THE BLOG

The Dangers of Gossip

08/30/2010 07:24 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

I attended services at Sinai Temple last Saturday, as always, looking forward to Rabbi David Wolpe's sermon and making a silent pact with myself to apply any lesson from his sermon to help me reach some peaceful resolution regarding any difficulty de jour I might be facing, which seemed quite gloomy that day. As you can tell, I am not very forthcoming about my personal life; neither is our rabbi. So when he began his sermon by informing his congregation that this would be his most personal sermon yet, the sanctuary fell into such deep silence, I could hear the ticking of my neighbor's hearing aid.

We were not about to be handed juicy fodder to garnish and embellish and spread as our own eye-brow-raising gossip. Not that, of course. But the subject was gossip. Rabbi Wolpe stated that he had had lunch with someone, who had asked, perhaps, declared that the rabbi was going out with someone, even went so far as to mention that someone's name. Clearly upset, and rightfully so, our rabbi had replied that not only he was not going out, but did not even know who that lady was. Adding that the entire community has been discussing, or rather spreading, this false piece of damaging gossip, yet, not one person had approached him to ask whether there was any truth to the rumor.

I should confess here that I, too, had heard this untruth, but the thought never occurred to me to trouble the rabbi in order to determine the veracity of a personal matter I had no right to probe into in the first place. Having said that, I did confront the gossiper--is that a real word?--did insist that I did not believe the gossip, and did warn against broadcasting it any further, which brings me to the matter of the send key, which the rabbi considered the most dangerous key on our keyboard, since, with one click, it can spread malicious gossip to all four corners of the world. As can, I might add, an ill-spirited article such as the one by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in the Jewish Journal titled: "Extravagant Weddings and Bar Mitzvahs Humiliate the Jewish Community."

In the aforementioned article, Rabbi Boteach embarks on calling the Jewish Iranian community "a bunch of shallow, boastful materialists who think the purpose of a marriage ceremony is to tell your friends how much money you have." Shame on you, Rabbi Boteach, for singling out a specific community as you have. For your information, Iranian Americans are among the most educated, hard-working, law-abiding, and charitable immigrants any country could wish for. Most of these "extravagant weddings and bar mitzvahs," are thrown by families, who donate large sums to charitable institutions. However else they decide to spend the rest of their hard-earned wealth is their own business. Your article is also misleading in that it mentions "a rabbi from Sinai Temple" rather than naming Rabbi Zvi Dershowitz as the referred article in the Los Angeles Times does, so that if one has not read the LA Times article, he or she would assume you, Rabbi Boteach, were referring to our senior rabbi. You even managed to quote Rabbi Dershowitz out of context, neglecting to mention his acknowledgment that "most (weddings) are modest." (LA Times article: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/aug/22/local/la-me-persian-parties-20100822)

Do I detect a trace of envy, Rabbi Boteach, when you mention "Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, which has thousands of Iranian Jewish members"? And do you seriously believe that our rabbis need your advice as to how to handle their "rabbinic leadership," and "value judgments"? your terms, Rabbi Boteach, not mine. If so, I suggest you visit www.sinaitemple.org and learn a few lessons from Rabbi Wolpe's sermons, visit www.facebook.com/rabbiwolpe to find out one or two things about life, and sign up to offthepulpit@sinaitemple.com to discover the many ways Sinai Temple's rabbis employ their platforms to teach and better all of us.

Having said my piece, I'll push the send key and dispatch this article to all four corners of the world.