SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM
Upon entering Eretz Yisrael after their 40 years in the Midbar, the Jewish people renewed their eternal relationship with Hashem and His Torah. They inscribed the entire Torah upon 12 huge stones, they offered korbanos, and they stood upon two mountains where they responded “Amen” to the Blessings and Curses. Of the 12 curses that were uttered, three are related to the sin of lashon hara:
“Cursed is one who attacks his neighbor in secret.” As Rashi comments, this refers to someone who attacks his neighbor by speaking lashon hara about him without his knowledge.
“Cursed is one who causes a blind person to go astray on the road.” We have already learned that both one who speaks and one who listens to lashon hara transgress “Before a blind person do not place a stumbling block,” which forbids us to cause another Jew to sin. This curse applies to anyone who transgresses that sin.
If someone approaches lashon hara as something that is perfectly acceptable, and therefore speaks lashon hara regularly, then “Cursed is one who will not uphold the words of this Torah” applies to him as well. This curse refers to anyone who does not accept upon himself to observe all 613 mitzvos. In the Chofetz Chaim’s words, a person who treats lashon hara as something that is “hefker” — something that is not to be taken seriously, that can be disregarded — is no different than someone who accepts upon himself 612 mitzvos instead of 613. The Chofetz Chaim adds, “His sin is too great to bear.”
After listing the 31 mitzvos that can be transgressed through lashon hara and the curses that apply to those who engage in it, the Chofetz Chaim concludes that lashon hara can bring out the worst in a person. People who make a habit of maligning others show a tendency towards anger, cruelty, and a host of other negative traits. Because lashon hara is so destructive — to the subject, the speaker, the listener, and the entire Jewish nation — there is a specific mitzvah “Do not go as a gossipmonger among your people” that prohibits it.
The Chofetz Chaim concludes his introduction by urging us to review it again and again …
… for it is compiled from the words of the Rishonim (Early Commentators), whose holy, pure words are aflame like fiery torches. Surely, they guarded their tongues against lashon hara to the fullest extent possible; therefore, their words have a powerful effect upon those who read them.
IN A NUTSHELL
Three of the 12 curses in the Torah apply to those who speak lashon hara.
This concludes the Chofetz Chaim’s introduction which, he says, should be reviewed again and again.
-A project of Mesorah Publications –