This week's Parshah discusses the avoidance of slander or gossip, lashon hara. It may sound blatantly obvious that a community will function better without gossip, slander and telling tales. Why did the Torah need to tell us? Yet like so many other things, if we take an honest look around us, we do need to be reminded about these values.

I was once at a synagogue where the rabbi got up and said that his dream was to create a community where nobody spoke slander or gossip, nobody spoke badly of anyone else. At the time it sounded rather simplistic and naïve, but on reflection it is a profound notion–-so many other problems which stem from malicious gossip, rumors, slander, etc., can be avoided by cutting out the slander or gossip.

We must realize the power of speech. A person may possess a negative characteristic, but the natural good in him will strive to suppress this aspect and redirect it for good purposes. When this negative trait is spoken of, it is made that much more real, defining it, giving it a sense of substance and validity, in effect, bringing it out in a far greater measure.

Conversely, speaking favorably about others, accentuating their positive side, helps those people realize the positive qualities you are attributing to them, and grow accordingly.