Friday Candle Lighting: 2:02 PM
Shabbat Ends: 7:59 PM
Fit to Print
“This will be the torah (the law) of the Metzora…” (14:2)
It always fascinates me how exactly the same amount of news takes place every day. The proof for this is that every day the newspapers contain exactly the same number of pages.
In 1887, Adolph Ochs, the new proprietor of the New York Times, coined the phrase, “All the news that’s fit to print”, which would be better phrased as “All the news that fits, and if it doesn’t fit, I’m sure we can add a little bit here and there.”
In fact, most of the news that’s printed is far from fit to print. The stock in trade of most newspapers is gossip, be it financial gossip or entertainment biz gossip or political gossip or sports gossip, or just plain gossip gossip.
In Jewish Law, gossip, even when true, is prohibited. No word can emerge from our lips before it is vetted to make sure that it’s ‘fit to print’.
The Chovot HaLevavot explains that when someone speaks slander or gossips, the sins of the victim are transferred to the slanderer, and the Torah and good deeds of the slanderer accrue to the account of the victim. We learn this from a verse in this week’s Torah portion: “This will be the torah (law) of the Metzora on the day of his purification…” This means that on the day he purifies himself and repents for speaking slander, his Torah is considered his own again. However, until he does this, the merit of his Torah belongs to his victim.
In Europe before the war, Rabbi Zvi Dovid, the head of the Krakow Beit Din, fell prey to a tide of untrue rumors and gossip. Disparaging comments could be heard from all quarters, the lies even emanated from the local taverns.
That Shabbat, the Rabbi stood up to address the congregation, “King David said in Tehillim, ‘Those who sit by the gate talk about me and make up drinking songs of drunkards’.” Said Rabbi Zvi Dovid, “ Seemingly, King David is only concerned because ruffians that sit by the gate talk slander about him. Would he be any the happier were great rabbis to talk about him thus?”
The Rabbi concluded, “Actually, were Torah scholars to have spoken badly of King David he would have been able to console himself that all their Torah and good deeds would be transferred to ‘his account.’ In the situation in which I find myself, however, I seriously doubt how much Torah and mitzvahs will accrue to me — so I am losing out in this world and the next.”