Category Archives: Good Gossip

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GG The Torchbearer's Job Description

The Torchbearer’s Job Description

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By Chana Nestlebaum

Wanted: One torch-bearer. Looking for a team player who can join several million others to shed light in a dark world.

Illuminate path for others. Shine light on objects and people. Help reveal the good in the world.This is the job description of a Jew: to carry our spark of Divine light into the world and shine it wherever we go. The brighter the light, the brighter is Hashem’s presence. It’s a hard job in a chaotic world. So why would we want to make the job harder for each other?

Little Yaakov loved his second-grade rebbi, Rabbi Davis.“He’s a real true tzaddik!” he told his mother on Friday afternoon as she helped him get ready for Shabbos. “He knows the whole Torah and he does all the mitzvos every day.”That night, at the Shabbos table, Yaakov asked his father, “Wanna hear the story Rebbi told us today? Can I tell it?”

The father was pleased with his little boy’s enthusiasm about yeshivah. He was delighted to see such a warm bond between his son and the rebbi.“Sure, Yaakov, let’s hear it!”Yaakov went on for some time, weaving a “fish tale” of Leviathan proportions. It included numerous unlikely miracles supposedly performed for Rabbi Davis’ ancestor, a shopkeeper in Prague during the times of the Maharal and the Golem. Yaakov’s father was annoyed at the rebbi’s obvious fabrications.

He believed in keeping truth and fiction strictly separate.“That’s a nice story, Yaakov,” said his father. “The only thing is, I’m not sure that the Golem really carried Rabbi Davis’ great great great great grandfather across the river. Maybe your rebbi made up part of it to make it more exciting.”“Rebbi told a lie?” the child asked, crushed.“Well, not exactly….”

Too late. The brilliant light Rabbi Davis shone into Yaakov’s world was now dimmed, perhaps covered up altogether. Every time we talk about another person, we can either be a “team player” helping our fellow torch-bearer’s light shine stronger, or an impediment, casting a shadow over the light he is meant to bring into the world. When we’re wondering if we should say the words that are on the tip of our tongue, we can use this simple test: Will they form a cloud or a magnifying glass over our fellow torch-bearer’s light?

GG Your Part in the Play

Your Part in the Play

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By Chana Nestlebaum

Want to be the good guy? The hero? The star? It’s up to you to decide what character you play in the drama of life. You write the script every day with the words you speak.

You’re sitting at a table full of relatives at a family simchah. One cousin is missing—the one who always seems to be missing. “Too bad Reuven couldn’t come,” says cousin Shimon. “We don’t get to see him often enough.”

“Well, he’s got a lot on his plate,” says cousin Levi. “With his store and all the things he does for Tomchei Shabbos, it’s hard for him to get away.”

“Oh, please,” says cousin Yehudah. “Get real. We all have a lot on our plates. You have to care enough to come, and obviously Reuven doesn’t.”

Which of these characters would you rather be? With which one would you rather spend your time? Shimon, a friendly guy who wants to be close with his family? Levi, an empathetic person who gives his cousin the benefit of the doubt? Or Yehudah, whose negative view of others sours the conversation?

When each of these men chose the words they would say, they chose their role in the scene. Yehudah chose to identify himself with the most negative possible interpretation of Reuven’s absence: that the family was a low priority in Reuven’s life. His words of loshon hora not only spread a negative view of Reuven but also, and to an even greater extent, they projected a negative view of Yehudah as the type of person who thinks unkind thoughts and says unkind things about people in their absence.

But who wants to play the role of Yehudah in the drama of their lives? Hashem gives us the laws of shmiras haloshon to guide us in creating an award-winning role for ourselves as people who light up the stage with love, friendship, compassion and courage.

GG The Easiest Way to Stay Out of Trouble

Easiest Way to Stay Out of Trouble

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By Chana Nestlebaum

When you think of that scale that weighs your mitzvos against your aveiros, you can get a little depressed. Can you ever be perfect enough to keep the balance in your favor? You hold in your temper one minute and lose it the next; you cheer someone up one day and then say something insensitive the next.Instead of your fate resting on a scale, it seems to rest on a see-saw.

But there’s one sure way to shift the balance for good.

Zevy borrowed his older brother Gavriel’s car. He had a cup of coffee sitting in the cup-holder by his side. He tried to pick up the cup as he drove along, but it was stuck. He looked down for a second to see what was wrong, just as the car in front of him came to an unexpected stop. He crashed.

No one was hurt, but the car needed at least a week in the body shop. And, of course, the insurance claim would raise the rates. Gavriel shook his head. “Zevy, really. Now what am I supposed to do?”

Zevy felt bad. He offered to rent his brother a car while he waited for his own to be repaired, but Gavriel knew Zevy had no money to do that. “All right, it’s OK. Every new driver has their first fender-bender. You’ll be more careful from now on I’m sure.”

When Gavriel’s neighbor heard about the accident, he had plenty to say. “These kids drive like maniacs!” he sympathized. “And now you’re stuck without a car. I hope you’ll know better than to lend it to Zevy again.”

“No, don’t say that. Zevy’s a good kid. But you know how it is. A guy gets his license and he feels like he owns the road. He feels terrible now.”

