To my mind, this may be one of the most important blogs I have published to date.
I would like to share with you a Jewish concept called Lashon Hara, which, colloquially translated, means Evil Speech, or in today’s terms, Bad-mouthing.
In Judaism, the idea of Lashon Hara is parallel in importance to the Commandment, “Thou shall not kill”. Why? Because when we speak badly about another person, we are in the act of character assassination.
Let me now share a story that will illustrate its danger.
There was a very righteous Rabbi that lived in a small town in Eastern Europe. His fame for being a wise, kind and deeply religious man was known throughout his and surrounding towns. In deed his purity was legendary.
Every Sabbath, this Rabbi would walk to his synagogue through the little main street of his town. He would always pass the local grocery store as he strolled to go to his congregation and his Saturday prayers.
One day during his routine walk, as it would happen, at the same time, a member of his congregation was walking on the other side of the street in parallel with the great Rabbi. He witnessed the Rabbi going past the grocery store and taking an apple from the bin outside the store, without paying for it. The man was shocked that such a great man would not only steal but also steal on the Holiest day of the week!
Not wanting to judge, this man waited for the Rabbi as he walked to the Synagogue the next week. And he witnessed the same thing happening again.
During the Sabbath’s service, just before the Rabbi gave his special lecture, the man stood up in front of the whole congregation and confronted the Rabbi for being a hypocrite, and worse, a deceiver.
The man then described what he saw that past two Sabbaths to the congregation.
The Rabbi quietly responded to the accusations by saying, “My dear friend, you know that it is not proper to carry money on the Sabbath. So I made a deal with the store keeper that I would pay him for an apple before every Sabbath. So what you saw, was not what you think you saw.”
The man apologized profusely to the Rabbi. The Rabbi did not respond to the apology but instead took the man and his congregation outside the synagogue and walked to the Rabbi’s house. Trying to demonstrate the danger of Evil Speech, the Rabbi climbed a ladder to the rooftop of his home. Whereupon he took a feather-filled pillow and released the feathers, scattering them in the wind.
The Rabbi said to the apologetic man, “ Now pick up the pieces”.
The man answered, “I can’t pick up all the pieces.”
“And this is the problem with Lashon Hara,” responded the Rabbi. “It cannot be undone. And the character damage that has been done, also cannot be undone.”
Speaking badly about another person, as you can see by the illustrated story, has dire and unfixable consequences.
As we go into the New Year, may we all be conscious of this story and the horrible ramifications of Lashon Hara.
We jump to conclusions too quickly, and therefore we make judgements too quickly.
Many times we do not know the true motivation for another person’s actions. There may be “back stories” or other implications that we are unaware of.