Prologue: A peddler of Gossip shall not walk within the nation (19:16) The Chofetz Chaim notes that the word “walking” is utilized in the Torah in this context in order to underscore that the Gossip-monger is liable as soon as s/he goes to seek the “dirt” to gossip about.
What would he say if the person went to seek the information but found nothing? Would that person be guilty of Rechilus?
Rav Aharon Leib Steinman Shlita suggests that the whole understanding of Rechilus is not one of gossiping but rather of the desire to see evil in one’s fellow man. Based on this understanding then as soon as one gets up to go find “the dirt” s/he is already a Rocheil and liable.
The late great Mr. Leo Padalino (my junior high school history professor) used to remind us that history is filled with stories of people who choose to see that which they want to see. This is not only true for historical personalities and historical events, it is true for places as well. Yet, we need to remember and when it comes to our beloved Eretz Yisrael, we must be most careful to see the land and its beauty and not, God forbid, to speak badly about it.
The issue comes to light when we set up our Haftora for this week. It is the subject of this week’s Chaburah entitled:
The Haftorah of Parshas Kedoshim: Call it as you see or as it is
The Talmud (Megillah 25b) tells us of a debate between Rabbi Eliezer and the Chachamim as to whether one may speak poorly about Eretz Yisrael and Yirushalayim in a Haftorah that will be read publicly. The classic case is the text selected to be read as the Haftorah for Parshas Kedoshim known as the Haftorah of Hoda. While Rabbi Eliezer is strict and does not allow such a Haftorah selection, the Chachamim seem to be lenient. It appears that the Halacha follows majority as is common, and perhaps this is why the selection is printed in the Chumashim.
However, the Talmud tells the story of a certain student who read the Haftorah of Hoda in front of Rabbi Eliezer. Rabbi Eliezer told him “Before you speak about the calamities of the land of Israel, check out the ones in your own home.” Clearly, the choice did not work out well for the student.
When the matter is discussed in Shulchan Aruch, the Rema (428:8) notes that Achrei Mos/Kedoshim is the only time that we do not read the Haftorah of the second Parsha of a double Parsha –opting for the Haftorah of Achrei Mos instead. The reason, as applied by the Mishna Berurah (428:26) quoting Rabbi Akiva Eiger is that we do not read of the embarrassment of Yirushalayim. This would also apply if the Haftorah of Achrei Mos were to be delayed due to Rosh Chodesh or Machar Chodesh or Shabbos HaGadol. It should be noted that the Levush disagrees and feels that one should read the regular Kedoshim Haftorah in these cases.
Recently, an article appeared in the journal Koveitz Ohr Yisroel (Sivan 5768) wherein the argument was advanced that perhaps the practice is in error. For the Sefer HaMinhagim supposedly notes that one should not read the Haftorah of Achrei Mos for Kedoshim if it were skipped due to Rosh Chodesh. It is Battel and the Haftorah for Kedoshim should be read as written. The author notes that had the Rema and others seen the writing of the Sefer HaMinhagim whom they cite often, they would not have ruled against him.
In a response, the author’s nephew cites Dayan Fisher (Shut Even Yisroel Viii:138) who notes minhag Yirushalayim was to repeat the Haftorah of Achrei Mos twice(in subsequent weeks) if necessary in order to avoid reading the Haftorah of Hoda. This, he explains is due to the desire to avoid speaking bady of Yirushalayim. It should be noted that Maran HaRav Schachter shlita cites Rav Soloveitchik (Nefesh HaRav p. 92; Shiurei Chumash, Achrei Mos/Kedoshim 5755) as noting that this was Minhag Lita as well. However, it seems that the Mishna Berurah would disagree with this minhag – noting that whenever Halo K’Bnei (Amos 9) was read, then we have no choice but to read the Haftorah of Kedoshim.
Maran HaRav Schachter Shlita (See Divrei HaRav) also noted that reading the Haftorah of Achrei Mos is consistent with the regular Kriyas HaTorah of either Achrei Mos or Kedoshim – both speak about what happens if we do not follow the level of Kedusha that living in the land demands. The Haftorah of Amos 7 provides us with the hope of what can happen when we do.