The Jerusalem Council

A Global Association of Orthodox Jewish Disciples of Messiah Yeshua

Lashon Hara

I would like to bring attention to the issue of our speech. It seems there are cases where we openly attack other believers in the Messiah. Be they called Christians, Messianic Jews, Messianic Believers, Believers, we should not make disparaging comments about what they are called, we should not take pot shots as to their faith.

If some one is a Believer in Messiah Yeshua – Jesus the Messiah or other circumlocution’s we might choose. Believers are NOT “what ever flavor”. These are our brothers and sisters. They are members of the Body of Messiah.

If they are saved by the Blood of the Messiah, by Grace then they are our brothers and sisters. We do not always agree with their theology, or their choice of Denomination, but until the Most High G-d tells us they are otherwise, any derogatory comment, or name we apply to them is Lashon Hara.

We can and do openly come against teaching we do not agree with, and when we bring scriptural citation and reasoned discussion this is highly acceptable. But when we belittle some one by attacking them personally it becomes a violation of G-d’s laws.

Christians, Messianic Jews, Messianic Believers, Believers, Hebrew Christians, Messianic Hebrews are acceptable terms and there are more.

Xians, Xtians, Messy’s, Judys, SNer, Yah-Yah’s are not acceptable as well as dozens of others.

Tasteless descriptors and the like are again against G-d’s laws and lashon hara.

On Jerusalem Council we discuss doctrines, dogmas, halakha, Torah. We often will discuss and dissect teachings of various movements, religious beliefs, sects, denominations. We can do this in a respectful way and with out violating G-d’s laws. If we can not do so we do not need to post.
We should never post in anger, or with contempt. To do so would be against G-d’s laws.

*The following Teaching may only be quoted in it’s entirety with copyright notice intact, it is used by permission*

Lashon Hara
The Evil Tongue
There are Jewish laws that apply even to one’s speech, and one who endeavors to abide by these laws will notice a tremendous difference in not just how he speaks, but also in how he acts and feels toward others.
There are many different kinds of speech that are “non-kosher” and best to avoid.

EVIL TALK (LASHON HARA)
The most common, and perhaps the most serious speech problem is lashon hara, literally, “evil talk.” It refers to any statement that is derogatory or potentially harmful to others — even if it is true. Although there are other distinctions in Jewish law, the term lashon hara is also popularly used to include tale bearing (rechilus) and slander (motzei shem ra) or spreading lies.
In simple terms, this means that one may not tell his friend that someone else did something wrong. Nor may one make a statement about someone that will bring physical, psychological or financial harm to that person. Any statement that will lower the subject in the eyes of the listener is to be avoided.
The above rules, however, do not apply in all situations.
There are situations where one is required to speak up, such as in warning about a prospective marriage or business partner. To know when to remain silent and when to speak up is the subject of an extensive body of law. By turning to the Torah for guidance, one can learn what should and should not be said in all situations.
Why is watching what one says so important? If you take a look at just about every broken marriage, shattered friendship, or ruined career, you’ll see that the damage was often caused by hatred. And where did that hatred come from? Often, it starts with a few hurtful words.

HURTFUL WORDS (Ona’as Devarim)

“The pen is mightier than the sword…” and words can cause more pain than any weapon.
The Torah says that the greatest pain in this world is embarrassment. One who embarrasses another so the person blushes is judged as if he spilled blood.
And one who embarrasses another so the person’s face becomes ashen and drained of blood is likened to a murderer.
Consider all the little comments we make all the time to our parents, spouses, co-workers, or children. One poorly chosen word spoken in anger can cause major damage in a relationship. This is why the Talmud suggests this formula for a good, long life:
There is no greater advice than silence.

DECEPTIVE TALK (GANEVAT DA’AT)
Fooling people with words is also problematic. Asking a salesman “How much is this item?” is deceptive if one has no intention of actually buying the item.
If you really need to know, be straight and say initially that you have no intention of buying.
In many other ways we mislead others through our speech, including flattery and boasting.

DISGUSTING SPEECH (NIVUL PEH)
Another kind of “non-kosher” speech is disgusting language. Included in this category are such things as curse words, off-color jokes, or negative innuendo.
What’s wrong with saying an occasional curse word?
The Torah teaches that the way one acts on the outside affects who one is on the inside. So even if a person is basically good, once he begins to speak in a crude way, his character will become negatively affected.
The more crude a person’s speech, the more crude he becomes.
Idle chatter also falls into this category of impure speech. A Jew shouldn’t talk just for the sake of talking. First, this often leads to gossiping about others, simply because a person has nothing better to say. Second, in Judaism there is a concept that each person is allotted a certain number of words in their lifetime. Who wants to waste them on idle chatter?

USE WORDS POSITIVELY
Speech becomes “kosher” when a person chooses to point out the good in others rather than the bad, when his words uplift others and to encourage and advise them.
“Kosher” speech is also categorized as speech that is free of expressions that are beneath a Jew’s dignity. He instead uses words that reflect the traits of humility, modesty, and loving kindness that are a manifestation of his soul.

THE KEY TO JEWISH UNITY
By giving the Jewish people guidelines to “kosher” speech, G-d has also given us a tremendous gift — the key to living peacefully together.
“Kosher” speech is the tool for preventing and neutralizing the anger, bitterness and jealousy that commonly exist between people. It brings in its place love, kindness and harmony, which unite the Jewish people with each other and, ultimately, with G-d.
Learning to use “kosher” speech is a very worthwhile investment. The benefits for oneself and for others make “kosher” speech a win-win choice.

Rabbinic Midrash
The Torah teaches of the punishment of leprosy, or tzaraas, which visits a person on account of his speaking “Lashon Hara”, derogatory remarks concerning another. The method for the Leprosy visiting the person is in stages. At first, Leprosy attaches itself to the person’s home. If the person heeds the warning and repents, it is gone. If not, it excels towards the person’s garments. Again, if one repents, it is gone. If not, it finally attaches to the person’s body.
The questions are, what is the purpose of this progression, and why these objects? Additionally, the Torah states that for one to be “micapare” or atoned, one must bring two birds, one is slaughtered, and its blood is caught in a bowl. The live bird is dipped therein along with a branch of hyssop and myrtle, and the live, bloodied bird is now set free over an open field. On the surface, this seems barbaric, or at the least, unintelligible. However, as we know G-d is the Designer of the Torah, and “all its ways are pleasant”, there must be a rational explanation for these required practices, and for the objects used in attempting to correct the person who spoke badly.

In order to understand how “mida k’neged mida” (measure for measure) works in this case, we must first understand the crime.

Speaking derogatorily against another has at its source, the desire for self affirmation of one’s greatness. An insecure person will usually be found degrading others, and in this manner, he is higher in his self- estimation by comparison. A secure individual however, will not concern himself with others, as this doesn’t effect his self estimation. Being secure, another’s level has no effect on his status. What then is the remedy for this egomaniac type of personality? To diminish his image of his self proclaimed, imagined grandeur with a realistic dose of self recognition that he is undesirable by others. Part of the need to elevate oneself is the desire to be loved by others. When this cannot be, as a leper is banished outside the camp of the Israelites, he is faced with the fact that he is not the great image he conjured, and he must eat his words of scorn.

G-d however tries to avoid the worst by hinting to the person that he has done wrong. G-d doesn’t send the Leprosy to the body first. He initially uses other vehicles with which the person identifies, viz., his home, and his clothing. G-d commences with the home, as this is further removed from the person, but specific enough to him so as to awaken him that there’s something distasteful in him that he should delve into. If the person is obstinate, G-d sends the leprosy to a closer object, his garments. This is more closely tied to one’s identity, and is more effective. But if not heeded to, G-d finally has the punishment of leprosy delivered to his body, undeniably him. We see from here G-d’s mercy, and intelligence in using that with which one will identify.

Parenthetically, these three objects, namely the house, clothes and body, are exactly where Mezuza, Tzitzit, and Tefilin abide. These are also tied to the idea of identification, but from a different angle.

