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The Roots of Gossip

Clothing, like everything in the Torah, reveals a deeper lesson. The Talmud points out that the clothing of the Kohein, the priest, served as an atonement for the wrongdoings of the Jewish people. His me-il, the coat, atoned for Lashon Hara--Gossip. It was a garment that was fully Techeiles, a light blue color which reflects heaven and the heavenly throne.

Our sages explain that Lashon Hara rises up to the Throne of Glory and that a person will have to face judgment for every word of Lashon Hara before the Throne of Glory. The Techeilis color serves as a reminder of the immense spiritual power of our words.

We often minimize the importance of what we say, but The Torah emphasizes in many different ways the severity of speaking badly about other people. Many of the actions that we apologize for on Yom Kippur are related to speech. Why is it such a struggle?

The root of Lashon Hara has less to do with the person it is about and more to do with the person speaking. At the core of Lashon Hara is jealousy and often anger. The Mishna warns us that these traits "take us out of the world." They can shift our focus so far into the negative realm that, at some level, we stop living. We are so engrossed in this negative thought cycle. It is no wonder that a recent psychology study linked Lashon Hara to increased levels of stress and shorter life spans.

One person embarked on an experiment tracking all of her Lashon Hara for a week. What she found is very telling. 80% of all of the Lashon Hara that she spoke was about people that she already didn't like. The information she was sharing was within the context of her already negative feelings towards them. As much as she would have liked to justify her words as being important and unbiased, it became clear from where they stemmed.

This experiment is worth trying. Cutting Lashon Hara by 80% is no small feat but the effort is well worth the reward, in this world and beyond.


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