Before we conclude this section and move onto the actual halachos, I do want to mention one of the arurs, one of the curses. The Torah says “אָרוּר מַכֶּה רֵעֵהוּ בַּסָּתֶר”, cursed be the one who hits his friend in hiding. Now, when you read this you say what is the Torah talking about? I would never do that. First of all, I’m not sure I could hit him in hiding, I guess maybe I’d have to duck behind a wall and smash him from behind, I don’t even know how you’d do it. And certainly it’s not the kind of thing that you and I would do.
Explains the Chafetz Chaim that unfortunately the reality is very different. He explains that when we speak lashon hara many, many times I would in my wildest dreams never say it if the person were around. In fact, the quickest way to stop lashon hara is for the guy himself to show up. When ba harug b’raglav, when the guy himself shows up all of the sudden everyone is quiet. So what that means is I’m speaking about him because he’s not around. I’m hurting his reputation, hurting his name, causing him damage, because he’s not around.
And I have a mashal that I think well defines this and it helps clarify it. Imagine I had a cloak of invisibility. An invisibility cloak. And I put it on and I went in the beis medrash and I decided to have some fun. I take this guy’s Gemara and I close it and I take this guy’s Gemara and I turn it upside down, and it’s funny and it’s cute. I’m pulling all these cute tricks. And then I decide because nobody sees me, no one could know what’s happening, I decide to take it a little further. I stand there and when somebody’s walking I put my foot out and he trips – ha, ha, ha, ha, no one sees me! Another guy walks by and I punch him – ha, ha, ha, no one sees! Another guy comes by and I kick him. No one sees. Obviously that’s cruel. I’m acting like a creep. Because no one sees therefore you act that way?
Explains the Chafetz Chaim, that’s exactly what the Torah is saying. If he was around you would never say this. Why are you saying these stories, why are you saying these words? Because he’s not here. That’s what the Torah says “אָרוּר מַכֶּה רֵעֵהוּ בַּסָּתֶר”, cursed be the one who hits his friend when he’s not around. Because he’s not here you open your mouth? Because he’s not here you tell these tales? That’s exactly what the Torah is saying. Besides the 17 lo sa’asehs, besides the 14 asehs, there are four curses, one of which is “אָרוּר מַכֶּה רֵעֵהוּ בַּסָּתֶר”.
Im yirtzeh Hashem we will continue further with the actual halachos and applications of lashon hara.