Since G-d desires that one place their trust in Him, and not in their own strength, G-d created these three mitzvot (commands) to redirect where one places their trust.

Mezuza reminds one not to invest too much reliance in his home, as G-d should be recognized as the True Protector. The home is correctly viewed as a haven from the elements. But G-d desires that we act above the norm, meaning, that we have trust in His dominion of the world. So we place a reminder on the doorway, which is the best place for us to be reminded of G-d, as a doorway receives most of the activity of a home.

We are urged not to place too much importance on our dress, and therefore are commanded to wear tzitzit, fringes. Clothing again is an area where people derive identity, as people wear different styles to express themselves. Lastly, but most closely tied to our self identity is our bodies. One is most effected when something happens to his body, even if no pain is suffered. This is due to our false definition of what “man” is. Society tells us man equals body.

The Torah tells us that man equals intellect and love of G-d. Hence, we are commanded to wear tefilin. A reminder placed on our bodies that we should not invest too much worth here either.

These three, the home , clothes, and body are the three main areas where one identifies, and thus, the three areas where G-d therefore saw it fit to place reminders that G-d alone should be Who we depend on.

What are the ideas behind the two birds?

Besides correcting the person’s flaw of overestimation, he must also realize the damage done to the other.
Rashi states that birds are brought who chirp, to make clear that the crime had to do with his “chirping” like a bird. The one bird ( resembling the sinner) is dipped in the blood of the other bird (resembling the one humiliated by the speech) and let over an open field to demonstrate that just as his evil speech is irretrievable, so is this bloodied bird, “bloody speech” irretrievable.

As you cannot catch the same bird twice, so also he cannot catch his words which were let loose on the world. The damage is done, the “bird is loose”, a spoken word is irretrievable. This will hopefully give recognition to the person who spoke destructively and make clear his crime.

Knowing one’s sin is the first step to atonement.

Priestly Dressing
Even our priests were ‘on guard’ against Lashon Hara.
On the extensive description of the eight garments which the Torah gives us, we have also the description of the rabbis, who name each specific garment as protection to its wearer from an individual sin.

1. The inner garments guard against the urge to murder.
2. The pants, against the urge to form illicit relationships.
3. The turban, against haughtiness.
4. The belt, against illicit thoughts.
5. The breastplate, against incorrect judgments.
6. The ephod, a kind of vest, against idol worship.
7. The robe and incense were to guard against two kinds of lashon hara.

