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I know from general knowledge that לֵיצָנוּת is forbidden. It is generally translated as being cynical, scoffing or mocking. I have also seen discussion in various mussar and hashkafic works but I would love to see some more halachic sources on this.

Are there any halachic sources that deal with לֵיצָנוּת, so that we can have a good definition and set of principles by which we can positively identify examples of לֵיצָנוּת when we see/make them?

By examples, I mean laws of speech. Yes, לֵיצָנוּת is a middah, but the way we know someone is a לֵיצָן is by what he says. There are certain things you are not allowed to think or say, because they are לֵיצָנוּת, but there doesn't seem to be any rigorous dealing with the subject, similar to the Laws of Lashon Hara, for example. Shmuel has brought strong sources that "clowning around" also counts, so perhaps there are laws of behaviour as well.

Here are some examples I've heard that I always wondered, does this count as לֵיצָנוּת or not?

  • Me: "It's funny that the gematria for Elokim is 86, and bli mah is 87", Him: "you and me clearly have a different sense of humour" [explanation: mockery of gematrias?]
  • [Insert group name] do [x, y, z] because they are just trying to get as many adherents to the movement as possible [explanation: cynicism 101]
  • Chazal clearly didn't know much science, but it is understandable that they must have learned some things from the greek philosophers [explanation: cynicism?]
  • Use of sarcasm when making a point [explanation: ridicule?]
  • [Insert group name] love [Insert sefer or Rav's name] more than Tanach/Moshe! [explanation: ridicule?]
  • I don't learn X because it's too emotional and I prefer to be intellectual [explanation: thinly veiled scoffing?]

And now a behavioral example:

  • A friend of mine was in a yeshiva for more difficult bochurim, the type that are in danger of going off the derech. In that yeshiva, the rebbe would come and take people's blankets if they didn't get up for shacharit. One bochur, in rebellion to this, decided to start sleeping naked. [explanation: clowning around? Would laughing at this story also be forbidden?]

EDIT:

Accepting an answer and awarding the bounty was extremely difficult. People reading this question should be encouraged to read all the answers, as all of them provide essential information towards the question, as well as demonstrate that it can be quite hard to pin down this all-encompassing negative character trait and its foibles.

For a halachic definition, the three closest results we have received, which all agree, are:

  1. By Dov, awarded bounty for effort in supplying a definition, which is what the bounty was for:

Rav Mordechai Gifter zt"l:

Leitzanus has a connotation of cynicism. It refers to taking everything which is high and knocking it down. A leitz takes everything that is holy and tries to demonstrate the profane side of it.

  1. By Schmerel, short, simple, sweet and matches what I've heard in various places, a great definition that goes well with Dov's:

The only one to give me a clear answer was Rabbi Forscheimer (the main posuk in Lakewood) He said that it means anything that makes light of a serious or important issue in Yiddishkeit.

  1. And fulltimekollelguy's answer, accepted because it meets the title of the question best, providing a great source to a halachic work on Leitzanut, covering 50 pages and sounds like it is almost certainly exactly what I am looking for and I will be striving to get hold of:

ג נחלקה הליצנות לארבע חלקים החלק הראשון המתלוצץ בבני אדם ונותן בהם דופי ומבאיש את ריחם בעיני האדם וחלק זה נכלל גם בכת מספרי לשון הרע החלק השני הלועג לבני אדם שמבזה אותם בלבו לקוצר השגתם במעלות או בהצלחות הזמן ובזה מראה בנפשו שמאמין שההצלחה ביד בני אדם החלק השלישי מי שלועג תמיד לדברים ולפעולות ואין דעתו להבזות בעליהם אך מרחיק הדברים שאין להרחיקם ומרחיק תועלת הפעולות שיש תקוה לתועלתן ופעמים שמביאה מדת ליצנות את האדם לידי מינות שמלעיג על המצוות החלק הרביע הקובע עצמו תמיד לשיחה בטלה ודברים בטלים כדרך יושבי קרנות ויש שתי רעות בדבר זה האחד שכל המרבה דברים מביא חטא והשני כי הוא בטל מדברי תורה כי בזמן הזה יוכל להשיג הנעימות לקנות חיי עולם

Other quoted works that seem to define the term are:

Encyclopedia Talmudit (in Yehuda's answer), and Derech Chaim as quoted in Shmuel's answer.

There were many other works quoted, by different people and all of them contribute to the answer I am looking for and I thank everyone who responded with immense gratitude. If I ever write a "Practical Guide" or something on the topic, I will be mentioning everyone!

