There is a sin that is done by more good people than any other sin; yet, there is very little Teshuvah, repentance done to try to correct it. Why is this true? Because very few people really know what the sin is. So, what is this mystery sin that we all need to work on? LASHON HARAH, the evil tongue, talking about others, gossip, slander, sometimes praising others, improper speech!!!
When non-observant people talk about how difficult it is to observe Jewish law, they usually mention the difficulty of observing Shabbat or keeping kosher or other similarly detailed rituals. Yet the laws that are most difficult to keep, that are most commonly violated even by observant Jews, are the laws regarding improper speech. This is a very important area of Jewish law; entire books have been written on the subject.
What are some to the subtle ways that LASHON HARAH causes damage? One mistake is that people think if it is true it is OK. The fact is whether something is true or not can still be dangerous to say. And, we don’t realize how many people it could hurt.
There are examples that I have received as comments and even private Emails. Several readers have written to me and said that particular Rabbis that I quoted were wrong in what they said. They even quote other well-known Rabbis who have stated this information. If I put this on my blog, it would be LASHON HARAH said about the Rabbi I quoted, it would be LASHON HARAH about the Rabbis my reader used to verify the information, it would be LASHON HARAH against me for quoting this Rabbi and it would be LASHON HARAH for any reader who believed the LASHON HARAH said.
Who is punished for the sin of LASHON HARAH? The one who says the LASHON HARAH, the one who passes the information to others (like good old gossip) and the ones who hear the LASHON HARAH and believe it, ARE ALL GUITY OF THE SIN. In this case, the statement made about the Rabbi in the first place was incorrect. I didn’t quote someone without checking it thoroughly. That means that the slander would have hurt the Rabbi being quoted, who is held in high regard by many, many Jews, it hurts the Rabbis who supposedly are passing on such LASHON HARAH, who were also held in high regard and it hurt those who say the LASHON HARAH and those who believe the gossip. Nobody wins, especially if the Rabbi being slandered, who unnecessarily loses credibility. When you have Rabbis, teachers, righteous people who help many, many people to grow in Judaism and someone comes along and diminishes their credibility, everyone is hurt.
What if a Rabbi is actually hurting others with what he is saying? Someone like myself should avoid even talking about that Rabbi. If I think that I am helping by slandering that Rabbi and I turn out to be wrong, I have committed a very serious sin – LASHON HARAH that cannot be taken back. That is another problem with LASHON HARAH. Once the damage is done, the person who is being slandered is ruined. If someone recants a statement saying that he was wrong about what he said, most people would hear the recant but would still have doubts about the whether the original statement was really true or not. It is important to not read LASHON HARAH and not believe it if read. I am not allowed to believe it!!!
Let me give you another example that I personally experienced. It is so subtle and definitely with no intentions of trying to hurt anyone. I was signing up for my college courses for the next semester and there was a particular subject that was on my curriculum. A friend of mine saw that I was going to take that class, at which time he told me: “I took that class last semester, it was a great class, and you definitely want to take it with Professor Peloni; he is the best one to teach it.” It sounded like good advice, but I questioned if my friend never took the course with any other professor, how can he say that P Peloni is the best? It is LASHON HARAH since my friend is actually discrediting the other professors that he really didn’t even know. If the word got around, all the other professors teaching that course would be slandered, since gossip grows and becomes like a cancer. It wouldn’t take too long before many would believe that most of the professors are not too good. That was never the intensions of my friend, but it is what LASHON HARAH does; needlessly ruins good people.
The even sadder part of this episode is my friend could have easily worded his statement without the LASHON HARAH. Such as: I took that course last semester with Professor Peloni who I thought did a very good job teaching the material. Nothing implied about “watch out for the other professors who aren’t as good.
This example was a personal occurrence, but it happens all the time with speakers at seminars. People don’t often say: make sure you catch the lecture by Rabbi So-and-so, they say go see Rabbi So-and-So, he is the best one in the seminar – LASHON HARAH.
When I receive comments about someone, I am not allowed by Torah to believe any negative comments made about people, even other readers. It is LASHON HARAH and I can be punished for believing it. If I pass it on to my readers, the punishment is more severe, since I may have caused others to believe it.
Another statement that we hear often is: “this is not LASHON HARAH, but did you see what XXXX did?” Of course it is LASHON HARAH, and announcing it as not being LASHON HARAH doesn’t make it OK. We may not believe it, but the gravest of these sins of tale-bearing is LASHON HARAH, which involves discrediting a person or saying negative things about a person, even if those negative things are true. Indeed, true statements are even more damaging than false ones, because you can't defend yourself by disproving the negative statement if it's true! Some sources indicate that LASHON HARAH is equal in seriousness to murder, idol worship, and incest/adultery (the only three sins that we may not violate even to save a life).
Are there times that talking about others or tale-bearing are permitted?
There are a few exceptional circumstances when tale-bearing is allowed, or even required. Most notably, tale-bearing is required in a Jewish court of law, because it is a mitzvah to give testimony and that mitzvah overrides the general prohibition against tale-bearing. Thus, a person is required to reveal information, even if it is something that was explicitly told in confidence, and even if it will harm a person, in a Jewish court of law (the court is there for the purpose of determining the truth).
