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Gossip and Slander

Gossip and Slander

Lethal Words


You shall not go around as a gossipmonger


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


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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Discussion (21)
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.
Rose Baker
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.
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.
Emese Oseni
September 4, 2014
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.
January 10, 2013
makes sense
I enjoyed reading all your comments around loshen hora. It was an educational experience.

Thank you
Long Island
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?
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.
Fullerton, CA
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
Bklen, NY
April 26, 2012
Don't say anything behind someone's back that you don't have the nerve to say to their face.
K. Lanai Ashe'
Columbus, Ohio
April 16, 2012
success is the best be disciplined and peaceful - that will bother your enemies more than letting them control you by taking their bait and getting angry
ocala, fl