Yeshua’s Midrash (Matt 5)
“5:21 You have heard it said…”
One of the teachings of Judaism regarding Messiah (to this day), is that He will come and teach His people the deeper points of the Torah.
Yeshua does just this in the remaining verses of chapter five. He begins with the expression, “You have heard it said.” This He does both to draw his audience’s attention to a specific point, as well as to make a distinction between His opinion on a matter of Torah and any other(s) of His time.
He is offering His authoritative interpretations on how to follow the commandments. In the Judaism of Yeshua, these are called halakhic (hah-LAHK-ik) rulings. Later in this Gospel we will see Yeshua extending this authority to His apostles. We also see Paul issuing such halchic rulings in several of his epistles.
It is important to realize that Yeshua did not come to, “correct all the misguided teachings of the Pharisees.” (This thought is commonly expressed in religions that have little understanding of the Judaism of Yeshua’s time.) First, it should be noted that there was no dominating concensus among the Pharisees and other religious groups at that time. A brief look at the Pharasaic writings in the Talmud, show a diversity of opinion, including many that argue against each other.
This is called arguing for the sake of HaShem (G-d). Secondly, Yeshua actually supported most Pharasaic opinion on the Torah that eventually were captured in the text of the Talmud. Yeshua not only quoted and supported Pharisaic teaching, as seen in the chart above, He also upheld the religious authority of the Pharisees. He told the people to obey the Pharisees, as they “sat in Moses’ seat,” meaning their authority came from G-d. (Matthew 23:1-3)
There were two majority schools of Rabbinic thought at that time, the school of Rabbi Hillel and the school of Rabbi Shammai (both of whom had died prior to Yeshua’s ministry). Hillel was the grandfather of Gamliel, who was the leader of the Sanhedrin and who taught the apostle Paul. Hillel’s teachings were thought to be more liberal than those of Shammai, which were considered more strict. As we will see, throughout the Gospels, Yeshua is often agreeing with an already existing Pharasaic interpretation of Scripture.
The main point is that Yeshua’s comments are within the framework of Pharasaic discussion. Unfortunately, the term “Pharisee” has a totally negative meaning today, even though many Pharisees were G-dly men and some followed Yeshua – (i.e., Paul, Nicodemus, and the factions mentioned in Acts 15 and Luke 13:31). As uncomfortable as many would find hearing this — Yeshua Himself would have been regarded as a Pharisee. When the Pharisees went out to question John the Baptist about who John was, he said that one among THEM (the Pharisees) was the Messiah to come (John 1:26-27).
The Pharisees themselves were highly critical of one another, saying there were “seven kinds of Pharisees,” and not all were good. (1) The disciples of Hillel went so far as calling those of Shammai, “sons of Satan,” in a similar fashion to what Yeshua called some of them. (2) When we see Yeshua rebuking the Pharisees, it is very much a “family argument,” and needs to be understood as such.
In Matthew verses 21-48, Yeshua brings up a number of issues surrounding actual commandments. As we will see, he often quotes directly from the Talmudic writings of the Pharisees. He is addressing the “fences” (safeguards) placed around the Torah — in some case supporting the ones the Pharisees put in place — in other places he offers His own “fences.”
Matt 5:21 Thou shall not kill …
This is a direct commentary on the sixth commandment (which is actually against “murder,” and not “killing”). Note that when He says, But I say unto you, He is not canceling the commandment, as murder is still sin and will bring judgment. Rather, He is showing that in addition to following the letter of the commandments, one should go beyond the minimum requirements as we grow in our relationship with G-d.
Matt 5:22 … But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother …
This comment is on the heels of 5:13-21 where Yeshua says he is teaching Torah “correctly” (in its fullness) to His Jewish audience, so that they can take this Torah out to the world.

Yeshua makes a connection between murder in verse 21, and “speaking evil” of someone in verse 22. This was not a “new teaching,” but had been greatly overlooked by that time. Such “evil speaking” is called speaking “Lashon Hara” (Evil Tongue) against a person, and is equated with murder throughout Jewish literature. The book of “James” (Ya’akov is his real name), it also speaks of the subject of “the tongue” to great length (See James 3).

Yeshua is reminding the people that “character assassination” is as bad a “physical assassination” in G-d’s sight. This is the higher level of Torah that He taught — All part of His greater command to “Love one another.”
This is also the first of many examples we will show of Yeshua supporting Pharisaic Talmud:
Babylonian Talmud, Bava Mezia 58b – One who shames the face of his fellow, it is as if he has murdered him.

The Torah Speaks to Lashon Hara :

Negative Commandments Relating to Lashon Hara
1. “You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people” (Vayikra 19:16)
2. “You shall not utter a false report” (Shmot 23:1)
3. “Take heed concerning the plague of leprosy” (Dvarim 24:8)
4. “Before the blind do not put a stumbling block” (Vayikra 19:14)
5. “Beware lest you forget the Lord, your G-d” (Dvarim 8:11)
6. “You shall not profane My holy name” (Vayikra 22:32)
7. “You shall not hate your brother in your heart” (Vayikra 19:12)
8. “You shall not take vengeance nor bear any grudge against the children of your people” (Vayikra 19:18)
9. “One witness shall not rise up against a man for iniquity or for any sin” (Dvarim 19:15)
10. “You shall not follow a multitude to do evil” (Shmot 23:2)
11. “You shall not act similar to Korach and his company” (Bamidbar 17:5)
12. “You shall not wrong one another” (Vayikra 25:17)
13. “(You shall rebuke your neighbor) and you shall not bear sin because of him” (Vayikra 19:17)
14. “Any widow or orphan shall you not afflict” (Shmot 22:21)
15. “You shall not pollute the land wherein you are” (Bamidbar 35:33)
16. “You shall not curse the deaf” (Vayikra 19:14)

