We have weekly classes with different trips that discuss Jewish issues, stories, laws, traditions, etc.
Tonight's meeting was about Loshon Hora. Last week's was too. And it's such a fascinating subject to me that I don't really know where to start to talk about it.
It's Hebrew and it means derogatory speech about someone else.
I don't know if I had ever really heard about it until we went to Israel and Lori Palatnik talked about it. It was certainly the first time the idea really made an impression on me. I forget exactly what she said, but I did walk out of that room, out of that lecture, wondering what I could say, who I could say it to, and thinking maybe I should just be quiet for a while, as I was at risk of breaking the rules.
There are tons of rules about it, and nuances, maybe as many nuances as there are different situations where you might speak ill of someone. And really the guiding principle seems to be that you shouldn't speak ill of anyone, and that your intention should be good.
The basic rule is that one should never portray a derogatory image of someone even if that image is accurate.
So if someone said that somebody was having an affair (or stealing or greedy or bossy), even if the news was true, that would be loshon hora.
Now there could occasionally be exceptions for saying something, like when a person needs to be warned about potential harm or that a situation really needs to be addressed. In my example, if the person who had an affair was planning to marry a friend, maybe someone would need to warn the friend. Or if a person who was stealing asked a friend to go into business, someone should warn the friend.
My notes caution that one should weigh one's motivation in speaking out, and perhaps consult with a Rabbi before telling.
Why does it speak so strongly to me? I think because it's so easy to be hurt by words or to use words to hurt someone else.
Lauren asked our class tonight, "do you remember the worst thing someone ever said about you?" My answer was "yes", it was something so hurtful that I still remember it a lot of years later, and no, I'm not telling.