The Laws of Lashon Hara





 

In this lesson the laws of lashon hara we discuss negative speech of slander and its effects The Hebrew term lashon hara (or loshon hora) (Hebrew לשון הרע; “evil tongue”) is the halakhic term for derogatory speech about another person.[4] Lashon hara differs from defamation in that its focus is on the use of true speech for a wrongful purpose, rather than falsehood and harm arising. Speech is considered to be lashon hara if it says something negative about a person or party, is not previously known to the public, is not seriously intended to correct or improve a negative situation, and is true. Statements that fit this description are considered to be lashon hara, regardless of the method of communication that is used, whether it is through face-to-face conversation, a letter, telephone, or email, or even body language.

Lashon hara (lit. “evil tongue”) is considered to be a very serious sin in the Jewish tradition. The communicator of Lashon Hara (and rechilut) violates the prohibition of “Lo telech rachil b’ameicha (Leviticus 19:16).”[5]

By contrast, hotzaat shem ra (“spreading a bad name”), also called hotzaat diba, or motzi shem ra (lit. “putting out a bad name”) consists of untrue remarks, and is best translated as “slander” or “defamation”. Hotzaat shem ra is worse, and consequentially an even graver sin, than lashon hara.[4] And the act of gossiping is called rechilut, and is also forbidden by Jewish law.[4]

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