Parashat Kedoshim: Beyond the reporter mentality

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The two verbs in the verse are “walk” and “ignore” (literally “stand over [your fellow’s blood]”). Standing over or ignoring should be understood as “refrain.” So the Torah is telling us that in order to rectify these two aspects of life-speaking about others and helping others-we need to switch the verbs. Instead of walking around tale-bearing about other people’s faults, we need to ignore those faults and refrain from relating them. And instead of ignoring the needs of others, we need to actively walk and act in order to help them.

The sages learn that the words “tale-bearer” (רכיל) comes from the two-letter source, רך, which means soft. From this they learn another prohibition directed at the court. The judges may not act softly-kindly to one disputant and harshly towards the other. They may not discriminate, because any Jew that comes before them should be seen as equal to every other. From this we can learn that psychological source for tale-bearing and speaking about other people’s faults is a feeling of inequality regarding Jews. We feel that we are better than others, that others are somehow less and therefore justify to ourselves that since this is the case, we are allowed to talk about them.

In the same vein, the sages also learn that a judge may not reveal the deliberations between the judges that occur before the ruling is arrived at. A judge may not say, “I wanted to acquit you, but the other judges were against it….” This is also tale-bearing. Again this stems from a feeling of inequality, that somehow one judge feels that he’s better than the others. So from these two teachings gleaned from the verse, we come back to the Ba’al Shem Tov’s great principle of “Midat hahishtavut”-the measure of equanimity and equality (see Tzavat Harivash, 1).

One additional point is that we described the act of ignoring other’s plight as stemming from a reporter-like attitude to life and to its events. The same thing can occur in studying history. A person may come out of a historical review with the feeling that he just needs to pass it on, instead of coming to the conclusion that the whole description is there in order to encourage you to leap into the arena and act, in order to change the course of history.

We see that there are reporters that have been hurt or even killed while covering a battle, etc. One might think that this is a good thing, because the reporter is willing to give up his life to cover the events. But, actually this is just self-sacrifice for the wrong cause-remaining non-combatant and sacrificing oneself for the sake of covering the story as a story instead of sacrificing oneself in order to save others.

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