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  • Great points RabbiKaii. However, I do not think that you are able to get ready-made answer and definition of what it means. The one time, it means scoffing, but in many seforim and sources, it is described as clowning around, e.g. making jokes, pretending to be something/someone you are not, etc...
    – Shmuel
    Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 13:52
  • @Shmuel maybe a kuntress is in order!
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 13:54
  • The Rebbe speaks of it in the mentioned Likkutei Sichos, but that is all I found.
    – Shmuel
    Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 13:57
  • judaism.stackexchange.com/q/678/899
    – Yirmeyahu
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 20:05

6 Answers 6

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Certainly. I've collected a few. Let me know if this is what you were looking for. I focused on "mockery", sometimes called "clowning" in Halacha.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 301:20) writes that it is forbidden to go out into the public domain, wearing a costume that looks just like you are riding on a donkey, but it is just a costume, and you are walking on your own feet. To other people, it might look that you are actually riding a donkey, but you are only walking and pretending to ride a donkey.

In Sefer Chasidim (siman 44), it talks about four groups that do not receive the Divine Presence, in which someone who mocks another person is included.

The Prisha holds that it is permissible to joke about idols.

In addition to what the Sefer Chasidim writes about that four groups do not receive the Divine Presence, the Chida writes something familiair (Yosef BeSeder 1:3).

See also Perush Kadmon on Sefer Chasidim 7:1.

The Rebbe cites the Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Tum'at Tsara'at, Halacha 16:10) and says that the conversations of the wicked are folly (see: Likkutei Sichos, vol. 22, beginning on p. 65).

The Rambam, cited by the Rebbe, says:

until he would not be involved in the speech of the evildoers, which is mockery and evil speech.

Rashi, in his commentary to Bamidbar 16:19 gives an example of what לֵיצָנוּת means:

ויקהל עליהם קרח AND KORAH CONVENED [ALL THE CONGREGATION] AGAINST THEM, by means of scoffing language: that whole night he went round to all the tribes and tried to win them over: “Do you really think that I care for myself alone? It is only for all of you that I have a care! These men come and occupy every high office: royal rank for himself, for his brother the priesthood!” — until in the end all of them submitted to his persuasion (Midrash Tanchuma, Korach 7).

Another, not completely from a Halachic perspective, definition is given in Derekh Chayim:

R Yochanan said in the name of R Shimon b Yochai, it is forbidden to fill with laughter one's mouth in this world, as it says (Psalms 126:2) 'then will our mouths be filled with laughter', and this is not a challenge, because there it is talking about filling the mouth with laughter, which is too much laughter, but laughter in general, it doesn't say, and for matters of Torah, one should reduce laughter completely. And even if it were not so, it still wouldn't be a challenge, as even if it were completely forbidden, even so, we would learn from this that if one multiplies laughter, one doesn't merit Torah, and the reason is because laughter which is exaggerated is the opposite of thought, which is intellect, therefore laughter cancels intellect. And this matter you can understand because laughter renews only from joking and clowning, and there is no doubt that joking is the opposite of intellect.

According to the Derekh Chayim, the term לֵיצָנוּת can mean "joking and clowning.

See also Shaarei Kedusha, which defines it as "clowning". There is even an explanation that whenever someone is full of words of clowning, words of Torah does not enter him.


EDIT

You gave several points in the question, and you ask of each of them applies to the concept of לֵיצָנוּת. Certainly the point "Use of sarcasm when making a point" is a good example of what לֵיצָנוּת means. The Mesilas Yesharim writes why it is so bad:

But the frivolous are not impacted by the rebukes due to the power of levity. Therefore, there is no way to rectify them except through sufferings. For they are not capable of deflecting the impact of sufferings through the power of levity like they do so with the rebukes.

When a person is always "clowning" around, he does not seem to understand the severity of his actions/deeds. Therefore, he isn't able to get thoughts of repentance. This is in line with the answer of @Schmerel

The Rosh (Orchos Chaim L'HaRosh 1:4) writes:

וְכֵן מִן הַלֵּיצָנוּת [Distance yourself] from clowning around

See פסקי הריא"ז :

לא אתלוצץ ולא אשב במושב לצים אלא אשב בביטחה ואוכל ואישן ת"ל ובמושב לצים לא ישב כי אם בתורת י"י חפצו שיפרוש מן הליצנות ויעסוק בתורה שהליצנות מביא לידי ביטול תורה וכן הוא אומר סור מרע ועשה טוב ועבירה

If you look at Sefaria, there are several sources that goes into the meaning of the word. For example, Machberet Menachem; Lamed 43:2; לשון לעג ותעתועים המה,

