The Laws #4

Words That Damage

A common example of lashon hara where people don’t often realize that they’re actually violating a prohibition. Imagine I’m at your house and a certain bakery comes up. And I say, “Ah, the stuff in that bakery is garbage; they can’t bake worth a dime.” Now, if in fact you wanted to contract with that bakery, you had a bar mitzvah or a wedding and you were going to hire that bakery, and I’m telling it to you, I’m conveying that information l’toeles, for a good purpose, there are various times when that is permitted, and in fact is a mitzvah. But if what I mean by that is that bakery style is not to my liking, but I express it in a way that they can’t bake worth a dime or that stuff is garbage, that is most likely 100% lashon hara.

Why? Because the fact that it’s not to my liking doesn’t mean it’s not to your liking or someone else’s, and in fact many people may find that bakery to be a very, very fine establishment, they may enjoy their cakes very much. But when I say that they can’t bake worth a dime what I’m doing is I’m degrading them, I’m debasing them, I’m damaging them. It could well be that you won’t purchase from them anymore, it could well be that those words will spread and other people won’t. Any negative story that causes a person damage, whether I intended it in that sense or not, is in the category of lashon hara, and this is something that if we’re not careful about is very simple to violate.

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