked about by others. That isn't to say that I haven't met some perfectly lovely people in the Jewish communities I've belonged to, but some people have looked upon me a bit unfavorably due to the fact that I am a ger. In fact, I had two friends (who are very close friends of my husband) who once told me that they held a deep mistrust for me in the years leading up to my conversion. They have since gotten over it, but the idea of never being fully accepted is always in the back of my mind.

Anyway, what I meant to say before I got off on my 'Jewish Identity Crisis' tangent was that lashon harah was actually never really mentioned during any of my conversion lessons. Very odd when you think about it, especially since it is something that can make a convert feel quite uncomfortable in the community.

Also, I was under the impression that lashon harah only applied to speaking negatively about another person. I had no idea that discussion someone in a positive light was forbidden as well.


At 1/7/06 4:38 a.m., Blogger Meg said...

Hmm. I'ts interesting to me when you talk about Jewish culture, because it's something I know very little about. I think Australia is a particularly secular place in general. Our Jewish community is quite small, in the great scheme of things.

At 9/7/06 7:04 a.m., Anonymous Molly said...

I'm pretty sure you are allowed to talk about a person in a positive way! How would we ever share news? (Chavi got that job, Lisa is engaged, Sara had a baby, etc)

The restriction on 'positive' gossip is when the words may sound positive but the intent or tone is not. ("Chavi got that job", with a wink; etc.)

Ms. X - I'm sorry you're having a hard time of it! In my experience, there are some people who are perpetual gossips - or constantly consider themselves superior. As the Rabbi's wife I have two ways of dealing with this when in conversation with these people. a: Deliberately (and often obviously) steer the conversation in a different direction with a neutralizing statement (or not! "Let's not talk about people behind their backs, it makes me uncomfortable".) Besides, from a 'job' point of view, it's simply unacceptable to talk about one congregant with another! Imagine if your doctor did that with his patients!

My other coping mechanism is simply to avoid sitting with them at the kiddush.

Of course, gossip is something that does not only occur in shul, or in social circles based in shul. This is my method in any 4situation and I have gotten many rolled eyes and 'whatever's.


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