(R. Levi): Anyone who stops learning to speak idle words, he is (force-)fed burning coals - "Ha'Kotefim Malu'ach Alei Si'ach v'Shoresh Resamim Lachmam".
What does this mean? Many times I've stopped learning to speak idle words!
Simcha Feldman, Baltimore, USA
I'm pleased that your mouth is as yet un-burned, and I hope it remains that way.
I do suggest however, that you change your habits and stop interrupting your learning to speak idle chatter, because if Hash-m does not punish in this world (certainly not immediately), then He will punish in the next.
What's more, the Chazal that you quote is certainly referring to the World to Come, since eating hot coals is not the sort of punishment that one generally finds here in this world.
In short, eating hot coals is not a pleasant proposition, but one that we all will be faced with in the World to Come unless we do something about it. That being the case, my advice to you is that if not interrupting your learning will prevent it from happening, then go for it!
Be'Virchas Kol Tuv
Thanks, but how are we to understand this example (one of many) of extreme-ism? HKBH wants Chazal to scare us and create anxiety and fear? This is not a balanced vision of HKBH's rachamim and love, but rather, an extreme take on what din/gehinom is all about - to renew our relationship with our loving Father that we could've had.
Why did Hashem create Fear? Why is Fear of Him the most important of all Mitzvos (Shabbos 31b)? Because fear is the most effective deterrent that exists! A person does not place his hand in the fire because he is afraid of the ensuing pain. By the same token, if a person had adequate Yir'as Shamayim, he would not sin. A father warns his son of the consequences should he steal, fight, lie etc. because he loves him more than he loves other children (that's why he doesn't rebuke them). Hashem too, loves us so much that He wants us to earn Olam ha'Ba in its fullness. So He warns us of the terrible consequences of our misdeeds, to ensure that we get there.
One of the biggest problems in today's "enlightened" world is the fact that people know that they can literally murder and get away with it. I maintain that the biggest mistake that the modern world has made (one which explains the growth of lawlessness) is the abolition of the death-penalty (in conjunction with the general lack of law-enforcement). I could quote you a number of sources from Chazal. Let the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (3:2) suffice: 'Pray for the peace of the realm, because were it not for the fear of it, one man would swallow his fellow-man alive'.
Be'Virchas Kol Tuv,
P.S. I think that it is precisely to negate your theory that Shlomoh ha'Melech said in Mishlei (13:4) "Someone who spares the rod hates his son" (even if the practical application of his words may have changed in today's day and age).