Positive Commandments Relating to Lashon Hara
1. “Remember what the Lord you G-d did until Miriam by the way as you came forth out of Egypt” (Dvarim 24:9)
2. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Vayikra 19:18)
3. “In righteousness shall you judge your neighbor” (Vayikra 19:15)
4. “If your brother be waxen poor and his means fail him when he is with you, then you shall uphold him” (Vayikra 25:35)
5. “You shall rebuke your neighbor” (Vayikra 19:17)
6. “To Him shall you cleave” (Dvarim 10:20)
7. “You shall fear My sacred place” (Vayikra 19:30)
8. “Before the gray-haired you shall rise up, and you shall honor the face of the old man” (Vayikra 19:32)
9. “You shall sanctify Him” (Vayikra 21:8)
10. “Honor your father and mother” (Shmot 20:12)
11. “The Lord your G-d shall you fear” (Dvarim 10:20)
12. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall talk of them by the way when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Dvarim 6:7)
13. “From a false matter you shall keep yourself far” (Shmot 23:7)
14. “Walk in His ways” (Dvarim 28:9)

Guidelines:
Here are nine rules to remember:
1. It is lashon hara to convey a derogatory image of someone even if that image is true and deserved; it is slanderous (motzi shem ra) to do so when the image is false.
2. It is lashon hara to convey information about people that can cause them physical, psychological or financial harm.
3. It is lashon hara to embarrass people, even in jest, or to tell embarrassing things about them when they are not present.
4. Lashon hara is not limited to verbal communication; the written word, body language, innuendo, and the like can also be hurtful.
5. It is lashon hara to speak against a community, race, ethnic group, gender, or age group as a whole.
6. Do not relate lashon hara even to your spouse, close friends or relatives.
7. Do not repeat lashon hara even when it is common knowledge.
8. Avoid r’chilut (Gossip): Do not relate to people negative things others may say about them, for this may cause needless conflict.
9. Do not listen to lashon hara or r’chilut. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

Guard Your Tongue!
Copyright © MZkn. Walter N.Thorpe, esq.

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6 Responses to “Lashon Hara”

  • David says:

    Good article. Nice concise look at lashon hara. May we all take it to heart!

    D

  • Rhonda says:

    You’re absolutely right, and (just in case) if I have inadvertently (sp?) said anything derrogatory (sp?) about anyone when I posted here, I greatly and sincerely apologize.

  • Ramesh says:

    Very positive and ultra scriptural!

  • Mike says:

    speaking of Leshon Ha-ra:

    “After studying the Karaite movement, we have determined that it’s primary aim in sharing its theology with Messianic Jews, is to get it to legitimize its authority over them, by attacking orthodox Judaism’s authority on matter of halacha, especially the moedim, and to establish itself as the rightful interpreters and authority on scripture. This is done through preying on anti-orthodox sentiments that exist within the greater Messianic movement; and is thus accepted by those all-too eager to stay away from an orthodox Judaism.

    Look who’s got the nerver to complain about it.

    • Mike, if you feel that what we’ve shared is lashon hara, please correct us by showing how it’s lashon hara, and please feel free to share then your understanding of what the Karaite movement’s primary aim is in sharing its theology with Messianic Jews.

  • MRavMac says:

    Mike if you read the rules/mitzvah concerning Lashon Hara you will see that rebuking or exposing false teachings or questionable teachings is NOT in violation of the mitzvot.

    Our statement concerning the Karaite movement is not an attack nor lashon hara, it is a rebuke against the actions ‘many’ of the movement take against Orthodox Judaism.

    The same and more have been said towards me as I do not hold to Oral Torah as equal to Torah, and after researching it they/we/us have not violated Torah in rebuking false teachings.

    Even the rebuke toward’s me was not lashon hara, but a rebuke of a position that went against the flow of the majority of the volunteers in this organization.

    So do not consider that minor rebuke of the Karaites as lashon hara, it is NOT.