1

A person who collects gossip about a colleague violates a prohibition as [Leviticus 19:16] states: "Do not go around gossiping among your people."

Even though this transgression is not punished by lashes, it is a severe sin and can cause the death of many Jews. Therefore, [the warning]: "Do not stand still over your neighbor's blood" is placed next to it in the Torah [ibid.]. See what happened [because of] Doeg, the Edomite.

א

הַמְרַגֵּל בַּחֲבֵרוֹ עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא יט טז) "לֹא תֵלֵךְ רָכִיל בְּעַמֶּיךָ". וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין לוֹקִין עַל דָּבָר זֶה עָוֹן גָּדוֹל הוּא וְגוֹרֵם לַהֲרֹג נְפָשׁוֹת רַבּוֹת מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל. לְכָךְ נִסְמָךְ לוֹ (ויקרא יט טז) "וְלֹא תַעֲמֹד עַל דַּם רֵעֶךָ". צֵא וּלְמַד מָה אֵרַע לְדוֹאֵג הָאֲדֹמִי:

2

Who is a gossiper? One who collects information and [then] goes from person to person, saying: "This is what so and so said;" "This is what I heard about so and so." Even if the statements are true, they bring about the destruction of the world.

There is a much more serious sin than [gossip], which is also included in this prohibition: lashon horah, i.e., relating deprecating facts about a colleague, even if they are true.

[Lashon horah does not refer to the invention of lies;] that is referred to as defamation of character. Rather, one who speaks lashon horah is someone who sits and relates: "This is what so and so has done;" "His parents were such and such;" "This is what I have heard about him," telling uncomplimentary things. Concerning this [transgression], the verse [Psalms 12:4] states: "May God cut off all guileful lips, the tongues which speak proud things..."

ב

אֵי זֶהוּ רָכִיל. זֶה שֶׁטּוֹעֵן דְּבָרִים וְהוֹלֵךְ מִזֶּה לָזֶה וְאוֹמֵר כָּךְ אָמַר פְּלוֹנִי כָּךְ וְכָךְ שָׁמַעְתִּי עַל פְּלוֹנִי. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוּא אֱמֶת הֲרֵי זֶה מַחֲרִיב אֶת הָעוֹלָם. יֵשׁ עָוֹן גָּדוֹל מִזֶּה עַד מְאֹד וְהוּא בִּכְלַל לָאו זֶה וְהוּא לָשׁוֹן הָרַע. וְהוּא הַמְסַפֵּר בִּגְנוּת חֲבֵרוֹ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאוֹמֵר אֱמֶת. אֲבָל הָאוֹמֵר שֶׁקֶר נִקְרָא מוֹצִיא שֵׁם רַע עַל חֲבֵרוֹ. אֲבָל בַּעַל לָשׁוֹן הָרַע זֶה שֶׁיּוֹשֵׁב וְאוֹמֵר כָּךְ וְכָךְ עָשָׂה פְּלוֹנִי וְכָךְ וְכָךְ הָיוּ אֲבוֹתָיו וְכָךְ וְכָךְ שָׁמַעְתִּי עָלָיו וְאָמַר דְּבָרִים שֶׁל גְּנַאי. עַל זֶה אָמַר הַכָּתוּב (תהילים יב ד) "יַכְרֵת ה' כָּל שִׂפְתֵי חֲלָקוֹת לָשׁוֹן מְדַבֶּרֶת גְּדלוֹת":

3

Our Sages said: "There are three sins for which retribution is exacted from a person in this world and, [for which] he is [nonetheless,] denied a portion in the world to come: idol worship, forbidden sexual relations, and murder. Lashon horah is equivalent to all of them."

Our Sages also said: "Anyone who speaks lashon horah is like one who denies God as [implied by Psalms 12:5]: 'Those who said: With our tongues we will prevail; our lips are our own. Who is Lord over us?’”

In addition, they said: "Lashon horah kills three [people], the one who speaks it, the one who listens to it, and the one about whom it is spoken. The one who listens to it [suffers] more than the one who speaks it.”

