LaShone Hara: What is it?
Much confusion abounds on what LaShone Hara is. I hope to plainly and simply define what it is for you.
“LaShone Hara” is Hebrew translated “Evil Tongue” and is in brief defined simply as any spoken, written or bodily expressed word that causes another person loss or to be hurt or harmed in any way, shape or form.
Two main examples of LaShone Hara taken from the Booklet, “Guarding the Tongue” by Dean and Susan Wheelock is:
· Making a remark that in any way puts down or belittles another person.
· Making a remark which causes another person to feel bad or be hurt physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually or financially.
Again we can commit LaShone Hara not only by what we say, but what we write or say with our attitude, actions, and or body language. And it is also a sin to listen to, believe and or repeat the LaShone Hara of others.
It is said that by simply controlling and wisely using our tongue we can fulfill up to 31 different mitzvot (commandments)!
Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, better known as the Chofetz Chayim is best know for his detailed teaching on what constitutes LaShone Hara.
Let us take a moment and break down and further define the above definition in order to fully know and understand what LaShone Hara is.
· If what you hint, say, write or even communicate with your body language, whether intentional or not, ends up hurting or causing loss to another person, regardless if anything derogatory or hurtful was actually intended or said, you have just committed LaShone Hara.
· A story about another person could potentially become LaShone Hara even if one does not mention any names because someone may be able to figure out who is actually being referred to in the story.
· Belittling others is prohibited and is LaShone Hara even if no harm to the other person results due to the fact the one you are speaking to does not believe your words.
· Repeating a belittling story concerning another person is a LaShone Hara even if the story is public knowledge.
· Even if the words you speak are not technically defined as a form of LaShone Hara, but irregardless has a harmful or negative effect on another, has become LaShone Hara.
· If you say something harmful, even in jest, it is considered LaShone Hara due to the fact of the potential harm it can cause.
LaShone Hara is spoken, implied or gestured hate, lies, falsehood, gossip, rumor, false accusation, slander, or action towards another person that causes them ridicule, humiliation, shame, embarrassment, loss or harm.
How does one keep from committing LaShone Hara? Well, to put it simply in the words of mother, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Sad to say, but if you really think about it, some legitimate news broadcast, but especially tabloid or “entertainment” news is full of LaShone Hara.
“Congressmen So and So did or said this or that.”
“Governor So and So was seen here and did or said this, that or the other.”
Political campaign advertisements are filled with bias half-truths of LaShone Hara.
“Such and such athlete was said to have said this or that.”
“Such and Such Actress did this or that.”
LaShone Hara in Judaism is equivalent to the sin of murder. Why!? Because of the potential it has to draw blood. How does LaShone Hara draw blood you may ask? When one speaks LaShone Hara, and it causes embarrassment in another person this is usually manifested by the victim blushing, which actually is blood being released and surfacing to the skin resulting in the red hue. We sometimes call this today assassinating or killing ones character.
Gen 9:6 Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
Lev. 17:11, 14 For the life of the flesh [is] in the blood…
Hate leads to LaShone Hara of the heart that if left unchecked will manifest into LaShone Hara of speech or deed; both deemed the same as murder.
Lev. 19:17 Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.
Matt. 5:21-22 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
I John 3:15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
Seeing as the sin LaShone Hara is taken so seriously in the Bible and in Judaism we must be willing not to hurt or harm others by our speech or actions, even if it causes us harm. We must prefer our brother over ourselves and be willing to suffer in their place if it will save them unnecessary harm.
It is considered a mitzvah to allow others to think less of us rather than bring shame upon another, even if the other person was in the wrong. It is much preferable to suffer shame on behalf of others than be the one to cause such harm to another person, especially if the other person is a brother or sister in the Faith.
John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Prov. 17:17 A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
So we are not permitted to speak or display LaShone Hara even if:
· We are pressured or persecuted to do so
· We stand to personally loose from it
· It means others will speak LaShone Hara against us or cause them to think less of us