- Lashon hara
"Lashon hara" (or "Loshon hora") (Hebrew לשון הרע; "evil tongue") is the prohibition in
Jewish Lawof telling gossip– negative disparaging but truthful remarks about a person or party who is not present. It should not be confused with the prohibition of Motzei Shem Rah, slander, untrue remarks.
The main prohibition against "lashon hara" is derived from
Leviticus19:16 [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0319.htm#16] : "Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people; neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.". The Talmud(tractate "Erchin" 15b) lists "lashon hara" as one of the causes of the Biblical malady of " tzaraath". In Sotah 42a, the Talmud states that habitual speakers of "lashon hara" are not tolerated in God's presence. Similar strong denouncements can be found in various places in Jewish literature. [http://jsafe.org/pdfs/Lashon%20Hara%20and%20Abuse.pdf]
There are times when a person is obligated to speak out, even though the information is disparaging. Specifically, if a person’s intent in sharing the negative information is for a "to’elet", a positive, constructive, and beneficial purpose, the prohibition against "lashon hara" does not apply. "Motzi shem ra", spouting lies and spreading disinformation, is always prohibited. And if the "lashon hara" serves as a warning against the possibility of future harm, such communication is not only permissible, but, under certain conditions, compulsory.
"Lashon" is translated as "language" or "tongue". The word is generally translated as "evil speech". It is true that the concept of "lashon hara" is regarding true and correct statements. Lies and false and exaggerated information fall into a worse category called "Hotzaat Diba", or derogatory/slanderous or defamatory speech which is, in fact, worse than "lashon hara" in many ways.
The two major halakhic works on "lashon hara" are "Chafetz Chayim" and "
Shmirat HaLashon" ("guarding [of] the tongue") both by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan(1873). "Chafetz Chaim" lists 31 speech-related mitzvot mentioned in the Torah. The English book "Guard Your Tongue" anthologizes the teachings of these two books and provides many examples of prohibited speech.
Yisrael Meir Kagan
Chafetz Chaim (book)
* [http://shmirashalashon.blogspot.com Translation of Sefer Shmiras HaLashon]
* [http://jsafe.org/pdfs/Lashon%20Hara%20and%20Abuse.pdf Let Them Talk: The Mitzvah to Speak Lashon Hara by Rabbi Mark Dratch, JSafe]
* [http://www.aish.com/family/mensch/Stopping_Lashon_Hara.asp A primer on how to raise our children to look at the positive and speak well about others]
* [http://www.torah.org/learning/halashon/intrcomm.html 31 mitzvot of speech]
* [http://www.torah.org/learning/halashon/ Hilchot Lashon Hara (L"H)]
* [http://www.chabad.org/search/keyword.asp?kid=8321 Negative Speech (Lashon Hora) | Chabad.org]
* [http://www.shemayisrael.com/rabbiforsythe/zivug/loshonhora.htm Finding Your Zivug or Mate Loshon Hora and Information-Seeking in Shidduchim]
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