ג

אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים שָׁלֹשׁ עֲבֵרוֹת נִפְרָעִין מִן הָאָדָם בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וְאֵין לוֹ חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים וְגִלּוּי עֲרָיוֹת וּשְׁפִיכוּת דָּמִים. וְלָשׁוֹן הָרַע כְּנֶגֶד כֻּלָּם. וְעוֹד אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים כָּל הַמְסַפֵּר בְּלָשׁוֹן הָרַע כְּאִלּוּ כּוֹפֵר בָּעִקָּר. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהילים יב ה) "אֲשֶׁר אָמְרוּ לִלְשֹׁנֵנוּ נַגְבִּיר שְׂפָתֵינוּ אִתָּנוּ מִי אָדוֹן לָנוּ". וְעוֹד אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים שְׁלֹשָׁה לָשׁוֹן הָרַע הוֹרֶגֶת. הָאוֹמְרוֹ. וְהַמְקַבְּלוֹ. וְזֶה שֶׁאוֹמֵר עָלָיו. וְהַמְקַבְּלוֹ יוֹתֵר מִן הָאוֹמְרוֹ:

4

There are certain matters which are considered "the dust of lashon horah." What is implied? [For example, a person says:] "Who will tell so and so to continue acting as he does now," or "Do not talk about so and so; I do not want to say what happened," or the like.

Similarly, it is also considered the "dust of lashon horah" when someone speaks favorably about a colleague in the presence of his enemies, for this will surely prompt them to speak disparagingly about him. In this regard, King Solomon said [Proverbs 27:14]: "One who greets his colleague early in the morning, in a loud voice, curses him," for his positive [act] will bring him negative [repercussions].

Similarly, [to be condemned is] a person who relates lashon horah in frivolity and jest, as if he were not speaking with hatred. This was also mentioned by Solomon in his wisdom [Proverbs 26:18-19]: "As a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death and says: 'I am only joking.’”

[Also, to be condemned is] someone who speaks lashon horah about a colleague slyly, pretending to be innocently telling a story without knowing that it is harmful. When he is reproved, he excuses himself by saying: "I did not know that the story was harmful or that so and so was involved."

ד

וְיֵשׁ דְּבָרִים שֶׁהֵן אֲבַק לָשׁוֹן הָרַע. כֵּיצַד. מִי יֹאמַר לִפְלוֹנִי שֶׁיִּהְיֶה כְּמוֹת שֶׁהוּא עַתָּה. אוֹ שֶׁיֹּאמַר שִׁתְקוּ מִפְּלוֹנִי אֵינִי רוֹצֶה לְהוֹדִיעַ מָה אֵרַע וּמֶה הָיָה. וְכַיּוֹצֵא בַּדְּבָרִים הָאֵלּוּ. וְכָל הַמְסַפֵּר בְּטוֹבַת חֲבֵרוֹ בִּפְנֵי שׂוֹנְאָיו הֲרֵי זֶה אֲבַק לָשׁוֹן הָרַע שֶׁזֶּה גּוֹרֵם לָהֶם שֶׁיְּסַפְּרוּ בִּגְנוּתוֹ. וְעַל זֶה הָעִנְיָן אָמַר שְׁלֹמֹה (משלי כז יד) "מְבָרֵךְ רֵעֵהוּ בְּקוֹל גָּדוֹל בַּבֹּקֶר הַשְׁכֵּים קְלָלָה תֵּחָשֶׁב לוֹ". שֶׁמִּתּוֹךְ טוֹבָתוֹ בָּא לִידֵי רָעָתוֹ. וְכֵן הַמְסַפֵּר בְּלָשׁוֹן הָרַע דֶּרֶךְ שְׂחוֹק וְדֶרֶךְ קַלּוּת רֹאשׁ כְּלוֹמַר שֶׁאֵינוֹ מְדַבֵּר בְּשִׂנְאָה. הוּא שֶׁשְּׁלֹמֹה אָמַר בְּחָכְמָתוֹ (משלי כו יח) "כְּמִתְלַהְלֵהַּ הַיֹּרֶה זִקִּים חִצִּים וָמָוֶת" (משלי כו יט) "וְאָמַר הֲלֹא מְשַׂחֵק אָנִי". וְכֵן הַמְסַפֵּר לָשׁוֹן הָרַע דֶּרֶךְ רַמָּאוּת וְהוּא שֶׁיְּסַפֵּר לְתֻמּוֹ כְּאִלּוּ אֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ שֶׁדָּבָר זֶה שֶׁדִּבֵּר לָשׁוֹן הָרַע הוּא אֶלָּא כְּשֶׁמְּמַחִין בּוֹ אוֹמֵר אֵינִי יוֹדֵעַ שֶׁדָּבָר זֶה לָשׁוֹן הָרַע אוֹ שֶׁאֵלּוּ מַעֲשָׂיו שֶׁל פְּלוֹנִי:

5

[There is no difference] whether one speaks lashon horah about a person in his presence or behind his back. [The statements] of people who relate matters which, when passed from one person to another, will cause harm to a man's person or to his property or will even [merely] annoy him or frighten him are considered as lashon horah.