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  • Assur: ebay.com/itm/… Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 16:39
  • 1
    Thanks Shmuel I really appreciate it. What I am mainly looking for is a good, solid definition of the term, in the usual fashion of halachot where all the ins and outs are rigorously laid out. Principles for application. I want to be able to point to a statement and say "that's over לֵיצָנוּת" or not.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 17:16
  • 3
    OC 301 is referring specifically to the laws of hotza'a on Shabbos, not leitzanus.
    – Fred
    Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 20:19
  • Thanks Shmuel for the edits, you certainly have come across a definition. It's utility is questionable as it doesn't include the broader ideas of scoffing, cynicism or mockery (which is stronger than "clowning"), so it is probably only a partial definition, or a hint at a broader topic? I really would like to get to the bottom of it.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 14:12
  • 1
    @Shmuel isn’t the Shulchan Aruch you quoted about the donkey costume merely referring to Shabbos prohibition of carrying?
    – fartgeek
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 13:22
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לֵיצָנוּת like it is used in the Torah seems to be directed specifically at derision and disbelief of G-d, the Torah, Moshe Rabbeinu and similar Tzaddikim and the Prophets.

The first example found involving לֵיצָנוּת is with the Nachash and its interaction with Chavah like is found in Midrash Tehillim 1:6 which says:

דבר אחר אשרי האיש. מדבר באדם הראשון. אמר אדם הראשון אשרני אם לא עמדתי בדרכיו של נחש ואשרי אם לא ישבתי במושבו של ליצנות. רבי יהושע דסכנין בשם רבי לוי אמר אמר הנחש לשון הרע על בוראו. אמר לחוה מפני מה אין אתם אוכלין מן העץ הזה אמרה לו כן צוה לנו הקב"ה שלא לאכול ממנו ושלא ליגע בו ושלא ליקרב אצלו. מה עשה הנחש נטל את חוה דחפה עליו ולא מתה והקב"ה לא צוה אלא שלא לאכול והוסיפה על הדבור אמר לה הנחש מן העץ הזה אכל המקום וברא את העולם ואם אתם אוכלין ממנו אתם יכולים לבראות עולם כמותו שנאמר (בראשית ג ה) והייתם כאלקים. אלא כל אומן שונא בר אומנותיה. מכאן שהיה לייצן:

The Nachash, after pointing out that what Chavah had been taught by her husband was incorrect, said G-d created this world after eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and its opposite, meaning the world where Gan Eden resided is its fruit. Good and its opposite in balance. And if Chavah eats from its fruit, she will be able to create a similar type of world (fruit after its kind) and be like G-d. The Nachash then added derisively, "All Craftsmen (meaning G-d) hate their craftwork." From this comment, the Nachash was a Laitzan (one who mocks G-d and His righteous works)!

A similar sentiment is also found in BeMidbar Rabbah 7:4 which describes how the Erev Rav derided the acts of G-d for the Jewish people at the time of the Exodus.

מֶה עָשׂוּ, בַּטּוֹבָה שֶׁעָשָׂה לָהֶם הָאֱלֹהִים הִתְחִילוּ אוֹמְרִים לֵיצָנוּת עָלָיו

This derision is not just limited to G-d and His acts, but also to Moshe, His servant (In My entire Home, he alone is faithful.) like is found in Yalkut Shimoni on Shemot 417:1 which says:

זה שאמר הכתוב תאלמנה שפתי שקר הדוברות על צדיק עתק מדבר במשה. בשעה שאמר לו הקב"ה לעשות משכן מיד אמר להם קחו מאתכם תרומה לה' והיה משה עסוק במשכן שלשה חדשים עשו אותו קפלו אותו והיו מתלוצצים עליו

and further:

אותה שעה אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא תאלמנה שפתי שקר אותן שהיו מתלוצצין אחר המשכן התחילו טוענין אותו ובאין כל אחד ואחד במלאכתו שנאמר ויביאו את המשכן. הדא הוא דכתיב עוז והדר לבושה זה משה ומשה לא ידע כי קרן וגו'. ותשחק אלו לצני הדור שהיו מתלוצצים אחר משה לומר אפשר שהשכינה שורה על מעשה ידיו של משה

In fact, Laitzanut appears to be the polar opposite of Torah, which is G-d's will, like is expressed in Shir HaShirim Rabbah I:3:2, which says:

כָּךְ אִם נִכְנַס דָּבָר שֶׁל תּוֹרָה לַלֵּב יָצָא כְּנֶגְדּוֹ דָּבָר שֶׁל לֵיצָנוּת, נִכְנַס לַלֵּב דָּבָר שֶׁל לֵיצָנוּת, יָצָא כְּנֶגְדּוֹ דָּבָר שֶׁל תּוֹרָה.

There is a sort of symbiotic relationship between Torah and Laitzanut.

