Chafetz Chaim (book)

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Chafetz Chayim (or Chofetz Chaim) (Hebrew: "Seeker/Desire [of] Life" חָפֵץ חַיִּים), is the name of the first book by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan belonging to Orthodox Judaism. It was published in 1873 in Lithuania. As commonly occurs in Orthodox Judaism, the author is often named after his book so it became not just his pen name but also his "title" by which he is known until today.

The subject of the book is Lashon Hara (evil speech, or loosely: gossip and slander and prohibitions of defamation.) Rabbi Kagan provides copious sources from the Torah, Talmud and Rishonim (early commentators) about the severity of Jewish law on tale-mongering and gossip.

The book is divided into:

  • Mekor chayim ("Source [of] Life"), the legal text.
  • Be'er mayim chayim ("Well [of] living water"), the footnotes and legal argument.
  • It is commonly printed together with the text Shemirath ha-Lashon ("Guarding [of] the tongue"), an ethical treatise on the proper use of the faculty of speech.

The title of the book means "[Who] wants life", a direct quote from Psalms: "Who is the man who wants life, who loves the days to see good? Keep your tongue from the bad and your lips from speaking evil" (34:13-14) [1] (http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt2634.htm)

In Hebrew:

מִי-הָאִישׁ, הֶחָפֵץ חַיִּים; אֹהֵב יָמִים, לִרְאוֹת טוֹב נְצֹר לְשׁוֹנְךָ מֵרָע; וּשְׂפָתֶיךָ, מִדַּבֵּר מִרְמָה

In the United States an organization was set up in 1989 called the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation to promote and spread the teachings of this book.

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