A person is also required to reveal information to protect a person from immediate, serious harm. For example, if a person hears that others are plotting to kill someone, he is required to reveal this information. That is another reason why the commandment not to go about as a tale-bearer is juxtaposed with "you shall not stand aside while your fellow's blood is shed."
In limited circumstances, one is also permitted to reveal information if someone is entering into a relationship that he would not enter if he knew certain information. For example, it may be permissible to tell a person that his prospective business partner is untrustworthy, or that a prospective spouse has a disease. This exception is subject to significant and complex limitations; however, if those limitations are satisfied, the person with the information is required to reveal it.
In all of these exceptions, a person is not permitted to reveal information if the same objective could be fulfilled without revealing information. For example, if you could talk a person out of marrying for reasons other than the disease, you may not reveal the disease.
Hard to believe that LASHON HARAH is that serious. Watch this video of an Autistic boy telling us why he was punished with this affliction. It is entitled “Why I Returned as a Reincarnation (English Subtitles):”
It is an interesting topic that these individuals who have been giving us messages from Hashem have been the topic or LASHON HARAH. Secular professionals have denied that these messages are real since they have trouble accepting anything that could possibly be related to Hashem. We have seen in Bava Basra 12 and in Parshat Shoftim proof from Hashem telling us that the FC individuals are giving His messages. Not believing or talking against these individuals because they may defy flawed human logic is LASHON HARAH (against the individuals, against me if I present their messages on this blog and against Hashem who told us to listen to them).
LASHON HARAH is not to be messed with, especially when we are so close to the end and our final judgment is imminent. As I stated: the punishment doesn’t disappear; in fact, it will be addressed on Judgment Day.
It is forbidden to even imply or suggest negative things about a person. It is forbidden to say negative things about a person, even in jest. It is likewise considered a "shade of LASHON HARAH" to say positive things about a person in the presence of his enemies, because this will encourage his enemies to say negative things to contradict you!
If you are still of the misconception about what LASHON HARAH really is and why it is so, so dangerous, then you found an area to study until Moshiach is introduced. I have been questioned recently about what would be a good topic to study when there is little time left to do Teshuvah. Now you know. Forget what you thought LASHON HARAH is and do yourself a great advantage. Work on this, one of the greatest of sins; time is running out.
Further information on the topic of “Wronging a Person through Speech.”
Leviticus 25:17 says, "You shall not wrong one another." This has traditionally been interpreted as wronging a person with speech. It includes any statement that will embarrass, insult or deceive a person, or cause a person emotional pain or distress.
Here are some commonly-used examples of behavior that is forbidden by this mitzvah:
A very hidden area of LASHON HARAH is the media. There is so much LASHON HARAH in the news, on the web, YouTube, etc, etc, etc. Gossip has always been a big seller of news. Slandering people has always been financially rewarding in the media. Whether is it true or not, is totally unimportant; it is LASHON HARAH and should not have your attention. We see so much fake news these days that even adds to the slander.
- You may not call a person by a derogatory nickname, or by any other embarrassing name, even if he is used to it.
- You may not ask an uneducated person for an opinion on a scholarly matter (that would draw attention to his lack of knowledge or education).
- You may not ask a merchant how much he would sell something for if you have no intention of buying.
- You may not refer someone to another person for assistance when you know the other person cannot help (in other words, it's a violation of Jewish law to give someone the run-around!).
- You may not deceive a person, even if no harm is done by the deception; for example, you may not sell non-kosher meat to a non-Jew telling him that it is kosher, even though no harm is done to the non-Jew by this deception.
- You may not sell a person damaged goods without identifying the damage, even if the price you give is fair for the goods in their damaged condition.
- You may not offer a person a gift or invite a person to dinner if you know that the person will not accept.
- You may not compliment a person if you do not mean it.
If you do read such trash, you are not allowed to believe it. Once again, you can be punished for believing such nonsense – stay away from it, and definitely don’t pass it on to others no matter how insignificant it may seem. The only exception is if you are reading about someone who will bring great harm to you and your family; you are permitted to protect your interests.
I have one more story that should really drive home the importance of avoiding LASHON HARAH. The world is in such a horrible condition because of the first man, Adam, ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good & evil. He actually did it with good intentions since he thought it would raise his spiritual level closer to Hashem. So, why is the world so punished because of this act by Adam? When Adam was confronted by Hashem and asked: What did you do? Instead of doing Teshuvah and telling Hashem how sorry he was and then making sure he never did it again (which would have worked), Adam said: IT WAS THAT WOMAN YOU GAVE ME WHO MADE ME DO IT!!!!!! In other words, we are suffering today in this world of chaos and evil because Adam answered with “LASHON HARAH.” Instead of taking responsibility for his sin, he made an even worse sin by blaming his actions on someone else and even blaming Hashem for giving him “the-someone-else.”
LASHON HARAH IS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS; JUST ASK ADAM, THE FIRST PERSON TO USE IT.
Think Before You Click!
Seeing the Good in Others
FeathersThank you Mordechai.