Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Lashon Hara - Evil Speech

Every now and again the media report a court case involving the claim of libel - that one person spoke falsely about another. Society understands that it is unacceptable to say negative things about people if they are not true. It seems, however, that society accepts the right to speak negatively about others as long as we speak the truth. The Torah takes a different approach: Negative speech about others (known as lashon hara in hebrew) is forbidden by the Torah even if one is telling the truth. Why is this the case - what is wrong with speaking honestly about others just because it involves criticism?

There are two main reasons why lashon hara is forbidden? Firstly it often causes damage of some kind . And even if there is no tangible damage done, we tend to change our opinion of people based on what we hear about them. Consequently if we hear, for example, that John is an arrogant person, we are now more likely to notice arrogance in his character.

But what about a situation where lashon hara was spoken and absolutely no damage was done? Why should this form of lashon hara be forbidden? This brings us to the second problem with lashon hara even when it is true; Rabbeinu Yonah, one of the great medieval Rabbis, tells a brief story about this issue: An elderly sage was walking along a path with his student and they passed the rotting corpse of a dog. The student exclaimed, “this corpse is so disgusting!” His Rabbi answered, “but what lovely white teeth it has!” The Rabbi was teaching his student that we should always strive to focus on the good, even with regard to the corpse of a dog.

When a person speaks badly about someone else he is focusing on the negative and ignoring the positive in that that person. Rabbeinu Yonah explains that seeing the bad in others in and of itself is an undesirable character trait - speaking badly about others reflects an inner tendency to see the negative. The Torah forbids lashon hara because it wants us to be people who see the good in others.


Text Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen and Torah.org


 






ARTICLES ON MASEI AND THE THREE WEEKS:

View Complete List

Body Language
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5771

Rebuilding the Temple
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5768

You Can’t Get More Local or Global Than That!
Rabbi Label Lam - 5773

ArtScroll

Where Firstborn Rush In. . .
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5772

Wandering No More
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5760

17th of Tammuz: Why We Fast - Part 2
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758

Looking for a Chavrusah?

A Day of Rebuilding
Rabbi Label Lam - 5761

Clear Vision
Shlomo Katz - 5761

From the Depths of Your Heart
Rabbi Chaim Flom - 5767

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Events of the Past
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5772

Oath of Office
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5759

I Told You So
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5772

> The Age Of Experience
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5772

9th of Av: Reasons for Fasting - Part 2
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758

Only the Shadow Knows
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5764

Ramban: Why was Parshas Nedarim given over specifically to
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5771



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information