A little while later, Gavriel’s father called him. “Listen, you know the money I loaned you last month? Forget about it. Take it as a gift.”

“But why? I’m planning to pay you back, Dad,” Gavriel protested. “I took it as a loan and I want it to be a loan.”

“No, really, forget it. You know, you made Zevy feel a lot better about what happened, so let me make you feel a little better, too.”Our Father loves when we give each other the benefit of the doubt, refusing to carry a grudge or demand our “just deserts.”

When we do that for each other, He does it for us. If we can’t be perfect, we can at least be compassionate and forgiving. Then the see-saw becomes a scale solidly tipped toward the good

GG Looking for the Good Apples

Looking For The Good Apples

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If your job is to find the rotten apples in a bushel, you see all the brown spots and bruises. Bushel after bushel, you build up an impression that apples tend to go rotten. If your job is to find the most perfect apples in a bushel, your eyes focus on the rosiest, shiniest specimens. Bushel after bushel, you build up the impression that Hashem created an amazingly beautiful fruit. The focus makes all the difference.

Rabbi Teitelbaum never met a student he didn’t love. He had a life-time career teaching the boys no other yeshiva would take – boys who were far behind in their learning, who couldn’t wake up for Shacharis, who had a restless energy that led them to trouble. But that’s not what their rebbi saw.

He had a kind of x-ray vision that made their pure souls and warm hearts clear as day.

People wondered how he could stand to deal with so much trauma and trouble year after year, but Rabbi Teitelbaum wondered, “what trouble?”Where others saw misfits, Rabbi Teitelbaum saw attributes. His boys were the type that would drive 100 miles to pick up a stranded friend or go all-out to raise money for someone in need. Many were talented: they played instruments, wrote music, drew, painted or built furniture.

Some were very spiritual as well; they worked to make a sincere connection to Hashem despite their difficulties in yeshivah.No one could get Rabbi Teitelbaum to say a negative word about his boys. In his eyes, they were filled with G-d-given potential and their troubles were nothing but a shell that, with love and encouragement, they would eventually shed.

Because Rabbi Teitelbaum focused on the good in his students, he had no negative thoughts to express; shmiras haloshon came naturally. He sought out all that was shiny and perfect, not because he was fooling himself but because it was really there.

G-d made a good world. If we make it our job to seek out the good apples,shmiras haloshon and all of its blessings will follow.

GG Hey, Are We Related

Hey, Are We Related?

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By Unknown

When is a stranger not a stranger? When you find out that you’re related!

Scene 1: You’re waiting in line to take a sight-seeing cruise with your family. It’s a beautiful July day as you stand there, gazing out at the harbor. Out of the corner of your eye you notice a little boy run by. Was that a yarmulke on his head? Here in this remote little spot? You follow the yarmulke and see that it leads to a family – not quite like yours, but clearly Jewish. You wander over and strike up a conversation with total strangers. Why?

Scene 2: You’re driving down the highway one day, cruising along in the left lane, when you notice that all the way over on the shoulder of the road there is a car in distress. A Jewish family stands around the car as the father peers under the hood. You pull off at the next exit, make your way around, and ride up behind them on the shoulder. “Need some help?” you ask. You end up driving the wife and children to a rest stop while the father waits for assistance. Why?

Scene 3: You live in America. But when Jews are endangered, persecuted or attacked anywhere in the world, you speak about them as “we.” Why?

No matter how much divides us, deep inside we’re keenly aware of what unites us as one nation and one soul.

That’s why we pick each other out in crowds and inconvenience ourselves for each other’s benefit, even when we don’t know each other’s names. That’s why we feel so keenly the pain of other Jews of any type in any place when they’re persecuted for being Jews.

When we speak with shmiras haloshon we’re not only expressing this bond, but strengthening it. We’re saying, “I know him. He’s my brother. He’s OK!”

GG Can You Keep a Secret

Can You Keep a Secret?

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One way you know a friend is a true friend, someone you will always be close to you, is that he is someone you can trust with a secret.

Your friend Temima comes for Shabbos lunch. You walk her out the door and escort her to the sidewalk. It’s a beautiful day, so you keep walking with her. After a while, your conversation turns to Temima’s “at risk” son. “It’s great that you’re so accepting,” you tell Temima. “A lot of mothers would be frantic by now.” “I’ll tell you something, but don’t tell anyone else. I had my own ‘at risk’ days when I was in high school. I know just where’s he’s coming from, and I know he’s going to be all right.”

The next day you meet another friend. She asks if you’ve seen Temima lately. “Oh yes, in fact she came to me for lunch yesterday.” “She’s amazing,” says your friend. “She’s so centered. You can’t imagine anything ever throwing her.”

Temima’s secret practically bubbles up into your throat. You push it down again, knowing it’s her secret and must not be told. In that moment, you’ve won the right to Temima’s life-long loyalty.In the same way, we win Hashem’s life-long love and loyalty when we protect the “secrets” of His children. When we see someone do something questionable or hear information that casts a cloud over someone’s reputation, Hashem says, “Promise Me you won’t tell anyone.” By protecting His secret, we protect the bond that connects us.