The Human Side of the Story

For the week ending 15 May 2004 / 24 Iyyar 5764

Counting Teeth

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Library Library Library

One of the most encouraging signs of spiritual revival in our generation is the growing number of Jews regularly studying the laws of lashon hara and guarding their tongue against speaking gossip and slander. The laws they study were compiled by the saintly sage Rabbi Yisroel Meir HaCohen known as the "Chafetz Chaim" because that is the title of his seminal work on this important subject.

The story is told of a Torah scholar who paid a visit to this sage in his home in the Polish town of Radin. Despite his frail condition in the middle eighties of his life, the Chafetz Chaim was in a particularly good mood as he asked the visitor to come close to him and open his, the sages, mouth. There was an understandable hesitation to comply with this request but the sage insisted. Surprise followed surprise as the sage insisted that his teeth be counted! Unable to refuse a repeated order to do so, the guest indeed counted the sages teeth and was amazed to find that he had all the teeth a person could ever have and that they were in prime condition despite his advanced age.

Then came the following explanation of this phenomenon from a saintly Jew who had alerted generations to the responsibility of exercising extreme caution in regard to what they spoke:

"I guarded what came out of my mouth and G-d guarded my mouth in return."

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