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What's the surest way to avoid speaking Lashon Hara?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


Library » Jewish Identity » Love thy Neighbor | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Lashon Hara is a pernicious sin which does much harm and has torn asunder countless families and friendships. The Talmud reckons “consistent Lashon Hara speakers” as a group which will not merit greeting the Shechinah (Divine Presence)! Thankfully, in the last few decades, Lashon Hara awareness has increased; largely influenced by the passionate writings of the Chafetz Chaim (Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan, 1838-1933) on the subject.

There are two ways to approach the performance of this Mitzvah. The simple way is abstinence and self-discipline. The natural temptation to indulge in gossip must be quelled. This is a difficult task because the struggle is ongoing and constant, but ultimately “the mind controls the desires of the heart.”

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Chabad Rebbe, offers an alternative approach (Tanya, Part III, epistle XXII):

“Therefore, my beloved and dear ones, I beg again and again that each of you exert himself with all his heart and soul to firmly implant in his heart a love for his fellow Jew. And, in the words of Scripture (Zechariah 8:17), “let none of you consider in your heart what is evil for his fellow.” [Such a consideration] should never arise in one’s heart [in the first place]; and if it does arise ... one should push it away from his heart ... as if it were an actual idolatrous thought. For to speak evil [of another] is as grave as idolatry, incest and bloodshed (Talmud Arachin 15b). And if this be so with speech, [then surely thinking evil about another is even worse]; for all the wise of heart are aware of the greater impact [on the soul] of thought over speech!”

Someone who exerts self-control over his speech is constantly involved in (fighting) negativity – “I can’t say this, I shouldn’t relate that, etc.” Such a person is doing a great good by not conveying his negative feelings to others, but his heart is not yet a sanctuary for G-dliness. On the other hand, a person who works to really respect every Jew and eradicates all negativity from his heart becomes a naturally loving person. Instead of fighting the darkness, he is expelling it through shining a light into his heart.


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Mitzvot » Love thy Neighbor

(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Chabad, an acronym for Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding, is the name of a Chassidic Group founded in the 1770s. Two of the most fundamental teachings of Chabad are the intellectual pursuit of understanding the divine and the willingness to help every Jew who has a spiritual or material need.
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Foundation text of Chabad chassidism. Authored by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad movement, and first published in 1796. Considered to be the "Bible" of Chassidism.
Lashon Hara
Lit.: Evil tongue. Harmful gossip. Lashon Hara is forbidden no matter if the gossip is true or false.
Divine Presence.