And this prohibited derision includes all derision aimed at the Righteous of Israel like is found in Yalkut Shimoni on Tehillim 688:1 which says:

שמעון בן שטח היו (נט) ידיו חמומות, אתא חדא סיעה דליצנין אמרו נסהוד על בריה ונקטליניה ויהבו עצה על בריה למיקטליה אסהידו עלוי ונגמר דינו ליהרג, כדנפק למיקטליה אמרין ליה מרי סהדי שקרין אנן בעא אבוי מחזר יתיה. א"ל אבא אם בקשת שתבא ישועה על ידך עשה אותי כאסקופה.

That this prohibition against derision is specifically speaking about derision of G-d and His works, Moshe Rabbeinu, the Torah, its Prophets and Sages is also indicated by the teaching of Rabbi Nachman found in Megillah 25b which excludes deriding Idol Worship like it says:

אָמַר רַב נַחְמָן: כֹּל לֵיצָנוּתָא אֲסִירָא, בַּר מִלֵּיצָנוּתָא דַּעֲבוֹדָה זָרָה

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  • Thanks for this great angle on the whole matter - Leitzanut seems to be a yeitzer hara weapon of mass destruction specifically against Hashem, Moshe and Torah. I am very enlightened by this. I'm not going to award it answer although it could qualify, because there are other answers that are slightly closer to what I was asking for - a halachic definition. Thank you though and I look forward to hearing more from you on Mi Yodeya
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 10:52
1

Quick answer : ספר הבית היהודי volume 7 by Rabbi Aaron Zachai

Details: You have identified what they would call in the Yeshivish world; the fifth volume of SA. Where they would tell you, you have to be smart about the halacha, once you understand in Hashkava you will avoid it. YET, this does not answer the question. In the above-mentioned sefer here is a quote

ג נחלקה הליצנות לארבע חלקים החלק הראשון המתלוצץ בבני אדם ונותן בהם דופי ומבאיש את ריחם בעיני האדם וחלק זה נכלל גם בכת מספרי לשון הרע החלק השני הלועג לבני אדם שמבזה אותם בלבו לקוצר השגתם במעלות או בהצלחות הזמן ובזה מראה בנפשו שמאמין שההצלחה ביד בני אדם החלק השלישי מי שלועג תמיד לדברים ולפעולות ואין דעתו להבזות בעליהם אך מרחיק הדברים שאין להרחיקם ומרחיק תועלת הפעולות שיש תקוה לתועלתן ופעמים שמביאה מדת ליצנות את האדם לידי מינות שמלעיג על המצוות החלק הרביע הקובע עצמו תמיד לשיחה בטלה ודברים בטלים כדרך יושבי קרנות ויש שתי רעות בדבר זה האחד שכל המרבה דברים מביא חטא והשני כי הוא בטל מדברי תורה כי בזמן הזה יוכל להשיג הנעימות לקנות חיי עולם

This sefer has about 50 pages on the subject, discussing the sources, the punishments and the details of the Halacha. I only sent an excerpt because I am unsure if I can put up pages from the book itself for copyright reasons. I think this would be the sefer you are looking for. Great Question! Good Luck!

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  • If anyone can help me with the LEGAL issues of uploading pages from Otzer Hachochma from the mentioned sefer on to the answer I would appreciate it Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 15:24
  • Thank you, this is looking very good. I hope you get an answer as I don't know if I'll be able to get hold of that sefer within 7 days of the bounty :)
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 15:38
  • @RabbiKaii its ok the bounty can expire... is there a way a can send you parts of what you are looking for (email or whatsapp? ) Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 15:49
  • @fulltimekollelguy my precious hard earned points :) Thanks but I really like the idea of this sefer, I'd like to try get hold of it.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 17:37
  • Finally got hold of the sefer, I can find 26 pages, which encompass siman 29 and 30. 28 is chanufa and 31 is dvarim bteilim. Did I miss something?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 12:22
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I once asked a few Rabbonim for an exact definition of Leitzunis. (IIRC I prefaced the question by saying that I'm looking for an answer from the viewpoint of strictly halacha with no musser being factored in) The only one to give me a clear answer was Rabbi Forscheimer (the main posuk in Lakewood) He said that it means anything that makes light of a serious or important issue in Yiddishkeit.

There are many examples given in Chazal of Leitzunus. They all seem to fall into the category above.

