What is lashon hara? (bad tongue לשון הרע)

    • Lashon hara literally means “bad talk.” This means that it is forbidden to speak negatively about someone else, even if it is true.





    • It is also forbidden to repeat anything about another, even if it is not a negative thing. This is called rechilut.





    • It is also forbidden to listen to lashon hara. One should either reprimand the speaker, or, if that is not possible, one should extricate oneself from that situation.





    • Even if one has already heard the lashon hara, it is forbidden to believe it. On the contrary, one should always judge one’s fellow favorably.





    • If one has already heard the lashon hara, he is forbidden to believe it. Nevertheless, one may suspect that the lashon hara is true, and take the necessary precautions to protect oneself.





    • It is forbidden to even make a motion that is derogatory towards someone.





    • One may not even retell a negative event without using names, if the listeners might be able to figure out who is being spoken of.





    • In certain circumstances, such as to protect someone from harm, it is permissible or even obligatory to share negative information. As there are many details to this law, one should consult a competent rabbi to learn what may be shared in any particular situation.










 

Learn more in Chabad.orghttp://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/922039/jewish/Laws-of-Lashon-Hara.htm

Leviticus – Chapter 19 – Verse 16:

http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9920#showrashi=true&v=16

לֹא תֵלֵךְ רָכִיל בְּעַמֶּיךָ לֹא תַעֲמֹד עַל דַּם רֵעֶךָ אֲנִי יְהוָֹה

You shall not go around as a gossipmonger amidst your people. You shall not stand by [the shedding of] your fellow’s blood. I am the Lord.

Rashi commentary:

לא תלך רכיל: אני אומר על שם שכל משלחי מדנים ומספרי לשון הרע הולכים בבתי רעיהם לרגל מה יראו רע או מה ישמעו רע לספר בשוק, נקראים הולכי רכיל, הולכי רגילה אשפיימנ”ט בלע”ז [ריגול]. וראיה לדברי, שלא מצינו רכילות שאין כתוב בלשון הליכה לא תלך רכיל, הולכי רכיל נחשת וברזל (ירמיה ו כח), ושאר לשון הרע אין כתוב בו הליכה מלשני בסתר רעהו (תהלים קא ה), לשון רמיה (שם קכ ב), לשון מדברת גדולות (שם יב ד), לכך אני אומר שלשון רכיל לשון הולך ומרגל, שהכ”ף נחלפת בגימ”ל, שכל האותיות שמוצאיהם ממקום אחד מתחלפות זו בזו, בי”ת בפ”א ובוי”ו, גימ”ל בכ”ף וקו”ף, נו”ן בלמ”ד, ורי”ש וזי”ן בצד”י וכן (ש”ב יט כח) וירגל בעבדך, רגל ותרמה לומר עלי רעה, וכן (תהלים טו ג) לא רגל על לשונו, וכן רוכל הסוחר ומרגל אחר כל סחורה, וכל המוכר בשמים להתקשט בהם הנשים, על שם שמחזר תמיד בעיירות נקרא רוכל, לשון רוגל. ותרגומו לא תיכול קורצין, כמו (דניאל ג ח) ואכלו קרציהון די יהודיא, אכל ביה קורצא בי מלכא (ברכות נח א). נראה בעיני שהיה משפטם לאכול בבית המקבל דבריהם שום הלעטה, והוא גמר חזוק, שדבריו מקויימים ויעמידם על האמת, ואותה הלעטה נקראת אכילת קורצין, לשון קורץ בעיניו (משלי ו יג), שכן דרך כל הולכי רכיל לקרוץ בעיניהם ולרמוז דברי רכילותן, שלא יבינו שאר השומעים