If such statements were made in the presence of three people, [one may assume that the matter] has already become public knowledge. Thus, if one of the three relates the matter a second time, it is not considered lashon horah, provided his intention was not to spread the matter further and publicize it.

ה

אֶחָד הַמְסַפֵּר בְּלָשׁוֹן הָרַע בִּפְנֵי חֲבֵרוֹ אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא בְּפָנָיו, וְהַמְסַפֵּר דְּבָרִים שֶׁגּוֹרְמִים אִם נִשְׁמְעוּ אִישׁ מִפִּי אִישׁ לְהַזִּיק חֲבֵרוֹ בְּגוּפוֹ אוֹ בְּמָמוֹנוֹ, וַאֲפִלּוּ לְהָצֵר לוֹ אוֹ לְהַפְחִידוֹ, הֲרֵי זֶה לָשׁוֹן הָרַע. וְאִם נֶאֶמְרוּ דְּבָרִים אֵלּוּ בִּפְנֵי שְׁלֹשָׁה כְּבָר נִשְׁמַע הַדָּבָר וְנוֹדַע. וְאִם סִפֵּר הַדָּבָר אֶחָד מִן הַשְּׁלֹשָׁה פַּעַם אַחֶרֶת אֵין בּוֹ מִשּׁוּם לָשׁוֹן הָרַע. וְהוּא שֶׁלֹּא יִתְכַּוֵּן לְהַעֲבִיר הַקּוֹל וּלְגַלּוֹתוֹ יוֹתֵר:

6

All the above are people who speak lashon horah in whose neighborhood, one is forbidden to dwell. How much more so [is it forbidden] to sit [together] with them and hear their conversation.

The judgement against our ancestors in the desert was only sealed because of lashon horah.

ו

כָּל אֵלּוּ הֵם בַּעֲלֵי לָשׁוֹן הָרַע שֶׁאָסוּר לָדוּר בִּשְׁכוּנָתָם וְכָל שֶׁכֵּן לֵישֵׁב עִמָּהֶם וְלִשְׁמֹעַ דִּבְרֵיהֶם. וְלֹא נֶחְתַּם גְּזַר דִּין עַל אֲבוֹתֵינוּ בַּמִּדְבָּר אֶלָּא עַל לָשׁוֹן הָרַע לְבַד:

7

A person who takes revenge against a colleague transgresses a Torah prohibition, as [Leviticus 19:18] states: "Do not take revenge."

Even though [revenge] is not punished by lashes, it is a very bad trait. Instead, a person should [train himself] to rise above his feelings about all worldly things, for men of understanding consider all these things as vanity and emptiness which are not worth seeking revenge for.

What is meant by taking revenge? A person's colleague asks him, "Lend me your hatchet. He responds, "I refuse to lend it to you." On the following day, the person [who refused] needs to borrow a hatchet from his colleague. He asks him: "Lend me your hatchet." The latter responds, "Just as you did not lend it to me, I will not lend it to you." This is considered as taking revenge. Instead, when he comes to ask him for it, he should give it to him with a full heart, without repaying him for what he did.

The same applies in other similar instances. Thus, King David proclaimed regarding his exemplary qualities [Psalms 7:5]: "Have I repaid those who have done evil to me? Behold, I have rescued those who hated me without cause."

