of Lashon Ha'ra
Nissim Behar zt"l of Turkey 5719/1959
from his La Práctica del Judaísmo
. It is forbidden to speak Lashon Hara - "malicious
words" about one's fellow man. That is, we should
not speak ill of him, even if we are telling the truth.
When asked, ever) with great insistence, to speak
about a certain person, if we feet that we cannot
do so without disparaging this person, we should no,
yield to this pressure, even if the one asking is
that person's father or teacher.
should always refuse to tell, in similar cases, even
if we incur our neighbor's anger or his sarcasm.
4. A person should no, speak Lashon Hara, even if
his refusal to do so will cost him his job or bring
him other harm.
If a person speaks in a derogatory way about someone,
even if the speaker admits that he has exactly the
same fault, this, too, is considered Lashon Hara,
both against himself and against his neighbor.
Lashon Hara is forbidden even if it is said jokingly,
without intent to harm.
If one is speaking about somebody, but does not identify
the person, if he lets it be understood who the person
is, this too, is Lashon Hara.
Just as it is forbidden to speak Lashon Hara, it is
also forbidden to believe if when we hear it. One
should not listen to Lashon Hara, and we should avoid
the company of those who habitually speak it.
If it is impossible to avoid hearing Lashon Hara,
if possible, we should openly express our disapproval
of its being spoken. At the very least, we would avoid
giving any nodding assent to it.
It is also forbidden to listen to a group speaking
The sin of speaking Lashon Hara, as with all sins,
is even more serious when spoken by someone versed
Idolators, murderers and adulterers are punished in
this world, say our Sages, and they also have no share
in the world to come. He who speaks Lashon Hara, say
the Sages, is worse than all three combined.'
Not only is it forbidden to speak ill of the person
himself, it (2) is also forbidden to malign his attire.
He who guards his tongue from evil saves his soul
He who by slander gives a bad reputation to his fellow
man is not forgiven by Heaven.(4)
To speak ill of one's fellow man is tantamount to
shooting an arrow at him and killing him. Usually,
the victim of an arrow never knows who shot him. (5)
Both he who speaks Lashon Hara and he who listens
deserve to be prey for dogs.(6)
To speak Lashon Hara is a denial of the God of Israel
The sin of Lashon Hara contributed extensively the
destruction of both the Temple and Jerusalem.
It is prohibited to keep company with those who speak
Lashon Hara, or to live in their neighborhood. (8)
A person who searches for faults in others, and discusses
them usually has these faults himself. Such a person
should be avoided so that he has no opportunity to
spread his slander.(9)
A sin similar to Lashon Hara is "Rechilut",
which means idle talk about other people, even if
it is not derogatory. Immediately after the verse
in the Torah which prohibits Rechillut, the Torah
states: "And do not stand idly by the blood of
thy neighbor". This juxtaposition implies that
Rechilut can lead to bloodshed.
He who desires to repent for misuse of his power of
speech, should confess to God, after becoming determined
to mend his ways.
Yalkut Shimoni on Tehillim relates an anecdote which
illustrates the proverb "Life and death depend
upon the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21). A king fell
sick, and his doctors prescribed that he must drink
the milk of a lioness. One of the king's courtiers
offered to get the milk, despite the great danger.
The courtier gathered ten goats, took them into the
wilderness, and wandered about with them until he
found a lioness nursing her young. From a considerable
distance, the courtier threw one goat in the direction
of the lioness, which she killed and ate on the spot.
The next day, the courtier moved slightly closer and
threw a second goat. Day after day, he did the same
thing, moving ever closer, until, finally, he was
able to approach the lioness himself and take some
of her milk.
with his success, but extremely tired, the courtier
stopped to rest on his way back and fell asleep. In
his dream, all the limbs of his body were arguing
with one another, each one claiming credit for the
great accomplishment. His feet said that they deserved
the credit and honor, because they had brought him
to the lioness. His hands ,said that they were superior
because they did the milking. His heart claimed the
honor because it was the heart which supplied him
with courage. Finally, the courtier's tongue declared
that, in fact, all the credit was due it, because
it had spoken to the king in the first place to offer
to bring the milk. All the limbs protested at the
tongue's claim, but the tongue replied: "I will
show you that my power is superior to yours.
the courtier suddenly awoke, and continued his journey
back to the palace. When he arrived, and stood before
the king, to everyone's surprise the courtier said:
"Your Majesty, I have brought you a dog's milk".
Deeply offended, the king gave orders to have the
courtier put to death. All the limbs were quaking
with fear as the hour :of the execution drew near.
Said the tongue, "Are you convinced now that
you are worth nothing? If so, I will save you from
death", Before the fearful moment arrived, the
courtier begged to be taken to the king to ask for
mercy. His request was granted, Once with the the
courtier revealed that, in fact, the milk was from
a lioness, as doctors had prescribed. An examination
showed that his words were true, and the king forgave
and death depend upon the tongue!"