By Shoshana Rosa
This world is about as long lasting as a tower of sand. So when the tide comes, the rains fall, and death comes calling, all we have left is the memory of our exertions. This idea is what Albert Camus would've labeled an absurdity. Rather than embrace the human being's tendency to consider the hopelessness of a senseless world, let our eyes focus instead on the prize: that of a first class ticket in the next world. Here's a clincher: one who ruminates over why G-d gave him life will be less than likely to get busted for wrong doings in the here and now.
In his sefer (book) on shmirat haloshon, the Chofez Chaim tells us that a person who lives with the adage, "I have placed Hashem opposite my eyes always," can add, "Because He is at my right hand, I will not falter" (Psalm 16:8).
This is important to note because resolve is what we need for the words that follow. When you find yourself among a group of gossips and you cannot leave (because you've been assigned a seat next to them on a plane or they're your partners in a school project etc.), your next best option is maintaining a stony silence. Yet if you cannot even get away with that because these prattling fools will consider you a moron for holding your tongue, our sages of blessed memory encourage us with the following: it is better for you to be considered a stupid fool all your life than to spend one hour steeped in sin.
You know those Thoreau types who kick other peoples' opinions in the teeth? Yes, we've got to build some backbone if we are going to let others know that we will not take part in badmouthing other people. Chazal (our sages of blessed memory), lihavdil elef havdalot (one thousand divisions) add, "G-d rewards man according to his efforts" (Ethics of our Fathers 5:23) and "Even one mitzvah (commandment) that is painfully done is worth one hundred mitzvot that are done without any effort."
Not only that but even if you end up giving in and joining the conversation about Freddy's brush with the school bully, Chazal tell us that, still, each moment of self control is worth something! Judaism is not cut from an all or nothing cloth. Everything counts, even good intentions. "Every moment that a person holds himself back from speaking words of loshon hara, he earns himself a taste of the hidden light that even angels are not privy to" (Medrash).