web analytics
September 3, 2014 / 8 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Lashon Hara – It’s Not Just Gossip


Kupfer-031612

When people hear the term “lashon hara“, they automatically associate it with gossip. Speaking about someone behind their back to others, usually in a manner that is denigrating and unflattering, often describing alleged activities or doings that put the subject of the discussion in a rather negative light. This is the ultimate interpretation of lashon hara.

But there is another component to lashon hara, literally, “bad speech”, that is often overlooked. This version entails speaking one on one, or directly to a person, but using words or a tone, inadvertently at best, or on purpose, at worse, that upsets the listener, causing the hapless individual distress, sorrow, anger or feelings of inadequacy or worthlessness.

I strongly feel that in most cases, this lashon hara is not deliberate, but is the outcome of gross insensitivity, usually because the speaker hasn’t “been there, done that,” has never “walked in the other person’s shoes” and thus is relatively clueless about the listener’s reality.

Case in point, based on a true incident. Suri, a widow, was talking to her late husband’s sister, Rivka, with whom she is relatively close, especially since both lived in the same community and have mutual friends. Rivka’s brother in Israel was making a simcha, and had of course invited his American siblings as well as his late brother’s wife. Rivka was very excited about the simcha and told Suri that she was booking a flight for a 10-day visit – even though her husband would not be able to come along. She was thrilled that she would have a golden opportunity to reunite with two of her sisters who had made aliyah recently. She missed them terribly.

“I haven’t been to Israel in quite a few years,” Suri told Rivka after hearing her plans.” Maybe I will go to the wedding too. We can go together.”

Her sister-in-law’s response to her enthusiastic suggestion, however, stopped her in her tracks. ” Suri, I’m going to be busy with my sisters.”

Suri felt as if icy water had been poured over her. “Oh,” she managed to stammer. “I had the thought that it would be a good opportunity for both of us to travel with someone, rather than alone, it’s such a long trip,” adding that she had her own relatives and friends to be with.

With that she changed the topic, any desire to go to the simcha completely erased.

Days later, when asked by a friend why she wasn’t going to the wedding when earlier she was seriously considering it, Suri confided how hurt she was, how diminished she felt. ” Did Rivka really think I’m a friendless nobody that I have to tag along with her? And suppose I did have nowhere else to be, why exclude me? Why shouldn’t I hang out with HER SISTERS? I was married to their brother!”

A week passed and a confused Suri called up her friend. “Do you think I was over-reacting? Rivka has always been nice to me. I have been a guest at her Shabbat table too many times to count. Maybe she was just simply letting me know that she couldn’t be a proper companion to me while in Israel since she would be running around, and this way I could make a better decision about the trip”.

“It’s very likely that was what her intention was,” her friend stated. “She was giving you a heads up as to her availability in terms of being with you.”

“So I was being over-sensitive?” Suri asked, beginning to feel somewhat foolish.

“No, actually, your sister-in-law was being under- sensitive. Grossly insensitive, actually, but not deliberately, of course. She, like most people, forgot to SEE who she was talking to.”

Because Suri does not have a husband, she is all too familiar with what it is like to travel alone, especially great distances. She has experienced the long silences; the boredom; the shlepping of heavy luggage; the stress of having to deal with any hassles on your own. That is her reality. But it is not Rivka’s, who went straight from living in a home full of brothers and sisters to having a devoted husband as her constant companion, in and out of their home.

Rivka did not gossip or talk behind Suri’s back; she did not malign her or ridicule her – yet she is guilty of lashon hara because the words that came out of her mouth caused tzaar – pain. Had Rivka been more conscientious; if she had invested some thought towards whom she was addressing, she could have modified her message, conveying the same information in a respectful and uplifting way – speaking in what would rightfully be viewed as lashon tov.

“Suri, I would love to have you sitting next to me for those 12 long hours in flight, though if I fall asleep, I can’t promise I won’t snore! Everyone in the family will be so happy to see you, but I want you to know that I am so looking forward to connecting with my sisters and will likely be spending most of my free time with them. You are most welcome to join us, but I don’t want you to feel obligated to. You may have more interesting people to visit or places to see than a bunch of yentas catching up on old news. It’s your call.

