SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Introduction: Negative Commandments 5 – 6
Generally, a person who speaks loshon hora does so from a somewhat smug and haughty perspective. Such a person, says the Chofetz Chaim, shows himself to be conceited, because by speaking as he does, he apparently sees himself as faultless. If he were truly aware of his faults, he would be reluctant to speak badly of others, for perhaps his own faults are greater.
The Chofetz Chaim tells us that one who speaks loshon hora in a conceited way violates the commandment “Be careful lest you forget Hashem your G-d (Devarim 8:11)”, which prohibits us from acting arrogantly. Arrogance has particularly severe consequences because it is singled out as a trait which Hashem especially disdains. The Chofetz Chaim adds that if the speaker of loshon hora raises his own stature in people’s eyes by degrading his victim his offense is even more severe.
The Chofetz Chaim identifies another sin that one commits when speaking loshon hora. Although transgressing any Torah prohibition is serious, this transgression goes to the heart of a Jew’s purpose in this world, which is to serve Hashem and bring the rest of the world to recognize Hashem’s greatness. The Torah warns us You shall not desecrate My Holy Name (Vayikra 22:32). At all times a Jew must be on guard that his words or behavior not constitute a chillul Hashem (desecration of Hashem’s Name).
How is loshon hora a chillul Hashem?
The Chofetz Chaim explains that when a person speaks loshon hora, it is not because he is lured by some physical enjoyment. Rather than succumbing to earthly temptation, he is merely casting off the restraints of Hashem’s Torah. It is as if he is making a statement: “I understand that Hashem commanded me to refrain from loshon hora, but according to my own priorities, it is just not that important.”
Here is a mortal human being asserting his own priorities over those of the Master of the Universe. He basks in his own glory when he should be humbling himself. He desecrates Hashem’s name when he should be sanctifying it. It is crystal clear then that when a person follows this path, he negates his mission as a Jew in this world.
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