The Chofetz Chaim opens his Pesichah (Introduction) with a brief historical perspective of the sin of loshon hora.
Loshon Hora has the distinction of being the first sin ever committed. We know that the Serpent enticed Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. To accomplish his aim, the Serpent utilized a classic loshon hora approach that is used even today. “You should know that the boss is jealous of you. He’s stunting your growth in the company. You really are as good as he is.”
In this case, the “boss” was Hashem. The Serpent told Eve that all Hashem had to do to become the Creator was to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. He drew the logical conclusion that if Adam and Eve were to eat from that same tree they would become just like Hashem. Obviously, reasoned the Serpent, Hashem did not want “competition,” and that is why He forbade Adam and Eve from partaking of the tree’s fruits.
The particular method which the Serpent used so successfully was a combination of loshon hora and rechilus (gossip); he claimed that Hashem was not concerned with their best interests and that Hashem was merely using a ploy to keep them from competing with Him.
We know, all too well, the result of the Serpent’s evil words. Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden. Difficult toil to produce food became the lot of men, while childbirth pain became the lot of women. Death was introduced to the world. On man’s very first day on earth, loshon hora had already demonstrated its destructive power.
The Chofetz Chaim puts it succinctly: “One who speaks loshon hora attaches himself to a practice that destroys the world.”
The very first exile of the Jewish people was directly related to loshon hora. The Chofetz Chaim states: “The main reason for the Jews’ suffering in Egypt was loshon hora. Yosef spoke loshon hora about his brothers; therefore Heaven decreed that he would be sold into slavery.”
Further in the Torah, we encounter an event of catastrophic proportion, and we suffer from its consequences to this very day. As the Chofetz Chaim puts it, “The underlying cause of our present exile was the sin of the Spies… The Talmud describes their sin as one of loshon hora.”
Such is the damage which loshon hora has wrought in our people’s history: the first sin ever committed, the underlying cause of our mortality, the catalyst which caused the Jewish people to be exiled in Egypt, and the cause of our exile today. With this powerful piece, the Chofetz Chaim conclusively dispels the myth that loshon hora is relatively harmless.