shmirat haloshon - Is Self Righteousness an Excuse to Speak Loshon Hara?

This post is dedicated in merit that Hershel ben Etya Sarah have a yeshuah.

By Elisheva Maline

Regarding charity work Oscar Wilde said, "Philanthropic people [often] lose all sense of humanity." The jab is subtle, a pen knife behind the ear for people who fail to be altruistic and settle instead for various forms of pettiness. Have you ever heard of people who use charity events, some of which are notorious for sucking up more money than they raise, for showing off their wealth? Wilde called these expressions of humanitarianism a cover for hypocrisy.

There is further room to add, "[Self] righteous people lack morality." Since they are so empty of anything close to real, they cling to to the comfort of others' shortcomings. The Chofez Chaim spoke out against the self righteous speaker. He has mentioned that one is forbidden to point out another Jew's lack in the perfecting of both positive and negative commandments. But why do people feel any desire to do it? Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch offers an answer. When one's soul is in a state of growth, he is content. However, if he is lazy, he stagnates and becomes restless. Instead of looking for ways forward, he seeks out other peoples' deficiencies so that he might feel better about his own. "Oh, look how little Tod donated to that crippled panhandler! I would've given so much more." After the initial high, though, the speaker discovers that he is still no taller than the person he spoke loshon hara about. If anything, said the Chofetz Chaim, he is lower.

For whatever reason, people with self righteous temperaments tend to be anything but. They display a snotty intolerance for other people's attitudes and opinions simply because they differ from theirs and simultaneously, they pamper themselves on the thought that they can do things better. Here are just a few of the commandments self righteous fools transgress with their obnoxious behavior: haughtiness, acting/pretending be more pious than one actually is and/or embarrassing one's fellow man.   

What is righteousness, after all? The Torah gives the title 'righteous person' to one who carries out the Torah's commandments to the best of his ability, emphasis on 'to the best of his ability,' the effort one puts into his avodas hashem (personal service to G-d); he fulfills the laws pertaining to both G-d and to one's fellow human beings. To illustrate: keeping shabbos, honoring one's parents, charity, using kind words and visiting the sick.

When is it okay to mention another person's laxity in fulfilling the Torah commandments? When one wants to protect himself and/or his children from potentially negative influences. That is all.    

We are working to make our interactions pleasant; loshon hara causes dissention and unhappiness. Rabbi Yehudah Zev Segal says, "It is a law of 'loshon hara physics' that when one talks about the spiritual failings of someone else, that loshon hara is most intense and righteously indignant." A Daily Companion. The psychological factor, of course, is that one who busies himself with other peoples' faults will find no time to fix his own.  

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