Imagine if I were to show up at the IRS office and say, “Gentlemen, I’m a pretty crafty guy. I could have paid one-tenth of my taxes with just a little bit of deviousness, so therefore, I don’t ask for that type of reduction. All I’m asking you for is 35% off of my taxes.”
Needless to say, they’d laugh at me. The fact that I didn’t cheat doesn’t entitle me to a discount.
So, too, if I would say to them, “You know, I could have outright defrauded the government. I literally could have stolen $100,000. So I would like a $10,000 tax credit.” Again, I wouldn’t get too far. Because, you don’t get rewarded for not cheating and stealing.
Astonishingly, though, the Torah tells us that if we don’t violate a prohibition we will be rewarded for not transgressing it. And the more severe the issue, the more reward we attain for not violating it.
In the case of lashon hara this has huge implications. Chazal (our sages) tell us that “For every moment that a person closes his mouth and doesn’t speak lashon hara, he is given reward that no angel or creation can ever imagine or envision.” Just the activity of not speaking, of holding back and not saying lashon hara yields a reward that’s unimaginable. Because the Torah system is very different than any mortal system.