This post is dedicated in memory of Etya Sarah bat Yitzchak ha-Levi. May it be an aliyah for her neshama.
By Shoshana Rosa
If you want to get technical about the swiftness with which loshon hara (evil speech) tears people apart take a look at the following compare and contrast. A recipe for friendship calls for several gallons of effort, a pint or two of ear lending, six cups of interest as well as one to one and a half tea spoons of well meaning. Some people have the social graces necessary to bake friendship cakes naturally; others might need a few rounds of baking to get the taste and texture just right. The timing is really dependent upon the baker’s strength of character (and the recipient, of course).
Now, do you want to know how long it take to make one loaf of loshon hara sourdough? One word. And, no worries: loshon hara bread almost always comes out perfect. Measurements don’t matter, nor the temperaments under which you add your loshon hara. Once the word is out, whether it was slipped, handed or tossed, all you need is a dollop of water, a dark place for the mass of goo to ferment for a day or two, and whalla you’ll have got yourself one genuine loshon hara sourdough. By the way, almost anyone and everyone can try their hand at this sourdough sensation; it usually comes out delicious. In fact, the only thing that ruins it is a needle eye’s worth of piety.
The Chofetz Chaim begins practically every paragraph of his monumental work, the laws of Shmirat haloshon (guarding oneself from evil speech) with a premonitory that indeed words that are true are also considered loshon hara. The pious sage repeats himself with good reason; we are an easy to delude species. It comes with the territory, namely, free will. Our words must be handled with care, the Chofez Chaim cautions, whether they express themselves in writing, via a wink or nose crinkle. Also, it doesn’t matter if the speaker of loshon hara happens to be denigrating himself as well as someone else; his words still turn into sourdough.