It is not by accident that the Torah describes the creation of the world with speech. With our speech we have the power to create and destroy, to inspire and degrade, to support and to undermine, to judge and to give the benefit of the doubt. Everyone has at one time or another put their foot in their mouth, and seen the consequences.

When someone is allergic to peanuts they take amazing precaution to not be affected. They sometimes will not even go in the same room where peanuts are being eaten, lest they have a catastrophic reaction. Their precaution is warranted because of the severity of the allergy and the great sensitivity of the human body.

Imagine if we all were sensitive to gossip, slander, lashon hora, and realized the great pain that was brought into the world through our speech. Some say, “Hey, there is NO WAY I can change, or even do a good job at this stuff.” Well, if you were allergic to peanuts, could you say the same thing?

Here is a meditation that I say: Lashon Hora is bad for the Jews and anything I can do to remove myself from it will make me healthier and in turn makes the Jewish people healthier.

Shabbat Shalom

TEN RULES OF LASHON HORA
Removing Lashon Hora from our lives means removing negativity, insinuation, scorn, and gossip from our speech. Jewish tradition forbids one to denigrate the behavior or character of a person or to make a remark that might cause physical, psychological or financial harm. If you follow these ten rules you will see peace blossom in all your relationships.

1. Don’t convey a derogatory image of some one even, if it is true.
2. A statement that can ultimately causes someone physical, financial or emotional harm is also lashon hora.
3. It is lashon hora to recall past embarrassing incidents.
4. It is lashon hora even when you incriminate yourself as well.
5. Loshon hora cannot be communicated in any way, shape or form.
6. Speaking against a group as a whole is a particularly severe offense.
Harmful remarks about children are also loshon hora.
7. Lashon hora can’t be related to close relatives, including one’s spouse.
8. Even if every one knows – you shouldn’t repeat it.
9. Distance yourself from gossip because it causes animosity between people.
10. Avoid listening to lashon hora and gossip. If you inadvertently hear lashon hora, don’t believe it’s true. Instead, give the person the benefit of the doubt. Assume the information is inaccurate or that the person does not realize they are doing something wrong.

NOTE: There are times when lashon hora is permitted or even required, i.e. when warning a person about potential harm. However, secondhand information and baseless impressions have momentous implications. When in doubt – wait five seconds and think of the implications of what you are saying. Maybe you don’t need to say anything? Those five seconds can save lives.

About the author

Rabbi Yonah

9 Comments

  • Oy, first of all, we’d have to shut down the blog. Second, from now on when I walk outside, I’ll be sure to look up so I can see the lightning before it strikes me down.

    Shabbat shalom, Rabbi Yonah.

  • If I follow points 1 to 6 I will no longer have anything entertaining to say in conversation.
    I can`t think of any good stand up comedians that would survive either.
    Guess we´re pretty pathetic, but i truly like the “give everyone the benefit of the doubt” part.
    I guess I´m just a pathetic maggot.

  • Gosh, the world sure would be painfully boring without lashon ha-ra. All we could do is sit around with plastic smiles complimenting each other and talking about God, which sounds like life-as-an-AA-meeting.

    Remind me to spread an unsubstantiated rumor in order to delay the redemption a little more, because damn, I couldn’t stand a world that uneventful.

    You know, you have to wonder, if God is really so against lashon ha-ra, why did he make the Jews so damn good at it? Why would God make all this great stuff we’re not allowed to touch? Sounds less like the benevolent master of the universe and more like Willy Wonka.

  • An old Sufi tradition advises us to speak only after our words have managed to pass through four gates. At the first gate, we ask ourselves, “Are these words true?” If so, we let them pass on; if not, back they go. At the second gate we ask; “Are they necessary?” At the third gate we ask; “Are they beneficial?” and at the fourth gate, we ask, “Are they kind?” If the answer to any of these is no, then what you are about to say should be left unsaid.

  • You know, you have to wonder, if God is really so against lashon ha-ra, why did he make the Jews so damn good at it? Why would God make all this great stuff we’re not allowed to touch? Sounds less like the benevolent master of the universe and more like Willy Wonka.
    There would be no effort in life- no tikkun, no aspirations, no teshuva- if everythng that was forbidden/wrong/unethical were not tempting.

    Michael you nailed it. We are good at it and we need to control ourselves.

    I disagree that life would be boring.

  • I was just wondering what times, specifically, that it is appropiate to do Lashon Hara. For example, during the Israeli election, I heard that Amalek is really an acronym for Avodah, Meretz, Likud, and Kadima. But am I really not supposed to call out Noam Chomsky for his pinko-commie ideology?

  • BE”H
    Quote:
    >> There are times when lashon hora is permitted
    >> or even required, i.e. when warning a person
    >> about potential harm.

    Well, in that case it’s not even Lashon Harà…

  • I am a christian who loves the Jewish people. In fact, I worship alongside them in my home church and we are beginning to learn deeper things than we ever have before by listening to the Rabbis who come from Isreal to speak to us, during “christians United For Isreal”. I am becoming very convicted of Lashon Hora and am here to learn more. I see how gossip and slander has destroyed relationships in my life and caused an open door to the curse and with God’s help I want nothing more to do with it. I like your analogy of allergies to peanuts and will share it at my bible study tommorow. May you be blessed for you conviction and teaching.

    Tammy

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