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  • 1
    This makes a LOT of sense. Thank you. I wouldn't question R Forscheimer as a source, although it would be nice to know if he has one? I would still also like a bit more than that as it's still, stated as such, too vague to really use practically (or, this is way way more machmir than we realise)
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 13:44
  • You can call him and ask him .I'm guessing it is just the (his) understanding of it's consistent application in the many places where it is mentioned.
    – Schmerel
    Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 13:48
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+200

If you are looking for a definition brought in Halacha it is quite hard as there are numerous examples of where we see leitzanus - scoffing, grouped along with other bad traits like gossiping and falsehood etc.1

However, after a bit of digging I found the following:

In Sefer Mitzvos Kattan 105:2 it discusses the mitzvah of learning Torah and being careful to uses one's mouth specifically for this more spiritual pursuit and not chas veshalom for negative ones:

כך אדם שנכנס בפיו דבר של ליצנות יצא כנגדו דבר תורה ואוי לו ללצנות שתחלתה יסורין וסופה כלייה

Similarly, a person who brings into his mouth words of scorn / scoffing, words of Torah will correspondingly leave, and woe to him, for the scoffers begin suffering and end in destruction.

So it would seem that Leitzanus is something which is not only a failing in a person's bein adam lechaveiro (the relationship between man and his fellow), but is has a destructive effect that can impact negatively on one's ruchniyus.

Interestingly it also should be avoided as it can create a downwards spiral of spiritual degradation.

Note the Sefer Chasidim 75:

אם באו לצים במקום מושבך פתאום ומדברים דברי הבאי אל תוכיחם פן ישנאוך לך מאצלם פן תלמוד ממעשיהם הרעים כי הלצנות שנייה לערוה

If scoffers suddenly come to your neighborhood and speak vain matters, do not reprove them lest they hate you. Leave them, for you might learn from their evil deeds, for scorning is second to immorality.

So another categorisation is the very clear severity of it. The danger of being even around such people (i.e. and not actually scoffing oneself) is such that even if you tell them off you risk being sucked into this bad behaviour!


1 For example:

Mishnah Berurah 156:4 enumerates how to conduct oneself correctly in business and the Mishnah Berurah notes explicitly:

יזהר מליצנות וחניפות וכן ירחק משקר בתכלית הריחוק

He should be careful with scoffing, and flattery, and similarly, he should distance himself from lying as far as possible.

Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 239:1 discusses the halachos of krias shema for bedtime to which the Mishnah Berurah 239:9 discusses the practise of reviewing one's day during this time, and if he finds that he has done any aveiros he should admit to his wrongdoings and should strive not to do them again. Specifically:

ובפרט בעונות המצויים כגון חניפות שקרים ליצנות לשה"ר וכן עון בטול תורה צריכים בדיקה ביותר

Specifically regular sins for example, flattery, falsehood, scoffing, loshon hara and similarly the sin of bittul Torah needs additional checking/introspection.


EDIT

So as far as building a sourced halachic definition - we have so far outlined two key points:

  1. Scoffing is a destructive force in someone's spiritual wellbeing
  2. It is something incredibly severe, to the point when you are near scoffers and telling them off it has the power to suck you in.

It is now worth looking at the point in which it emerges in the process of sin.

Derech Eretz Zuta 6:5 notes that leitzanus represents the second phase of the beginning of any sin:

תחלת עבירה הרהור הלב. שניה לה ליצנות שלישית לה גסות הרוח. רביעית לה אכזריות. חמישית לה הבטלה. ששית לה שנאת חנם. שביעית לה עין הרע. הוא שאמר שלמה (משלי כ״ו:כ״ה) כי יחנן (את) קולו אל תאמן בו וגו׳

The first stage in committing a sin is impure thought, the second is scoffing, the third haughtiness, the fourth cruelty, the fifth idleness, the sixth causeless hatred and the seventh an evil eye. That is what Solomon said, When he speaketh fair, believe him not; for there are seven abominations in his heart.

So we see that it marks the entry point into a person's sin. It is the first reaction built off a person's impure thought. In other words, a person has a mental drive or suggestion to sin, and then, scoffing follows and starts the process of translating that thought into action.

So why is this so dangerous?

The Sefer Chasidim 88:1 helps us by noting:

הלצנות מעביר המורא והיא שנייה לעבירה וכל המתלוצץ נופל בגיהנם ואינו זוכה להקביל פני שכינה

Scoffing dispels reverence. It is second to transgression. As our teachers of blessed memory expounded from Scriptures, “All who scoff fall into Gehenna and do not merit to receive Divine Glory.”

So to frame it as part of a definition, it creates the momentum for a person to sin, as it eradicates the natural fear we may have for acting sinfully.


EDIT 2

There is a compelling definition from Rav Mordechai Gifter zt"l here. He bases it on the Midrash Tanchuma cited by Rashi at the beginning of Parshas Toldos that notes that Yitzchak was made to look like Avraham so that the לֵיצָנֵי הַדּוֹר - the scoffers of the generation would not point and say that Sarah became pregnant when in the house of Avimelech.

