Shmirat Haloshon - Words of Gratitude

This post is dedicated in memory of Etya Sarah bat Yitzchak ha-Levi. May it be an aliyah for                                                             her neshama.
Elisheva Maline

© Jorge Royan /
Ice cream parlor. Venice, Italy 2009
If you make a habit out of thanking Hashem (G-d) for every good thing that happens to you, Hashem says, "I'll give you something to thank Me for." On the flip side, if every other word out of your mouth is a complaint, then Hashem says, "I'll give you something to complain about..." 

Loshon hara, also frequently referred to as negative speech, is what the Chofetz Chaim tells us lies at the root of many sins, evil deeds like bloodshed, idol worship and forbidden relations... At first glance, the cause and effect relationship between loose tongues and bad decisions that end in adultery or murder seems dim. What on earth does one have to do with the other? I think the following story will bring clarity as to how the two connect. Earlier in the evening, I stepped into a fairly popular ice cream place to grab a frozen yogurt. At eight o'clock, the place was still hopping. Behind me, a group of friends loudly discussed what they were going to order. As the comments grew steadily more obnoxious, the line inched forward and I could feel my shoulders growing tense. "Man, this line is so slow." "Half an hour for ice cream! (this said two minutes after they showed up)" and "Guys, did you check out these prices? Almost five bucks for a stinkin' two scoops." "Calm down bro'." 
I was ready to explode, "What, do you think you're the only ones waiting in this line? Do you think the rest of us have nowhere to be and have all night to suffer here with you? Can't you see that there's only one person available for customers? Your comments are making the rest of this place uncomfortable - pipe down." I had a lot to grouse about; however, I also knew that once I'd stepped outside and away from them, I would cease to care. So, I sealed my lips and counted to ten three times. 
When I got home, I was still mulling over what happened: what justification can a group of guys offer for making a store full of people uncomfortable? Was it because they were still self entitled, self absorbed youngsters? And if so, what was so wrong about that? "Give the eighteen-year-olds time to grow up," I chided myself. 

The truth is the incident was no longer about what happened but about what triggers these types of situations. I am sure that with every obnoxious form of behavior comes a measure of selfish apathy, and according to the Chofetz Chaim, this is the root cause not only for loshon hara but for worse forms of sin. When we don't care, or to put it nicer, we lack the sensitivity to assess situations properly, we can become capable of even the gravest of sins.   
Nowadays, people constantly preach about having a good attitude. In order to live the best possible life, the Torah, a certain code of morality, positive speech, vocal gratitude in particular, is essential. It isn't just the icing on the cake. 

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