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The Laws #11

Forbidden Even if No Damage Done

Lashon hara is forbidden even if it doesn’t accomplish it’s intended goal. So let’s imagine for a minute that I tell you over a story about Reuven. And I tell you Reuven did this and that and that and that. Obviously that’s lashon hara, because it’s words that damage him, hurt his reputation, hurt his standing, would embarrass him. But let’s imagine for a minute that you say to me, “There’s no way in the world I accept that. You’re lying. You’re making it up. I don’t believe it.” And let’s in fact assume that you really don’t accept it whatsoever. Nevertheless, explains the Chafetz Chaim, I spoke lashon hara. Lashon hara is a conveyance of a derogatory, defaming statement, position, thing that he did. If I succeed in doing it, obviously I embarrass a person, I lower them, I cause them harm. If I don’t succeed I still did what I shouldn’t have done. The Torah says don’t do it, I did it. If I didn’t actually damage his reputation, it wasn’t accepted, I still violated the lo sa’aseh. It happens to be his reputation was saved, but that doesn’t absolve me from my guilt.

Explains the Chafetz Chaim, if in fact you accept it, obviously I’ve made it much worse. Number one, I’ve really damaged his reputation. Number two, I caused you to violate the lo sa’aseh of accepting lashon hara. So certainly if you do accept it it’s worse, but even if you don’t accept it whatsoever, just my speaking out words that are derogatory, that are damaging to him, violates the lo sa’aseh of lashon hara.

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