Rav Gifter, zt”l, Rosh Hayeshiva of the Telshe Yeshiva, once said that we learn about the destructive power of cynicism from this Medrash. Leitzanus is a terrible plague. A “Leitz” (one who speaks “leitzanus”) is not to be confused with a person who has a good sense of humor or even a sharp wit. Humor is not leitzanus. Leitzanus has a connotation of cynicism. It refers to taking everything which is high and knocking it down. A leitz takes everything that is holy and tries to demonstrate the profane side of it.

After doing a bit of digging, I found that this piece of Rav Gifter can be found in his Pirkei Torah here. His exact words are as follows:

אלא שמכאן עלינו ללמוד גודל כחה של ליצנות בתור מקור לחורבן והשחתה. והבנת הדברים ע"פ דברי רמח"ל במס"י פ"ח שביאר שם הענין בעומק חכמתו - ועיי"ש ציורו הנפלא ממגן המשוח בשמן שחצים נופלים ונשמטים גל ידו לחוץ, כן התוכחה - החץ הירוי לעומק נפשו של אדם ועלולה לעשות מהפכת נפשית, באה הליצנות והתוכחה נשמטת מאלי' ונופלת לארץ - הגישה היא לא גישה של תוקף הדעת, אלא גישה שלות, אי - רצינית, ובגישה כזו כרוכה הסכנה היותר גדולה, וצריך להשמר בזהירות הכי יתירה להנצל מרשת הליצנות

But from here we must learn the magnitude of the power of scoffing as a source of destruction and corruption. And the understanding of things according to the words of Ramchal in Mesillas Yesharim, who explained the matter there in the depth of his wisdom - and look at his wonderful imagery there of the shield smeared with oil that arrows fall and drop with the wave of his hand outside, so too rebuke - the arrow is shot to the depths of a person's soul and can make a mental revolution, yet comes along scoffing and the rebuke drops and falls to the ground. The attitude is not a validity of the mind, but an attitude of peace. If one is not serious, such an approach entails the greatest danger, and must be guarded with the utmost care to avoid being caught in the scoffer's net.

So in short, leitzanus takes something that is a solid, well-meaning approach and makes it fall by the wayside, thereby allowing for sin to creep in.

10
  • Thank you Dov for researching this, it is hugely appreciated. What you have uncovered is illustrating the problem I have had. Finding a solid definition of what it is is very hard to come by, as it seems the myriad times it comes up, the only thing mentioned is a consequence of having spoken it, or it gives a highly specific example that doesn't allow inferring the principle. I think this idea is very important and nogeah to the world of social media so we should really try and get to the bottom of this!
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 14:07
  • 1
    Yes I found that amazing too, and confirmation of something that I've always suspected: ridicule/mockery is a powerful brainwashing technique. It's so so powerful, a person can deliver an amazing speech on an important topic, and all it takes is one person in the room to make fun of it, one meme and 99% of the people in the room will never take the idea seriously again. We are all susceptible and Torah scholars are not exempt either, so the best advice is to stay away from it and realise how immoral it really is. Hard in today's day and age though!
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 14:13
  • 1
    100% @RabbiKaii
    – Dov
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 14:19
  • 1
    @RabbiKaii - Take 3! :-)
    – Dov
    Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 16:47
  • 1
    Got there in the end, thanks for your very hard work in helping me find a definition to this question, which Rav Gifter seems to have enlightened us with.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 11:10
1

Have you tried Sefer Hamidot - there are new editions with Marei Mekomot ranging from Mikra to Gemara and Midrash such as in this pdf, page 179 in the file: https://breslovbooks.com/pdf/hebrew-sefer-hamedos-with-sources-version-2.pdf

Sefer Hamidot has 11 points in the section "Leitzanut" that combined with the M"M as mentioned should make for a good guide and handbook and answer your question.

For convenience here's an English translation, however the M"M in the pdf couldn't be pasted here due to wrong encoding.

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Translation:Sefer_Hamidot#%D7%9C%D7%99%D7%A6%D7%A0%D7%95%D7%AA_MOCKERY:

  1. Through mockery, one will have many creditors, and they will rule over him. Also he will fail in promiscuity. Also, his wife will dominate him.

  2. Through mockery, one walks and falls (alt. -- continuously falls). Also, he comes to falsehood, and wandering from place to place.

  3. Through adulation comes mockery.

  4. Through mockery comes suffering.

  5. Through mockery he does not have wisdom.

  6. Mockery makes a person loathsome to G-d and to people.

  7. Through mockery come fires (lit. burning).

  8. One who mocks the words of the Sages is judged (/sentenced to be committed) in boiling excrement.

  9. All forms of mockery are forbidden, except for the mocking of idol-worship.

  10. Mockery is a dreadful matter -- for it begins with suffering and its end is annihilation.

  11. One who mocks, his sustenance is diminished, and he falls into Hell, and he brings destruction to the world.

As for your examples however to address them well requires an understanding and Avodah of the people and issues etc. that are involved thus probably stepping into the realm of personal advice. Barukh Hashem that we have advice of the True Tzaddikim and through prayer and devotions we should attain it all.

