When you’re making kiddush over wine you have to cover up the challah and the reason that’s given is in order not to embarrass the challah, not to shame it.
Now there’s more than that reason but just to follow that line of thought: In the Chovos Halevavos he tells a story of a chassid, a pious man, who was walking with his disciple and he saw lying in the street a dead cow.
Now it was summertime and the carcass had been ripening for some time and so the disciple made a remark about the odor. So his master rebuked him: “But look,” he said, “look how white her teeth are.”
Now the question is, is there a problem of lashon hara on a dead animal?
And the answer is you have to practice up on everything. Because once you get in the habit of belittling inanimate objects it becomes a habit that’s transferred to human beings. If you like to knock things you’re eventually going to knock people.
And the gemara says even more. If you knock people, you’ll come to knock Hakadosh Baruch Hu too. Like it says, שתו בשמים פיהם ולשונם תהלך בארץ – Do you know why their tongues, their mouths are against heaven? Because their tongues formerly walked around on the earth. Their tongues used to take big tours. They used to sit let’s say in their homes at a melaveh malkah and they talked about everybody. They walked through Boro Park and Queens with their tongues. They even walked in Eretz Yisrael and talked about gedolim and Jews in Eretz Yisrael. So ולשונם תהלך בארץ, their tongue was taking a tour. Sitting at that party their tongues were touring the world and lambasting everybody. So as a result they talked against Hakadosh Baruch Hu too eventually. You can’t departmentalize a man.
And therefore we practice up on inanimate objects. We don’t talk against inanimate things.
The same idea is if you’ll practice up not embarrassing the challos, it’s a pretty good preparation for not embarrassing your sister or your brother at the table. You’ll take a kal vechomer: madach the challos which don’t feel anything you shouldn’t embarrass so you surely shouldn’t embarrass your brothers and sisters at the table. That’s the way to learn.
But if you’re a tzaddik who is only interested in saving the kavod of the challos but not the kavod of human beings so you don’t know how to learn. לדרוש קל וחומר אי אתה יודע – don’t you know how to darshen a kal vechomer? If a man doesn’t know a kal vechomer he didn’t begin to learn. So we make a kal vechomer from the challos. And that’s why we have to respect inanimate things.
Moshe Rabeinu was told not to strike the Nile River. When it came to striking the Nile, Aharon was told to strike the Nile. Do you know why? Because it states: A well from which you drank water, don’t spit into the well.
So some people think the problem is if you spit into the well then other people can’t drink. No. It’s talking about a well that’s in the wilderness. Nobody will come along for days. By that time nothing will be left. It will be purified. Still you can’t spit in a well from which you drank water because you have to show your gratitude to the well. You have to think “O, well! You have saved me. You have given me refreshing water to drink and I respect you. I’m grateful to you.”
A well? A well doesn’t have any sense? It can’t listen.
No matter; that’s how you have to think. And therefore don’t spit into the well from which you drank.
Now, the Nile River saved Moshe Rabeinu’s life. When his mother had no place to secrete him so she put him on the river. That’s how he was saved. So Moshe was supposed to respect that river, to be grateful. And so when the time came to give it a crack with a stick and it should turn into blood, Hashem said, “Not you Moshe. Not you, but Aharon should do it. Aharon didn’t get any benefit from the river. Let him hit the river.”
So you see you have to be respectful and grateful to inanimate objects. And by learning that we’ll darshen a kal vechomer in how to deal with human beings.
TAPE # 197 (December 1976)