The Power of Speech

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIMLaws of Loshon Hora 3:5-6

One of the basic premises of the prohibition against loshon hora is that loshon hora causes damage. Jobs are lost, prospective shidduchim (marriage matches) are rejected, shalom bayis (harmony within the home) is shattered and friendships are dissolved. But causing damage is far from the only reason that loshon hora is forbidden.

The Chofetz Chaim teaches us that loshon hora which does not cause the slightest bit of damage is still considered 100 percent loshon hora. To focus on the shortcomings of another person is lowly, even when no harm results from it.

In reality, it is almost impossible for us to know for certain that the words we speak never cause damage. Words have a life of their own; once they are released into the world they can travel far and wide, and no one can be sure where they will end up. Many stories are told of information that became known years after the words were originally spoken, and which caused great damage.

Let us consider a piece of fairly harmless information which was discussed at a Shabbos table. David, a friend of one of the children at the table, missed a month of school for unknown reasons. In their curiosity, all six people gathered around the table suggested possible reasons for his absence. In years to come, these six people will find themselves at various other tables, in meetings and involved in random conversations. In some of these situations, David’s family name or David himself might come up in conversation. At one of these conversations, one of these six people might mention the information concerning David’s absence in the most innocuous way. He might add the possible reasons for his absence that he recalls hearing at the Shabbos table years earlier.

As the information is passed from person to person, more theories about why he was absent are spoken about as if they were fact. When David is ready to consider marriage, he finds himself hindered by various “reports” concerning his month-long absence in fifth grade. In fact, the “reports” hold no substance, but they are enough to convince many fathers that their daughters would be better off marrying someone with a “clean” medical history. Yes, words are very, very powerful.


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This entry was posted in Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, Judaism, Laws of Loshon Hora, Loshon Hora, Rabbi Israel Meir HaCohen Kagan, SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM, Shmiras Haloshon Yomi, The Chofetz Chaim, Torah. Bookmark the permalink.

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