Schmooze vs. Gossip (Copy)

Define the difference between schmoozing and gossip. What makes either "Jewish", if at all?

1) Making ingratiating small talk – talk that is business oriented, designed to both provide and solicit personal information but avoids overt pitching. Most often an artifact of “networking.” It is more art than science but can be learned.
2) To get to know or suck up to someone for self benefit.
3) Being able to talk your way into any situation (or out of it), find out about any person, and know someone wherever you go.

A Chasidic tale vividly illustrates the danger of improper speech: A man went about the community telling malicious lies about the rabbi. Later, he realized the wrong he had done, and began to feel remorse. He went to the rabbi and begged his forgiveness, saying he would do anything he could to make amends. The rabbi told the man, "Take a feather pillow, cut it open, and scatter the feathers to the winds." The man thought this was a strange request, but it was a simple enough task, and he did it gladly. When he returned to tell the rabbi that he had done it, the rabbi said, "Now, go and gather the feathers. Because you can no more make amends for the damage your words have done than you can recollect the feathers."

Have you ever experienced a situation like this last story? How can you understand the difference between gossip and shmoozing in your every day life? Will what you learned today affect anything?

Why is this important for us as students? As leaders? As Jews?

We are surrounded by things that tempt us. Unhealthy foods, video games, and gossip are just a few of the things enticing us. It's hard to make the decision to eat healthily. Or to not play "just one more round!" Or to keep from spreading a juicy piece of news. When confronted with a temptation, we know what the right decision is, but in the moment, it can be so hard to stay connected to our values, be they healthful eating, productive use of time, or not engaging in lashon hara or gossip.

When we give in to small temptations, our consequences might not be [very grave] but they also take a toll on us. When we know that something is important to us, but continually give in to temptation, we stop valuing that thing. We lose the long-term value in place of instant gratification. Not giving in to temptations helps us to clarify our values and stick to our convictions.

(Excerpt from Torah Topics for Today by Judith Greenberg)

Does thinking about the consequences make you stop and think about gossiping? How can you try to avoid gossiping? Can you overcome it?

In life, you discover that people are called by three names: One is the name the person is called by his father and mother; one is the name people call him; and one is the name he acquires for himself. The best one is the one he acquires for himself. (Tanchuma, Vayak'heil 1)

Each of us has a name given by God and given by our parents. Each of us has a name given by our stature and our smile and given by what we wear./ Each of us has a name given by the mountains and given by our walls./ Each of us has a name given by the stars and given by our neighbors./ Each of us has a name given by our sins and given by our longing./ Each of us has a name given by our enemies and given by our love./ Each of us has a name given by our celebrations and given by our work./ Each of us has a name given by the seasons and given by our blindness./ Each of us has a name given by the sea and given by our death. (Zelda, "Each Man Has a Name," as adapted by Marcia Falk in The Book of Blessings, New York: Harper Collins, 1996, p. 106ff.)

The rabbis caution us, however, to use the power of our voices and our words wisely. We must make certain that we use the divine gift of naming in a moral, appropriate, and thoughtful manner. We must also reject feeling that we are destined to live with and exemplify only the names given to us by others. Our tradition teaches that through our own choices and actions, each of us can name and rename ourselves. By doing so, each of us can bring honor to God, to the bestowers of our names, and to ourselves.

(Rabbi Andrew Davids' D'var Torah,

(ח) וַֽיִּשְׁמְע֞וּ אֶת־ק֨וֹל יי אֱלֹהִ֛ים מִתְהַלֵּ֥ךְ בַּגָּ֖ן לְר֣וּחַ הַיּ֑וֹם וַיִּתְחַבֵּ֨א הָֽאָדָ֜ם וְאִשְׁתּ֗וֹ מִפְּנֵי֙ יי אֱלֹהִ֔ים בְּת֖וֹךְ עֵ֥ץ הַגָּֽן׃ (ט) וַיִּקְרָ֛א יי אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶל־הָֽאָדָ֑ם וַיֹּ֥אמֶר ל֖וֹ אַיֶּֽכָּה׃ (י) וַיֹּ֕אמֶר אֶת־קֹלְךָ֥ שָׁמַ֖עְתִּי בַּגָּ֑ן וָאִירָ֛א כִּֽי־עֵירֹ֥ם אָנֹ֖כִי וָאֵחָבֵֽא׃

(8) And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden toward the cool of the day; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. (9) And the LORD God called unto the man, and said unto him: ‘Where art thou?’ (10) And he said: ‘I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’

(1) Where are you: He knew where he was, but [He asked him this] in order to enter into conversation with him, lest he be frightened to answer if He should punish him suddenly (Tanchuma Tazria 9). So with Cain, He said to him (below 4:9): “Where is your brother Abel?” And so with Balaam (Num. 22:9): “Who are these men with you?” for the purpose of entering a conversation with them, and so with Hezekiah, in regard to the emissaries of Merodach Baladan (Isa. 39:3) (Gen. Rabbah 19:11).

What does Rashi mean? How is he understanding the word איכה? What does the conversation do? Does it help? What is missing from this conversation? What questions do you still have?

We may view all our deeds up to this moment as balanced between good and evil, and hope our answer to God's question to Adam--"Where are you?" (Genesis 3:9)--will tip the balance in our favor among the accountants in charge of the book of life. In this struggle for honest and courage, for shame and repentance, you should remember that every single biblical hero from Adam to Moses was flawed... For each of them shame was not an obstacle but an engine for their greatness. Answering the question of "Where are you?" brought them humility and courage, not humiliation and grace. (Rabbi Marc Gellman, First Things, May 1996.)