Years ago I was traveling in a van to an out of town shabbaton. The other passengers were single, never married, women in their mid-40s. The driver was divorced, but had children – one of whom was engaged. She went on and on about the wedding plans – her dealings with the caterer, and the florist and her future machatunim, the wonderful boy her daughter was marrying, and how her two adorable grand-daughters were going to march and throw flowers before the kallah , etc.

I could relate to some degree to what she was saying, but I know the others in the car, while seemingly interested in their friend’s “nachas generating” offspring, were crying inside, as they were so blatantly reminded of what was so acutely lacking in their lives – and would likely elude them forever.

It is crucial to take a moment to see whom you are talking to before you open your mouth. Are you sharing your excitement about your home renovations with someone who has parnasah issues? Or bragging about your gifted two year old to someone with a special-needs grandchild?

This does not mean that you should act as if some aspects of your life do not exist. That would not be fair. So if your young neighbor, for example, who is experiencing infertility, asks how your five year old likes his new school, by all means tell her/him. S/he genuinely wants to know how you are doing. You don’t have to live your life walking on eggshells – everyone’s reality has been custom designed by Hashem.

But don’t be a bulldozer either. Think before you talk.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Lashon Hara – It’s Not Just Gossip”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Hamas's leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh (in blue shirt, center), benefitted politically - and in a dramatic fashion - from this summer's war.  Photo from Hamas victory rally, Aug. 27, 2014.
Gazan Deaths and Destruction Dramatically Drives Popularity for Hamas
Latest Sections Stories
LBJ-082914

What better proof do we need than the recent war with Hamas in Gaza, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge,” that transformed the pain and suffering of three families into a sense of unparalleled unity and outpouring of love of the entire nation of Israel?

Katzman-082914

So many families are mourning, and all along we mourned with them.

Astaire-082914

In addition to his great erudition, Rabi Akiva was known for his optimism.

Kupfer-082914-Chuppah

She told me that she was busy and that he could sit in his wet clothes for the rest of the day. It would teach him to be more careful.

What can we do to help him stop feeling so sad all the time?

Children with dyslexia or dysgraphia frequently have problems in social relationships.

Israel’s neighbors engaged in hostilities from the onset. The War of Independence was a hard-won battle. Aggression and enmity has followed for 66 years.

The contest will include student-created sculpture, computer graphic design, collage, videography, PowerPoint and painting.

David, an 8-year-old boy on the autism spectrum, recently attended a Friendship Circle event. As he entered he told his Dad, “I love coming to the FC programs ‘cause everyone loves each other.”

Goldsmith himself went on his own “voyage of discovery” to the places where his grandfather and uncle landed and were sent.

Frank proclaimed himself Zvi’s successor and the reincarnation of King David.

You’re probably wondering why the greatest advocate of fast and easy preps in the kitchen is talking about layer cakes, right?

Almost immediately the audience began singing and clapping and continued almost without stop throughout the rest of the concert.

As of late, vintage has definitely been in vogue in the Orthodox community.

More Articles from Cheryl Kupfer
Kupfer-080114

Unpleasant happenings are quickly discarded if they do not affect us directly.

Kupfer-071814

I have always insisted that everything that happens to anyone or anything is min Shamayim.

It is so hurtful to heighten people’s sense of inadequacy and guilt in a matzav that is already horrendous and difficult to bear.

Make no mistake: in the wrong hands cars are weapons of mass destruction.

Where once divorce in heimische communities was relatively uncommon, nowadays every family has a son, daughter, sibling cousin who is divorced – sometimes twice or even three times!

Many go about the business of living frum, observant lives, but they are only going through the motions.

Lately I have been hearing quiet grumblings from people who admit that they regret not encouraging their sons to get a post-high school education after a year or two of learning.

While it would seem from his question that he is being chuzpadik and dismissive, I wonder if its possible, if just maybe, he is a struggling, confused neshama who actually wants to come back to the fold.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/on-our-own/lashon-hara-its-not-just-gossip/2012/03/15/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: