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Gossip and Slander

Gossip and Slander

Lethal Words

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You shall not go around as a gossipmonger

Leviticus

Evil gossip kills three: the one who says it, the one who listens, and the subject of the gossip

Talmud

So you know something that Mr. A has done. Non-incriminating, not even objectionable. Unless you have a compelling reason, you are forbidden to share this information. Repeating innocuous gossip is called rechilut—and often causes unforeseen negative consequences.

Speaking about another’s indiscretion or shortcoming is even worse; this is called lashon hara (the evil tongue). Unfounded libelous gossip (motzi shem ra) is even worse.

Someone trying to sell you some juicy information? Politely excuse yourself, or change the subjectWords carry the potential of causing catastrophic harm, often tearing asunder families and friendships. Thankfully, lashon hara awareness has increased in past decades, largely influenced by the passionate writings of the Chafetz Chaim (Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan) on the topic.

  1. It is also forbidden to listen to lashon hara. Someone trying to sell you some juicy information? Politely excuse yourself, or change the subject. Better yet, explain why you are not interested in listening.
  2. Sometimes, even a “compliment” can have a negative connotation. Example: “My neighbor is a great chef! The aroma of barbecued steak wafts into my yard every night!” Is this also a veiled critique of a spendthrift lifestyle?
  3. “Oh, don’t ask; I’d rather not talk about Mark . . .” Lashon hara wasn’t said—but it was implied!

Note: We are obligated to notify a person of another’s conspiracy against him. We are also required to share information with any person in a position to help the offending person. For example, you certainly should inform parents if their child is hanging out with the wrong crowd.

The Power of the Tongue

Exerting self-control over our speech is admirable. Even greater is the ability to truly respect and love every person, automatically eradicating the negative and losing the desire to share bad information about them.

The destructive power of negative speech is surpassed only by the beneficial power of positive speech. Praising and speaking positively about our fellows benefits ourselves, the person being praised and all of society.

Illustrations by Yehuda Lang. To view more artwork by this artist, click here.
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Rose Baker Gulfport June 23, 2016

Negative Speech We tend to find fault in others over the very areas that are our own greatest deficiencies, hoping to cast the shadow of doubt on them, thus casting ourselves in better light. This backfires upon us when those listening to our gossip quickly realize we would also be criticizing our listeners, if they were absent. The result is no one trusts us when we gossip. Reply

Anonymous June 23, 2016

double standard? It is too bad that some apply these standards to those who they believe are of the same faith, but don't believe they have to observe these moral standards when it comes to a Gentile, or other sects of Judaism that they don't see as valid. I have more than once seen some make this claim, while citing Jewish law as their excuse to speak lashan harah and motzi shem ra against others. I bring this to light so that Jewish leaders can address it, and hopefully keep their members accountable to violating this mitzvah...even if they don't see you as one of their own. Reply

Emese Oseni Scarborough June 23, 2016

Gossip and Slander I am so happy this was posted. I printed a copy for myself and it's sitting in my office, next to To Love G-d - spread your wings
As humans we get caught up in the excitement of gossip, however, not realizing the repercussions. It's good to have a reminder like this. Reply

Gigi Bulgaria September 4, 2014

Gossip Sometimes when I am with my girlfriend and she talks gossip about a person I think I have to follow her doing the same. Then I wake up and think about it.. why I am doing this? My thoughts are... maybe I want to talk the same mouth of my friend. Because there is no other communication I fell into the gossip. Or I want to be better then everybody else. I am thinking and thinking why can't I stop to gossip? In this world and the world is bad and all people doing gossip, I am alone if I do not gossip, but what do you think, isn't better to be alone with G-d and stop the gossip than be with People who do gossip and G-d will not get honered from us when we gossip. I know I am weak and I pray for strength to turn my back on gossip., and I believe that G-d only can help me.
Now I feel strength coming, and I hope I can go a step forward to stop gossip, when it comes into my mind, because I love G-d with all my heart , and I want to honor G-d, and not my girlfriend sharing our gossips. Reply

Anonymous Long Island January 10, 2013

makes sense I enjoyed reading all your comments around loshen hora. It was an educational experience.

Thank you Reply

Anonymous Florida January 7, 2013

Guilty Pleasure is mostly false confession Many times what is confessed to another at the last minute might seem to get us off the hook but are we in fact off the entire hook?

Is there such a thing as a partial truth, or a white lie? If facts are missing many times many presume to fill in the gaps, but what if we might find ourselves suddenly in a gap? Our very villainy shall pursue us to the letter of every uttered or unspoken thought. Can we catch our thoughts at once and chain the ugly? At first we might be doing something which would have not brought us to this talk. Talking which dances with flattery and popularity, but is it witty, and is it kind?

With new contacts come with its own entourage could we resist this burden & pressure? Suddenly it seems to become a standard to display onto young persons to imitate and quickly becomes second nature.

