| Parshah |

Bus Line

He’s cast off the yoke of mitzvos, and therefore, has no share in the World to Come


“This is the law of the person with tzaraas, on the day of his cleansing…” (Vayikra 14:2)


he Gemara (Arachin 15b) teaches that the sin of lashon hara is equivalent to murder, adultery, and idolatry. (The Gemara is referring to a habitual lashon hara speaker, not about a person who is usually careful with his speech, but who occasionally loses himself.)
Rabbeinu Yonah in Shaarei Teshuvah asks: Is this conceivable? A person is obligated to die rather than commit murder, adultery, or idolatry. Moreover, one who commits idolatry is considered to have denied the entire Torah! Is lashon hara really equal to those sins?
Rabbeinu Yonah offers several answers to this question, including the following: A person who habitually speaks lashon hara does not view his sin as being serious, saying, “They’re just words.” Therefore, he will never repent. Or, if he does repent, it will be an incomplete repentance, because he does not understand the severity of his sin. (Rabbi Shlomo Katz, Hamaayan)

The disadvantage of owning a car means that I miss out on a large part of the pulse of Israeli life — that of public transportation. Rare is any kind of trip on a bus or taxi completed without some sort of only-in-Israel chavayah.

So, when my car was not available one week, I boarded a local bus with a sense of anticipation: What would this bus ride add to my life?

Rav Dovid Kronglas ztz”l, mashgiach of Yeshivas Ner Israel, elaborates on Rabbeinu Yonah’s explanation. A person who commits murder, adultery, or idolatry usually knows that he is committing a serious sin, but he is overcome with passion or another strong emotion that impels him to act. Not so a person who habitually speaks lashon hara. One who speaks lashon hara regularly either believes he is not sinning at all, or he reasons that his sin is a minor one. Halachically, gossiping is categorized as a sin that does not involve action and which, therefore, is not punishable by a human court. While he is correct that his sin is technically a light one, its severity lies in the fact that he effectively denies an entire mitzvah. He’s cast off the yoke of mitzvos, and therefore, has no share in the World to Come.

The trip started out on a negative note. The driver was especially antsy and rude, snarling at passengers to hurry up, gesturing at passing cars, braking abruptly and then yelling out his window. Though I wasn’t a regular bus rider, I don’t recall most bus drivers acting this way. I glanced around at my fellow passengers, wondering if this was a daily routine or if the driver was having a bad bus day. No one seemed perturbed until the bus pulled up at the next stop.

Rav Kronglas explains that even after a habitual gossipper recognizes his sin, much of the difficulty in repenting stems from his belief that he will be unable to refrain entirely from speaking lashon hara in the future. This is an incorrect attitude, because it is far better to speak lashon hara occasionally, knowing that it is wrong, than to speak lashon hara at will with no inhibitions at all times.

A bochur got on the bus, carrying several bags and packages. As he rummaged for his bus card, the driver began his already familiar harangue of “Hurry up! I don’t have all day.”

The boy tensed and fumbled for his card.

“What’s wrong with you? What’s taking so long? Don’t you know how to ride a bus?” screamed the driver.

Just then, the boy dropped several of his bags. All the passengers were watching by now, frozen in silence as an apple rolled loudly down the aisle.

“Nu?!” The driver was still on a warpath.

The boy straightened, holding his remaining packages awkwardly and addressed the driver in a voice that carried down to the very last row.

“I have autism,” he said, “and it’s very difficult for me when you talk to me that way.”


The words had a firecracker effect, as the bus exploded into action. People jumped up to help the boy collect his bags, others gestured him to a comfortable seat.

And the driver, well, the driver was red-faced and silent for the rest of the ride.

I got off a few stops later, grateful I’d used public transportation on a life-changing route.


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 788)

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