One of the great recent innovations in the computer industry is multi-tasking, meaning that computers now have the ability to run several software programs simultaneously. The Chofetz Chaim tells us that a person also has to run two “programs” through his mind at the same time. One thought process is used to accomplish whatever task we are presently engaged in. The second process is a constant scanning of the first process, to ensure that it is in line with the commandment “be aware of and fear Hashem at all times.” When we are confronted with a choice of acting or not acting, of speaking or not speaking, we should always ask ourselves,”What does Hashem want me to do?”
A person who speaks loshon hora has clearly lost his focus, at least for a few moments, on what Hashem wants of him. He is acting as if Hashem is not present, God forbid. Therefore, he violates the commandment to imbue oneself with fear of Hashem.
The Chofetz Chaim teaches us that when a person speaks loshon hora, he is wasting one of the most precious commodities this world has to offer — time.
There is no limit to the reward for learning Torah. It is by far the most precious mitzvah a person can do. The only excuse a person has for not studying Torah the entire day is that he has other important matters, such as earning a living, to which he must attend. Speaking loshon hora is certainly not something which one should be doing, and so the time spent speaking loshon hora is unjustifiably being lost — a sin of bitul Torah (wasting time that should be dedicated to learning). Furthermore, our Sages, of blessed memory, state, “Just as the mitzvah of Torah study is equal to all the mitzvos of the Torah combined, so too, the sin of loshon hora equals all the sins of the Torah combined” (Yerushalmi, Peah 1:1).
The consequences of this fact are enormous, says the Chofetz Chaim. As an example let us consider the 20–minute wait in some shuls (synagogues) between Minchah and Maariv. Each word of Torah learning is a mitzvah for itself. A person can comfortably speak 150 words a minute. Multiply this by the 20 minutes between Minchah and Maariv, and we have 3,000 spoken words. This means that 3,000 mitzvos can be accomplished in 20 minutes of learning. Unfortunately, the opposite is true with loshon hora. Not only can a person acquire 3000 sins for speaking 20 minutes of loshon hora, he also would acquire 3,000 sins of bitul Torah. Most tragic of all, he loses the priceless reward of 3,000 precious mitzvos of Torah study which could have been his.