N.B. It could be that being 11 points this also alludes to the leitzanut that happened against Yosef's dream back home r"l.


In addition, here are the 4 points on Leitzanut from Likutei Etzot. The first three are from Likutei Moharan which are his R' Nachman z"l's entirely new teachings (as opposed to Sefer Hamidot which he z"l collected or inferred from divrei chazal); so see there in L. Moharan for the citations and connections.

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Translation:Likutei_Etzot#LEITZANUT_-_Mockery

LEITZANUT - Mockery

  1. He that scoffs at the words of the Sages, is judged / to be sentenced to [punishment in] boiling excrement, and this causes putrid fumes to go up to his Moach/brain, which bury and mix up and confuse his Daat/mind, so he's unable to bring out from his learning, Hanhagot Yesharot / proper conduct and behavior, and his heart is polluted like a Beit Ha-kisse ("toilet room," outhouse), which makes his Eitzah (counsel, determination) always split and divided so he's unable to give counsel to his soul (decide) about any thing at all; this results in Yisrael being expelled from their place and the Sod ha-Ibbur ("Secret of Intercalation," the calendar setting; impregnation and implanting of holy things in higher senses) is taken away from us. Then this results in controversies and fights (L. Moharan 61:1-3).

א. הַמַּלְעִיג עַל דִּבְרֵי חֲכָמִים, נִדּוֹן בְּצוֹאָה רוֹתַחַת וְעַל־יְדֵי זֶה עוֹלִים עֲשָׁנִים סְרוּחִים אֶל הַמֹּחַ, וּמְעַקְּמִין וּמְעַרְבְּבִין וּמְבַלְבְּלִין דַּעְתּוֹ, וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְהוֹצִיא מִלִּמּוּדוֹ הַנְהָגוֹת יְשָׁרוֹת, וְלִבּוֹ מְטֻנָּף כְּמוֹ בֵּית הַכִּסֵּא, וְעַל־יְדֵי זֶה עֲצָתוֹ חֲלוּקָה לְעוֹלָם וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לָתֵת עֵצָה לְנַפְשׁוֹ בְּשׁוּם דָּבָר, וְעַל־יְדֵי זֶה גּוֹזְרִין לְגָרֵשׁ אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמְּקוֹמָם וְנִלְקָח סוֹד הָעִבּוּר מֵאִתָּנוּ. וְעַל־יְדֵי זֶה נִמְשָׁךְ מַחֲלוֹקוֹת (סא, א ב ג)

  1. There are already now many Sefarim, sacred Jewish books and still to come there will be many more Sefarim, and it's forbidden to be Mal'ig (to be dismissive, scorning, mocking, take lightly) any one of them, because the world needs every one of them [see the section Talmud Torah in Likutei Etzot] (Ibid. 5).

ב. יֵשׁ עַכְשָׁו סְפָרִים הַרְבֵּה וְגַם עֲתִידִין לִהְיוֹת עוֹד סְפָרִים הַרְבֵּה וְאָסוּר לְהַלְעִיג עַל שׁוּם אֶחָד מֵהֶם, כִּי כֻּלָּם נִצְרָכִים לְהָעוֹלָם [עַיֵּן תַּלְמוּד תּוֹרָה] (שָׁם ה)

  1. Mockery is "the fool's laughter" (Eccl. 7:6); you nullify it by Tikkun Habrit (L. Moharan II:83).

ג. הַלֵּיצָנוּת הִיא שְׂחוֹק הַכְּסִיל וְנִתְבַּטֵּל עַל־יְדֵי תִּקּוּן הַבְּרִית (ח"ב פג)