You shall not go around as a gossipmonger: Heb. לֹא תֵלֵךְ רָכִיל. I say that, since all those who instigate quarrels and speak evil talk go (הוֹלְכִים) into their friends’ houses in order to spy out (לְרַגֵּל) what evil they can see there, or what evil they can hear, to tell in the market-place, they are called הוֹלְכֵי רָכִיל, [which is the same as] הוֹלְכֵי רְגִילָה, – “those who go about spying” ; espiement in Old French, spying. A proof for my words is that we do not find [anywhere in Scripture] where the term רְכִילוּת is used without expressing it in terms of הֲלִיכָה, “going”; [for instance here,] לֹא תֵלֵךְ רָכִיל, “You shall not go around as a gossipmonger,” and, “going tale bearing (הוֹלְכֵי רָכִיל) (Jer. 6:28); [like] copper and iron.” With any other expression for evil talk, however, Scripture does not mention the term הֲלִיכָה, “going”; [for instance,], “He who slanders his fellow in secret” (Ps. 101: 5), and, “you deceitful tongue” (Ps. 120:3), and, “the tongue that speaks great things” (Ps. 12:4). Therefore, I say that the expression רָכִיל is an expression of “going around and spying מְרַגֵּל,” whereby [the letter] כ [of the word רָכִיל] is interchanged with [the letter] ג [so that the word רָכִיל is equivalent to רָגִיל]. For all letters which stem from the same source are interchangeable with one another [i.e., letters by the same speech organs, namely, the lips, tongue, teeth, palate, or throat]. [For example], [the letter] ב [is interchangeable] with פ or ו [as they are all labials; the letter] ג [is interchangeable] with כ as is [the letter] ק [since they are all palatals; the letter] נ [is interchangeable] with ל [because they are both linguals, and [the letters] ר and ז [are interchangeable] with צ [as they are all dentals]. Similarly, [the following verses illustrate how רָגַל is employed in connection with slander, just as is רָכִיל in our verse:], “And he slandered (וַיְרַגֵּל) your servant” (II Sam. 19:28), [lit.,] he spied deceitfully to say evil about me, and [likewise], “He did not slander (רָגַל) with his tongue” (Ps. 15:3). And likewise, [the term] רוֹכֵל means a merchant who goes around spying out (מְרַגֵּל) merchandise; [similarly,] one who sells perfumes with which women beautify themselves, since he constantly goes around in the towns, he is called a רוֹכֵל, equivalent to the term רוֹגֵל -one who spies. And the Targum renders [the phrase in our verse, לֹא תֵלֵךְ רָכִיל, as]: לָא תֵיכוּל קוּרְצִין, [lit., “You shall not eat the food of winking,” a figurative expression for slandering], as, וַאֲכַלוּ קַרְצֵיהוֹן דִּי יְהוּדָיֵא [lit., “and they ate their food of winking concerning the Jews” (Dan. 3:8), i.e., they informed against the Jews], and, אֲכַל בֵּהּ קֻרְצָא בֵּי מַלְכָּא [lit., “he ate the food of winking, concerning him, to the king’s palace” (Ber. 58a), i.e., he informed against him to the king. And why is the expression “eating the food of winking” used to signify slander?] It appears to me that it was the practice of these [informers and slanderers] to eat some sort of small snack at the house of those who listened to their words, for this [eating] acted as a [gesture of] final reinforcement, that the slanderer’s words were indeed well-founded and that he maintained them as the truth. This snack, then, is referred to as אֲכִילַת קוּרְצִין, [where the term קוּרְצִין is] denoted by [Scripture’s description of a faithless man], “He winks (קוֹרֵץ) with his eyes” (Prov. 6:13), for so is the way of all those who go around speaking evil talk, to wink with their eyes, thereby alluding to their slanderous words by innuendo, so that any other people listening will not understand.

לא תעמד על דם רעך: לראות במיתתו ואתה יכול להצילו, כגון טובע בנהר, וחיה או לסטים באים עליו

You shall not stand by [the shedding of] your fellow’s blood: [I.e., do not stand by,] watching your fellow’s death, when you are able to save him; for example, if he is drowning in the river or if a wild beast or robbers come upon him. — [Torath Kohanim 19:41; Sanh. 73a]

אני ה’: נאמן לשלם שכר, ונאמן להפרע

I am the Lord: faithful to pay reward [to those who heed the above warnings], and faithful to exact punishment [upon those who transgress them].

You shall not go around as a gossipmonger

Leviticus

Evil gossip kills three: the one who says it, the one who listens, and the subject of the gossip

Talmud

Learn more in Chabad.orghttp://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/920718/jewish/Gossip-and-Slander.htm

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