Hey it's me, click me to go to the main page, not too hard!
B'siyata d'shmaya - With the help of Heaven

Laws of Lashon Ha'ra

HaRav Nissim Behar zt"l of Turkey 5719/1959
from his La Práctica del Judaísmo (Ladino)

1 . 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.

2. 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.

We 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.

5. 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.

6. Lashon Hara is forbidden even if it is said jokingly, without intent to harm.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. It is also forbidden to listen to a group speaking Lashon Hara.

11. The sin of speaking Lashon Hara, as with all sins, is even more serious when spoken by someone versed in Torah.

12. 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.'

13. Not only is it forbidden to speak ill of the person himself, it (2) is also forbidden to malign his attire.

14. He who guards his tongue from evil saves his soul from calamity.(3)

15. He who by slander gives a bad reputation to his fellow man is not forgiven by Heaven.(4)

16. 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)

17. Both he who speaks Lashon Hara and he who listens deserve to be prey for dogs.(6)

18. To speak Lashon Hara is a denial of the God of Israel (7)

19. The sin of Lashon Hara contributed extensively the destruction of both the Temple and Jerusalem.

20. It is prohibited to keep company with those who speak Lashon Hara, or to live in their neighborhood. (8)

21. 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)

22. 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.

23. He who desires to repent for misuse of his power of speech, should confess to God, after becoming determined to mend his ways.

He says as follows: "I have sinned by speaking Lashon Hara (or Rechilut). I regret it. I am ashamed of it, and I have decided with all my heart not to relapse and do it again". Of course, if one has wronged his fellow man with improper words, one must also seek forgiveness from the person wronged, if this is at all possible and would not aggravate the situation.

24. 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.

Pleased 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.

Then 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 him.

"Life and death depend upon the tongue!"

1. Otzar

2. Sefer Torat Chayim La'em Velabat

3. Midrash Rabba, 10.

4. Yerushalmi Yoma 48.

5. Midrash Shochar Tov.

6. Pesachim 118-1.

7, Erachim 15-2.

8. Harambam, Hilchot De'ot, Halacha 6.

9. Sefer Ma'alot Hamidot.


These remarks are with the endorsement of the (former) Hahambashi, HaRav Raphael E. Saban zt"l and the endorsement of the
Beit Din of Turkey. These are based on the Sephardic tradition from Turkey, handed down to us from Castile, Spain.



© Shelomo Alfassá