  1. People (in general) are a great hindrance (to serving Hashem), but the main thing is their Leitzanut (mockery, disbelief, skepticism); it's a big obstacle to (getting to) the Truth; this is very well known to anyone that's versed in the cunning cleverness of their Leitzanut (humor). This is needless to say about the clever humor of irreligious and not-serious people of the world that go in the ways of reductionism, materialism and nihilism, who are very scornful and dismissive of Yisrael as is well known, as this can harm and uproot a man in entirety, the Merciful One save us — but even the cleverness and Leitzanut (sarcasm) of those that appear to be pious and followers (of True Tzaddikim; "chassidim") but who perform Leitzanut (mockery, derision) at many things that are in Kedushah — they too cause tremendous harm, and drive a person very, very far from truly serving Hashem. In many ways their Leitzanut (indifference, mockery, doubt) is worse than the Leitzanut (agnosticism) of plain irreligious people. Because most (religious) people will keep distance from those irreligious people, because every one knows, that philosophy uproots a man out of both worlds [this one and the Coming World] and takes him down to the lowest hell (Sheol), the Merciful One spare us! But the Leitzanut and cleverness of those ones that appear to be pious, kosher people — a man doesn't run away from them as much, since it's coming out of the mouth of somewhat religious God-fearing people and yet they enclothe all of it in Darkhei Emet (ways of truth). This is all the work of the Accuser (the Devil). "But he that goes pure, simple and innocent - will go in confidence." He will keep away from them and their multitudes that are like them. He will not have a look at any of their cleverness and Leitzanut (indifference, mockery, doubt). He will just go with simple innocence in the ways of our Patriarchs "that are from eternity [and unto eternity good.]" (Sichot Haran 81).

ד. בְּנֵי אָדָם הֵם מוֹנְעִים גְּדוֹלִים מְאֹד, וְהָעִקָּר הִיא הַלֵּיצָנוּת שֶׁלָּהֶם, שֶׁמּוֹנֵעַ מְאֹד מִן הָאֱמֶת, כַּיָּדוּעַ הֵיטֵב לְמִי שֶׁבָּקִי בְּחָכְמוֹת וְלֵיצָנוּת שֶׁלָּהֶם. לֹא מִבָּעֲיָא חָכְמוֹת וְלֵיצָנוּת שֶׁל קַלֵּי עוֹלָם הַהוֹלְכִים בְּדַרְכֵי הַמֶּחְקָרִים, שֶׁמִּתְלוֹצְצִים הַרְבֵּה מִדַּת יִשְׂרָאֵל כַּמְפֻרְסָם, שֶׁזֶּה מַזִּיק וְעוֹקֵר אֶת הָאָדָם לְגַמְרֵי רַחֲמָנָא לִצְלַן, אֶלָּא אֲפִלּוּ הַחָכְמוֹת וְהַלֵּיצָנוּת שֶׁל הַנִּרְאִין כִּכְשֵׁרִים וַחֲסִידִים, וְעוֹשִׂים לֵיצָנוּת מִכַּמָּה דְּבָרִים שֶׁבִּקְדֻשָּׁה, גַּם הֵם מַזִּיקִים הַרְבֵּה, וּמַרְחִיקִים הַרְבֵּה מְאֹד מֵעֲבוֹדַת ה' בֶּאֱמֶת. וּבְכַמָּה אוֹפַנִּים גָּרוּעַ יוֹתֵר הַלֵּיצָנוּת שֶׁלָּהֶם מֵהַלֵּיצָנוּת שֶׁל הַקַּלֵּי עוֹלָם. כִּי מֵהַקַּלִּים הַנַּ"ל בּוֹרְחִים רֹב הָעוֹלָם, כִּי הַכֹּל יוֹדְעִין, שֶׁחָכְמַת הַפִּילוֹסוֹפְיָא עוֹקֶרֶת אֶת הָאָדָם מִשְּׁנֵי עוֹלָמוֹת וּמוֹרִידִין אוֹתוֹ לִשְׁאוֹל תַּחְתִּיּוֹת רַחֲמָנָא לִצְלָן. אֲבָל זֹאת הַלֵּיצָנוּת וְהַחָכְמוֹת שֶׁל הַנִּרְאִין כִּכְשֵׁרִים הַנַּ"ל, אֵין הָאָדָם בּוֹרֵחַ מֵהֶם כָּל כָּךְ מֵאַחַר שֶׁיּוֹצְאִים מִפִּי הַכְּשֵׁרִים קְצָת וְהֵם מַלְבִּישִׁים הַכֹּל בְּדַרְכֵי אֱמֶת. וְהַכֹּל מַעֲשֵׂה בַּעַל דָּבָר. וְהוֹלֵךְ בְּתֹם יֵלֵךְ בֶּטַח. וְיִבְרַח מֵהֶם וּמֵהֲמוֹנָם, וְלֹא יִסְתַּכֵּל עַל כָּל מִינֵי חָכְמוֹת וְלֵיצָנוּת שֶׁלָּהֶם. וְיֵלֵךְ בִּתְמִימוּת וּפְשִׁיטוּת בְּדַרְכֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ אֲשֶׁר מֵעוֹלָם (שהר"ן פא)

1
  • Thank you so much Nissim. Once again, an answer of immense use to my purposes, and enlightening worlds for me. Not sure I can convert the 11 points or the 4 points into a "definition", although of course they do build a picture, like you said
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jan 21, 2023 at 19:01

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