Loshon Hora: A Definition

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM

Loshon Hora: A Definition

Loshon Hora (lit. evil talk) is defined as information which is either derogatory or potentially harmful to another individual. A derogatory statement about someone is loshon hora, even if it will definitely not cause that person any harm. To focus on the shortcomings of another person is itself wrong.

A statement that could potentially bring harm to someone – be it financial, physical, psychological or otherwise – is loshon hora, even if the information is not negative.

(It should be noted that the term loshon hora refers even to true statements which are derogatory or harmful. Negative statements that are untrue or inaccurate are termed hotzaas shem ra, slander.)

SEFER SHMIRAS HALOSHON

Food for the Soul

One who guards his mouth and tongue, guards his soul from tribulations” (Mishlei 21:23).

Which man desires life, who loves days of seeing good? Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit…” (Tehillim 34:13-14).

Why do the above verses single out shmiras haloshon, guarding one’s tongue, as the key to a good life in both worlds?

The human body is composed of 248 organs and 365 sinews. Corresponding to this are the 248 spiritual organs and 365 spiritual sinews of the soul. As Scripture states: “You clothe me with skin and flesh, cover me with bones and sinews” (Iyov 10:11). The various parts of the body are referred to as “clothing” and “covering” for they clothe and cover the soul within man. Each physical organ corresponds to a specific aspect of the soul.

Hashem has given us 248 positive commandments and 365 negative commandments which relate to the particular parts of the body with which they are performed.1 By performing a given mitzvah through a given organ, a spiritual light comes to rest upon the corresponding component of the soul; it is from this light that this component draws eternal vitality.

Thus, when a person fulfills all the Torah’s commandments, he transforms himself into an adam hashaleim, man of spiritual perfection, whose every fiber is sanctified unto Hashem.

The converse is true as well. If a person commits a transgression and does not repent for it, then the component of the soul which corresponds to that prohibition will suffer accordingly.

1. See opening introduction to Sefer Chareidim.

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