SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Introduction (Continued)
We have already demonstrated that lashon hara is one of the worst sins that a Jew can commit, that it causes enormous harm in Heaven, that it had the power to destroy the Beis HaMikdash and send us into exile.
Then why, asks the Chofetz Chaim, are so many people not careful about speaking and listening to lashon hara?
He answers: People who are unlearned simply do not know the facts. They mistakenly think that if the information being said is true, then it is not lashon hara.
Of course, this is a terrible mistake. We are not allowed to speak negatively about anyone even when we are absolutely certain that the information is true. (If it is false information, then the speaker would be guilty of hotza’as shem ra, slander, which is even worse than common lashon hara).
What about learned people, who do know the basic rules of shemiras halashon?
The yetzer hara is very clever. He has ways of getting anyone, including learned Jews, to sin. This is how he does it:
“Him? It’s not lashon hara to speak about him. That man is thoroughly evil, he’s always involved in machlokes (disputes)! It’s actually a mitzvah to speak against him!”
“Yes, he’s a good person, but what did I say wrong? He’s not that bright … so what? I didn’t say that he’s a bad person!”
In the Chofetz Chaim’s words: “The yetzer hara works on two fronts. Either he convinces the person that the statement is not at all lashon hara, or that the sin of lashon hara does not apply when speaking about that individual.”
And if these tactics do not succeed, the yetzer hara has one more weapon in his arsenal. “You’re not going to speak lashon hara? Well, then, I guess you plan to be a hermit for the rest of your life. There is no way that you can live among people and socialize without speaking lashon hara.”
This statement is patently false. Rather than cause a person to become a hermit, shemiras halashon is what permits us to speak. Once a person becomes knowledgeable in these all-important laws, he knows what he may and may not say in conversation.
The Chofetz Chaim concludes that the situation in his days (before he wrote his sefer) was sad indeed. Many people did not see lashon hara as a sin at all. If someone tried to stop such a person from degrading another Jew, the response might have been, “What are you trying to do — make me into some sort of tzaddik?”
The Chofetz Chaim was determined to change this terrible situation.
IN A NUTSHELL
The Satan has clever ways of convincing good people to transgress the terribly destructive sin of lashon hara.
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