shmirat haloshon - Misconceptions about loshon hara

This post is dedicated in merit that Hershel ben Etya Sarah have a yeshuah.
Elisheva Maline

The Chofetz Chaim advised that one should never equate loshon hara (evil speech) with losing one's temper or acting selfish. What's the difference? While negative traits are evil there is no explicit command in the Torah that one should not get angry. However, the phrase לא תלך רכיל בעמך (do not go as a peddler of gossip among your people) can be sourced back in Leviticus 19:16 and, therefore, its being transgressed should take on the same severity as any other transgressions in the Torah.

Some of the myths relating to loshon hara are A. that a person might think a juicy bit of news is not gossip because the information is true. This is not so; rumors that are or are not based in reality are still called loshon hara . Moreover, rumors that are fictitious get the additional sin of motzei shem ra, or slander, slapped on. B. The prohibition of loshon hara applies whether the subject of the loshon hara is present or not. C. The listener, and not just the speaker, is considered a transgressor but only if he willingly takes part in conversations tending toward negativity about others. 

A word to the wise: right after the phrase, "Do not go as a peddler of gossip among your people" in Leviticus the pasuk (verse) continues, "לא תעמוד על דם ריעך, Do not stand in the blood of your friend." The Or haChaim, a famous commentary on the Pentateuch from the late 18th century, gives a brief analysis on why the words 'do not stand in the blood of your friend' is tacked on after 'do not go as a peddler of gossip among your people.' Classic rechilus, gossip peddling can be described as follows: Tom approaches Harry saying, "Do you know what Robert said about you?" This type of rechilus, the absurd spreading of ill feeling between people, results in dissention. The exceptions to the rule, however, are cases where someone overhears a group of riffraff planning to attack, or G-d forbid, murder someone. The Torah says that he is obligated to inform this gentleman and if he doesn't, claiming that it is rekhilut, and this man gets hurt etc, he has transgressed, "Do not stand in the blood of your friend."        

Generally speaking, the Chofetz Chaim takes loshon hara seriously After all, it is the rumors, exaggerations and little jibes which add spice to the hum drum daily grind. Yes, that little argument might work in the world of sitcom but realistically, speaking loshon hara and rechilus is nothing grander than its being the first step toward societal destruction. And if I seem dramatic, just look at the news.          

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