“I wondered to myself,” the Chofetz Chaim writes, “how was it possible that this Torah prohibition of loshon hora came to be disregarded by so many people?”
The Chofetz Chaim answers this by introducing us to the main strategy of the evil inclination and the tactics which it utilizes to entangle us in the powerful sin of loshon hora.
The average person, writes the Chofetz Chaim, is simply unaware that the prohibition of loshon hora applies to information that is true. (Information that is false is termed hotza’as shem ra, slander.) Therefore, all Satan needs to do is to present information as being true and most people will readily repeat it, though according to halachah (Torah law) such talk is absolutely forbidden.
For people who are more learned, Satan uses a different approach. He convinces the person that the subject of the loshon hora is an evil person and therefore deserves that loshon hora be spoken about him, or that this information is not loshon hora.
If these tactics fail, Satan uses an opposite tactic. He causes the person to worry that every word he speaks might be loshon hora even when it is not. Satan makes it appear that the only choice one has is not to speak at all. Since most people are involved in conversation numerous times each day, the only solution seems to be to ignore the laws of loshon hora, for they are impossible to keep. Satan really is quite clever!
Once Satan has convinced people to speak loshon hora, he goes about spreading his web of misinformation further to draw people into listening to the loshon hora, based on their lack of knowledge of the halachah.
For these reasons, the Chofetz Chaim writes, the sin of loshon hora had become small in the eyes of the world. People became accustomed to speaking without measuring their words against the Torah’s standards. Eventually, loshon hora was no longer viewed as an evil, thereby allowing bitter, damaging conversation to become acceptable, unrecognized as the terrible sin that it is.
Shmiras haloshon, guarding one’s speech, became the mitzvah of the pious, not of ordinary Jews, an irrelevant issue to most people. Satan’s strategies had succeeded. A most severe Torah prohibition, certainly equal to that of eating non-kosher food, was now considered to be nothing more than an optional stringency that only few were concerned with.
All of Satan’s strategies, writes the Chofetz Chaim, were based on his ability to spread misinformation. This was possible because the correct information was generally inaccessible. The laws of loshon hora were scattered throughout the Talmud, having never been collected and organized. People were drowning in the sin of loshon hora simply because they were totally ignorant of it and had no way of learning about it.
It was this tragic situation which impelled the Chofetz Chaim to write his monumental work – Sefer Chofetz Chaim.