- BS"D - בסיעתא דשמיא
The Chafetz Chaim lists 31 mitzvot which may be violated when a person speaks or listens to Lashon Hara. This is a staggering number. Even though one does not generally violate them all in one shot, it is important to remember how carelessness can lead one into deeper trouble.
The central prohibition against unethical speech is Leviticus 19:16 - "Lo telech rachil b'ameicha" -- do not go about as a talebearer among your people. [FYI: Rashi's commentary on this verse is a "classic." He discusses the origins of the word rachil (a roving merchant), and a few divergent ideas about the Hebrew language.]
This verse in Leviticus applies equally to Rechilut and Lashon Hara (abbr.: L"H). The Chafetz Chaim gives their exact definitions, but for clarity we should mention them here:
- Lashon Hara - any derogatory or damaging (physically, financially, socially, or stress-inducing) communication.
- Rechilut - any communication that generates animosity between people.
It is certainly good to be aware of the various mitzvot. However, the halachot discussed in the Chafetz Chaim are more specific, basically revolving around "Lo telech rachil b'ameicha," "B'tzedek tishpot et amiteicha," and "hocheiach tochiach et amiteicha." The Chafetz Chaim delineates different situations and conditions, and identifies when the speech is forbidden, permissible, and even desirable.
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