ז

הַנּוֹקֵם מֵחֲבֵרוֹ עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר לֹא תִקֹּם. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינוֹ לוֹקֶה עָלָיו דֵּעָה רָעָה הִיא עַד מְאֹד. אֶלָּא רָאוּי לוֹ לָאָדָם לִהְיוֹת מַעֲבִיר עַל מִדּוֹתָיו עַל כָּל דִּבְרֵי הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהַכּל אֵצֶל הַמְּבִינִים דִּבְרֵי הֶבֶל וַהֲבַאי וְאֵינָן כְּדַאי לִנְקֹם עֲלֵיהֶם. כֵּיצַד הִיא הַנְּקִימָה. אָמַר לוֹ חֲבֵרוֹ הַשְׁאִילֵנִי קַרְדֻּמְךָ, אָמַר לוֹ אֵינִי מַשְׁאִילְךָ. לְמָחָר צָרִיךְ לִשְׁאל מִמֶּנּוּ, אָמַר לוֹ חֲבֵרוֹ הַשְׁאִילֵנִי קַרְדֻּמְךָ, אָמַר לוֹ אֵינִי מַשְׁאִילְךָ כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁלֹּא הִשְׁאַלְתַּנִי כְּשֶׁשָּׁאַלְתִּי מִמְּךָ, הֲרֵי זֶה נוֹקֵם. אֶלָּא כְּשֶׁיָּבוֹא לוֹ לִשְׁאל יִתֵּן בְּלֵב שָׁלֵם וְלֹא יִגְמל לוֹ כַּאֲשֶׁר גְּמָלוֹ. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּאֵלּוּ. וְכֵן אָמַר דָּוִד בְּדֵעוֹתָיו הַטּוֹבוֹת (תהילים ז ה) "אִם גָּמַלְתִּי שׁוֹלְמִי רָע וָאֲחַלְּצָה" וְגוֹ':

8

Similarly, anyone who holds a grudge against another Jew violates a Torah prohibition, as [Leviticus 19:18] states: "Do not bear a grudge against the children of your people."

What is meant by bearing a grudge? Reuven asked Shimon, "Rent this house to me," or "lend this ox to me," and Shimon was not willing [to do so]. A few days later, Shimon came to borrow or rent something from from him. Reuven told him, "Here, it is. I am lending it to you. I am not like you, nor am I paying you back for what you did."

A person who acts in this manner violates the prohibition against bearing a grudge. Instead [of doing so], he should wipe the matter from his heart and never bring it to mind. As long as he brings the matter to mind and remembers it, there is the possibility that he will seek revenge. Therefore, the Torah condemned holding a grudge, [requiring] one to wipe the wrong from his heart entirely, without remembering it at all.

This is a proper quality which permits a stable environment, trade, and commerce to be established among people.

ח

וְכֵן כָּל הַנּוֹטֵר לְאֶחָד מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא יט יח) "וְלֹא תִטֹּר אֶת בְּנֵי עַמֶּךָ". כֵּיצַד הִיא הַנְּטִירָה. רְאוּבֵן שֶׁאָמַר לְשִׁמְעוֹן הַשְׂכֵּר לִי בַּיִת זֶה אוֹ הַשְׁאִילֵנִי שׁוֹר זֶה וְלֹא רָצָה שִׁמְעוֹן. לְיָמִים בָּא שִׁמְעוֹן לִרְאוּבֵן לִשְׁאל מִמֶּנּוּ אוֹ לִשְׂכֹּר מִמֶּנּוּ וְאָמַר לוֹ רְאוּבֵן הֵא לְךָ הֲרֵינִי מַשְׁאִילְךָ וְאֵינִי כְּמוֹתְךָ לֹא אֲשַׁלֵּם לְךָ כְּמַעֲשֶׂיךָ. הָעוֹשֶׂה כָּזֶה עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תִטֹּר. אֶלָּא יִמְחֶה הַדָּבָר מִלִּבּוֹ וְלֹא יִטְּרֶנּוּ. שֶׁכָּל זְמַן שֶׁהוּא נוֹטֵר אֶת הַדָּבָר וְזוֹכְרוֹ שֶׁמָּא יָבוֹא לִנְקֹם. לְפִיכָךְ הִקְפִּידָה תּוֹרָה עַל הַנְּטִירָה עַד שֶׁיִּמְחֶה הֶעָוֹן מִלִּבּוֹ וְלֹא יִזְכְּרֶנּוּ כְּלָל. וְזוֹ הִיא הַדֵּעָה הַנְּכוֹנָה שֶׁאֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיִּתְקַיֵּם בָּהּ יִשּׁוּב הָאָרֶץ וּמַשָּׂאָם וּמַתָּנָם שֶׁל בְּנֵי אָדָם זֶה עִם זֶה: