Rabbi's Message

  • August 05, 2016


    In the very beginning of this week’s parsha, the power of speech is evident. Thus, it should come as no surprise that one’s self-esteem, relationships, and overall perspective on life, can be significantly improved by adhering to the Torah’s guidelines for shemiras halashon – guarding our tongues, and not to speak negatively about others.  Thus, it is ideal during this time of year, when we focus on the nature of our exile and our current spiritual predicament, to work on this area of our collective personal growth.  Here are some guidelines:


    ·       One should not speak negatively about another claiming that “it is just a joke!”  Even though it is a mere jest, it is still lashon hara.

    ·       Even when information about a certain individual is public knowledge, one is not necessarily allowed to speak of it.  Rabbi Asher Weiss, a well respected contemporary halachic authority in Israel, gave the following recommendation: if it does not directly concern you, then you most probably have no reason and thus, no right, to discuss it. 

    ·       Contrary to popular opinion, when making a general statement about a large group of people (e.g. members of a particular organization), the problem of lashon hara is not mitigated.  Some people mistakenly tend to think that because one is not speaking about a specific individual it is not forbidden.  In fact, just the opposite is true: the sin is compounded as you are speaking ill of so many!

    ·       Under certain circumstances the Torah allows one to speak negatively about another.  However, even in these special cases one has to be sensitive as to how the information is conveyed.  It should be done in an objective, non-emotional fashion, in a manner that does not overstate the issues at hand.

    ·        One is prohibited from divulging information told to him in confidence.  According to the Rambam, revealing a secret actually falls under the category of lashon hara

    ·       When dealing with the circumstances that relating derogatory information is permitted, i.e. when it is l’toeles – for the purpose of preventing an individual from a damaging situation (e.g. regarding a potential spouse, or perhaps a business partner), the speaker must try to make sure that his intentions are not to hurt the one he is speaking negatively about, but to benefit the person he is speaking to.    

    ·       In a l’toeles situation, the speaker has to be careful not to exaggerate in any way, and to be sure to clarify what information is firsthand knowledge, and what is not.  Additionally, only directly relevant information can be related.  If it is not significant for the situation at hand, it is not allowed to be shared.