Our Parshiyot this week, Tazria-Metzorah, exhaustively relate the details surrounding the outbreak of skin disorders in the camp of B’Nai Yisrael. The rabbis, based on an incident later in the Torah concerning Miriam, determined that one reason for a person to be stricken with metzorah is that they engaged in Lashon HaRah (literally “bad speech”), spreading rumors about others, speaking ill of them, casting aspersions upon them.
The Chofetz Chaim, a giant of the late 19th century, made a life’s work of investigating the reasons for Lashon HaRah in an attempt to eradicate it. He arrived at seven causes for this destructive behavior. He even created a mnemonic to remember them all. He called it Kol Gehinom, translated as All Hell. Let’s briefly look at the seven of the causes of cruel speech:
1. Ka’as-anger. If we let anger control us, Lashon HaRah is sure to follow.
2. Laitzonus-scorn. If we treat serious matters lightly
3. Ga’avoah-haughtiness. If we consider ourselves better than others.
4. Hefker-abandonment. If we think it’s impossible to remain careful about speech.
5. Yaiush-despair. If we give up the goal of remaining positive about situations and people.
6. Nirganus-negativity. If we consider the world and its events as stacked against us.
7. Omer mutar-ignorance. If we believe that we are allowed to say what we want because of ignorance.
If we can see ourselves in these pitfalls, and who can't?, perhaps we can realize the impact of our speech on others, the world and ourselves. In doing so, we can guard against the behavior of Lashon HaRah.
Shabbat Shalom שבת שלום.
Rabbi David Grossman