Day 1 – Who Wants Life?
SEFER SEFAS TAMIM – Preface
King David taught: “Which man desires life (chofetz chaim), who loves days
of seeing good? Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking
deceit…” (Tehillim 34:13-14). Therefore, it is only natural that Sefer
Chofetz Chaim, which teaches us how to guard our tongues from the evils of
loshon hora, should be followed by “Sefas Tamim” (”Sincere Speech”) which
contrasts deceit and its punishments with honesty and its rewards. Sefas
Tamim is drawn from many works, especially the classic ethical text Shaarei
Teshuvah (Gates of Repentance) by Rabbeinu Yonah.
The Talmud relates (Avodah Zara 19b) that R’ Alexandri once walked through
the streets announcing, as would a peddler, “Who wants life, who wants
life?” Everyone crowded around him and begged, “Give us life!” He quoted
our verse, “Which man desires life… Guard your tongue from evil and your
lips from speaking deceit…”
What did R’ Alexandri tell the people that they did not already know from
the verse? R’ Eliyahu Meir Bloch explained that one might have thought that
King David’s words are intended only for those who aspire to a life of
utter righteousness. To be a tzaddik, one must avoid gossip and deceit. But
if one does not have such aspirations, then perhaps a bit of gossip or
crookedness is to be expected! R’ Alexandri taught that this is not so.
David is telling every Jew that avoiding loshon hora and dishonesty is the
key to a good life in this world and the Next.
R’ Yissocher Frand relates the following story:
A man came to his Rav with a troubling question. “Rabbi, I don’t
understand. I come from a very distinguished religious family, I am quite
learned and I am meticulous in observing every detail of halachah. Now, Mr.
________, as you well know, is a simple man from a simple family. He keeps
what he knows, which is not very much.
“Yet I have not merited to see nachas from my children, while every one of
Mr. ________’s children is a gem. Can you explain this?”
“Are you prepared to hear something painful?” asked the rav.
“Yes,” the man replied.
“You entered the business world with nothing and worked very hard to be
successful. But your approach was not at all straight; you would bend the
rules to accomplish your goals, you could say one thing and mean another.
That’s what your children saw, that nothing really means anything.
“However, Mr. __________, as you said, is a simple man – simple and
sincere. I am certain that he has never told a lie willfully. That is what
his children saw and that is why they are the way they are.”
Yes, honesty and sincerity are keys to a good life in both worlds.