Is public murder second nature?

Is this what makes many unhappy without knowing why? Reply

Joel Fullerton, CA July 16, 2012

I need to watch myself closer on this one as well Sometimes I can find myself easy to fall into this if I am angry about something. It is really easy to slip across the line unless we really think about what we are saying and most of all when we are angry.
Knowing that the the universe was created by words should be a reminder to us how powerful, and/or destructive words can be. Reply

Anonymous Bklen, NY April 27, 2012

Loshon Hora I thought King David said an eye for an eye. Now I have to be successful to get back at my enemies? I think revenge makes more sense, cause if your successful they can take your success away with their Loshon Horo Reply

K. Lanai Ashe' Columbus, Ohio April 26, 2012

Gossip Don't say anything behind someone's back that you don't have the nerve to say to their face. Reply

elishebabridgebuilder ocala, fl April 16, 2012

revenge success is the best revenge...you be disciplined and peaceful - that will bother your enemies more than letting them control you by taking their bait and getting angry Reply

Anonymous Bklyn, NY April 15, 2012

Loshon Hara What if somebody hurts you first and then you bad mouth them to others, Is that wrong?

They hurt you first so its just revenge. Reply

elisheba bridgebuilder Ocala, Fl/U.S.A. November 10, 2011

negative talk like fertilizer ( manure ) it must be aged ( not used when fresh ) .. then when old - it is mixed in with good garden soil ..& then left to receive sun & rain..then after a while ..fruit & flowers...my point is that the neg thought can be stored away in your mind without judgement..you might see later on that there was a good reason for whatever the other person said or did or you misunderstood their statement or action Reply

Anonymous Cobourg, ON February 15, 2011

Power of words It has been theorized that the reason we don't experience more of G-d's Holy Spirit in our lives is due to our lack of care with our words.
Consider that G-d spoke and it stands firm. We pray and sing affirmations of what we believe. This builds our faith and our relationship with G-d.
How dangerous is the careless word (speaking to myself here) as it is more deadly than poison and more painful.
My suggestion is always, More Carrot- Less Stick!
'Catch' people 'doing good' and praise them or thank them. Consider that we don't know a person's motives. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Lift them up in prayer. (Especially the ones we have the most trouble being nice to! My recurrent theme is, "He's going to the top of my prayer list" meaning _I_ need more help being kind). So let's also lift each other up in prayer as we see others struggling to be kind, and remembering how kind G-d is to us every day. Reply

Menachem Posner for Chabad.org September 26, 2010

RE: lashon hora?? Constructive criticism said in a gentle way in a private setting is not lashon harah. In fact, it is a mitzvah (see Leviticus 19:17). Reply

Anonymous beer sheva, israel September 22, 2010

lashon hora?? When I am tempted to say, 'I want to tell you something for your own good" or "You're not going to like this, but....." it confuses me. Should "it" be said at all?

Could saying something probably unpleasant about the other person to that person's face be considered lashon hora if it is honestly intended to help that person? Reply

Anonymous Sydney, Australia June 14, 2010

Lashon Hara (Evil Talk) When someone is talking Lashon Hora, why not say, lets desist , because that person is not here to explain or defend themself!! Reply

Michael NZ June 17, 2009

Elijah and self condemnation. Noach, While Elijah did not spread 'lashon hara' he used self condemning words which damage us inside. To say, "I'm all alone", gives a sense of isolation. God's reply, 'There are 7000 who have not bowed to Baal,' plus the 100 prophets that Obadiah hid in caves. "I want to die" 19v4, Duet. 30v19, reminds us to choose life rather than death.
If we are in a habit of living under the power of negative words we are more likely to denigrate others. We may have a bias towards 'taking others down' instead of praying for them, as the blessing of the Lord makes rich and brings no sorrow. Reply

Menachem Posner for Chabad.org June 17, 2009

RE: Gossip A sincere compliment here is surely a wonderful thing, and it is a great thing to find and show others the good qualities which we all possess). I believe that the intention of the author here is to show that sometimes something which *looks* like a compliment is really an insult. And when that happens, it would have been better unsaid. Reply

noach June 16, 2009

Is there anywhere in the verse where you see a direct parallel drawn? After all, we are talking about the holy Elijah here, and he was not small potatoes! Reply

Anonymous Greenville, TX June 16, 2009

Gossip I agree about not gossiping in the sense of repeating bad things about others, and not listening to others say bad things. But I'm not sure I understand why one shouldn't give compliments. I give compliments in order to make others feel good about themselves. I'm not convinced that's a bad thing, either. Sometimes, when someone has said something bad about A, I say something good about A on purpose to get others to recall that A also has one or two good qualities, since I don't want to leave the room all the time and thus only convince folks I'm a party pooper. Is that really such a bad thing? I'm a little confused.... Reply

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