SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Hilchos Lashon Hara 1:3-4
As we have already noted, the Chofetz Chaim wrote two works on lashon hara. Sefer Chofetz Chaim, on which this book is based, is a sefer of halacha on the laws of forbidden speech. Sefer Shmiras Halashon is a work of hashkafa (Torah outlook) based on countless teachings of Chazal (our Sages), which focuses on the terrible damage that results from lashon hara and the great blessings that shmiras haloshon brings.
Yet, in today’s segment, the Chofetz Chaim cites not a halacha, but a teaching of Chazal.
For three sins a person is punished on this world and has no share in the World to Come: idol worship, immorality, and murder — and lashon hara equals them all.
The Chofetz Chaim cites this teaching here for a very important reason. He has just completed a comprehensive introduction which enumerates 31 mitzvos that are connected to the sin of lashon hara. In the opening of this chapter, he mentioned, once again, the primary prohibition of lashon hara.
Now, however, the Chofetz Chaim informs us that lashon hara can be much worse than other sins in the Torah.
When is this so? When a person becomes a baal lashon hara, someone who does not view speaking lashon hara as a sin at all. As the Chofetz Chaim illustrates, there are those who, unfortunately, take great pleasure in having regular “gossip sessions.” They sit with people who suffer from the same spiritual weakness and keep abreast of the latest news. “Did you hear what So-and-so did …? Did you hear what So-and-so’s father did …? Wait till you hear what I heard about So-and-so …!” Because they ignore a mitzvah in the Torah and brazenly transgress it on a regular basis, their sin is much greater, and therefore their punishment is much greater.
There is another reason why the sin of lashon hara so severe. As the Chofetz Chaim explains elsewhere, Hashem, in His infinite wisdom, has decreed that the Satan’s power to accuse the Jewish people is directly related to how we speak about one another. When we refrain from speaking badly about one another, then Hashem, like a loving father, is willing to overlook our misdeeds. However, when we accuse one another of wrongdoing through lashon hara, we give the Satan power to stand before Hashem and accuse the Jewish people of wrongdoing.
While the baal lashon hara is enjoying himself, his words are ascending to Heaven, where they grant the Satan the power he needs to accuse our people before Hashem.
The Manchester Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehudah Zev Segal, once made the following observation:
Picture a baal lashon hara being called to the Torah reading on the Shabbos when Parashas Kedoshim is read. When the baal kriah comes to the verse in which “Do not go as a gossipmonger among your people” is found, he is shocked to discover that those words are missing from the sefer Torah! Of course, the sefer Torah is not fit for use; it must be put away and another one used instead.
Said Rav Segal: This man who was called to the Torah understands that a sefer Torah is not kosher unless it contains these four words. Yet, this same man is a baal lashon hara, and conducts his life as if these words do not appear in the Torah.
Elsewhere the Torah states “You shall be wholehearted with Hashem, your G-d.” According to Rabbi Aharon Kotler, to be “wholehearted with Hashem” means not to live a life of contradictions. A baal lashon hara lives a life of contradictions.
IN A NUTSHELL
The baal lashon hara’s sins are equal to the Three Cardinal Sins, and he gives the Satan the power he needs to indict the Jewish people before Hashem.
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