SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM - Laws of Loshon Hora 4:1-2
It is a law of “loshon
hora physics” that when one speaks loshon hora about the spiritual failings of
someone else, that loshon hora is most intense and righteously indignant.
Unfortunately, to many
people there is nothing more self-satisfying than identifying and disapproving
of someone else’s deficiency; e.g., that someone does not help his parents or
learn with his children, or does not do some mitzvah that the speaker happens
to observe carefully.
The Chofetz Chaim
informs us that it is loshon hora to say that a person has transgressed a
positive or negative commandment, whether the mitzvah observance is one
generally performed carefully, or one that is largely overlooked. Even if the
criticism is only that the person does not do the mitzvah in the optimum manner
— for example, he does not spend as much as he should on items for Shabbos — it
is forbidden to relate it.
Obviously there are
times when mention of someone’s laxity in mitzvah observance might be necessary.
At times, one needs to warn a child to stay away from someone who is a bad
influence. In such cases, it is worthwhile to ask a posek (halachic authority) how
to relate the information in a way that is permitted by halachah and does not
create unnecessary harm.
R’ Shamshon Raphael
Hirsch once commented on the common urge to speak loshon hora about a fellow
Jew’s laxity in mitzvah observance. He said that the soul’s natural tendency is
to strive ever higher. If a person is actively involved in Torah and mitzvos, then
he is growing spiritually and his soul is content. But if a person is lazy and
his actions are not helping his soul to move upward, then he feels inner
discontent. He seeks to satisfy this discontent by appearing to be growing
spiritually. And how does he accomplish this? By making everyone around him
appear smaller. His thinking goes something like this: “If my fellow Jew
doesn’t give enough tzedakah (charity) or do some other mitzvah that I am
careful to do, then by focusing on his deficiencies, I will feel as if I am
This type of loshon
hora works much like a drug for the soul. When the person makes use of it, he
feels righteous and holy. But as soon as its effect wears off, he realizes that
he is no higher than before. If anything, he is lower.
The Torah does not
want us to find fault with our fellow Jews’ mitzvah observance. When we
denigrate Jews, we not only do something lowly, but we also lull ourselves into
a false sense of complacency. Nothing good comes from fooling ourselves, from
being content with a false sense of spiritual achievement. Hashem wants us to
strive for holiness in our lives, to make spiritual gains which are real and
meaningful. The way to do this is by viewing ourselves in an honest, critical
way, while seeing others in a positive light.