Posted on April 11, 2013 by AdAm Mayer
I was sitting in the chadar ochel (dining hall) during lunch yesterday with a number of Pardes students, and Zvi Hirschfield turns around from the next table and decides to poll our small group: “Lashon Hara –an aveira [sin] or just good advice?” As to be expected from any gathering of Pardes students, there was a wide variety of answers and explanations.
[Lashon hara is spreading gossip, talking about people who are not present, spreading the feathers from the pillow – as the story goes- etc.]
Of course everyone seemed to know that it was (more or less) something to avoid, but to what lengths will I go to avoid it? I might not eat in someone’s house if they serve chicken parmesan, but would I not eat there if they are a person who speaks lashon hara? From a simple point of view, both lashon hara and kashrut come from Torah commandments, yet lashon hara seems much more evasive, more difficult to keep, and even tricky to define. It plays on our human need to connect with each other, but offers a route less than wholesome.
This week’s parsha, Tazria-Metzora [a double parsha], is often used as an opportunity to talk about lashon hara. This comes from a comment in the Gemara [Erchin 16a] מצורע = מוציא שם רע. The word Metzora [lit. a leper] sounds like the words motzi –ra; meaning one who speaks lashon hara. This comment opens the door to leave the obsolete topic of the lepers and focus on our speech. Is this the same lashon hara about which it is said that the second Holy Temple was destroyed? Is this the same lashon hara that is parallel to murder, adultery and idol worship?
There are the social elements of lashon hara that can destroy the foundations of society – communication and trust.
But even greater than this are the divine implications expressed by the Meor Einayim [Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl 1730-1797]. G!D created the world through speech. G!D shared the Torah with us through the ‘spoken’ word. As humans, created in the image of G!D, we are blessed with this gift of speech. It is holy. To use this ability for anything other than Goodness would be to profane what is holy; the same holiness which is found in life, marriage and G!D.
This sounds to me to be much more serious than chicken parmesan.