The last one of the asehs that we’re going to deal with now is “וְהָלַכְתָּ בִּדְרָכָיו”. The monei hamitzvos, the ones who count the mitzvos, count this as a separate mitzvas aseh to go in the ways of Hashem. What does it mean to go in the ways of Hashem? מַה הוּא רַחוּם, אַף אַתָּה רַחוּם””, just as Hashem is merciful so too you should be merciful. The Rishonim learn that this is a mitzvas aseh to work on one’s middos, to be kindly, to be generous, to be magnanimous, to be forgiving.
Explains the Chafetz Chaim that when I’m speaking lashon hara obviously I’m not going in the ways of Hashem. There are 17 separate lo sa’asehs Hashem warns us with not to speak lashon hara. There are 14 asehs that a person could potentially violate. Clearly Hashem does not want us to speak lashon hara.
The Rambam explains that lashon hara are words that debase, defame, words that cause harm to a person’s reputation or feelings. They are very, very hurtful words. Now, I don’t say them for that reason, I may not be conscious of it, but if that person were here or that person were aware of it it would cause him a huge amount of pain. The reason I do it is he’s not here, but the reality is that I’m causing him harm, I’m causing him damage. It’s the opposite of the way that Hashem acts. Hashem is the meitiv, Hashem is giving. Hashem is magnanimous, Hashem is generous and Hashem is ultimately forgiving.
When I freely tell over stories, even though I don’t mean to be malicious or mean, but I tell you about this one and this one and that one and that one and I ruin their name or their reputation or just tell over things that they would be embarrassed by, clearly I’m not “וְהָלַכְתָּ בִּדְרָכָיו”. Hashem is merciful, Hashem is forgiving. Certainly if it was me myself I would do everything in my power to hide it and I wouldn’t let anybody know these bad things, but because I’m not thinking that way I speak it. But I clearly am not going in the ways of Hashem, I’m not being mekayem “וְהָלַכְתָּ בִּדְרָכָיו”.
Again, the Chafetz Chaim tells us, even though we haven’t mentioned all of them, there are 17 separate lo sa’asehs that a person could violate, 14 asehs. Even though, again, it’s true that it’s unlikely that you’re going to violate all 17 and 14 in one fell swoop, if you speak lashon hara long enough you are guaranteed to. In any case, often you’ll violate many, many separate lo sa’asehs and asehs in lashon hara. And in fact most of the time it’s impossible to speak lashon hara without violating four or five or six, sometimes seven or eight separate lo sa’asehs and asehs. And the point being, the Chafetz Chaim brings in the pesichah to impress upon us the severity of the issue how grave the Torah considers it and to allow us to understand that it really is assur so that when we learn the halachos and we understand what lashon hara is we now have the motivation clearly to avoid it because we see how makpid, how severe the Torah views it and deals with it.