🗯️ Private Thoughts vs. The Public Square

In Judaism, there is a prohibition against Lashon Hara, disparaging speech. Gossip and slander are serious sins in Judaism. Judaism forbids causing any deception or embarrassment through speech; it is forbidden even if the statement is true. There are just a few exceptions. The following is an excerpt from the excellent Judaism 101 page on the subject (and here is a link to a longer version of the feather story):

Judaism is intensely aware of the power of speech and of the harm that can be done through speech. The rabbis note that the universe itself was created through speech. Of the 43 sins enumerated in the Al Cheit confession recited onYom Kippur, 11 are sins committed through speech. The Talmud tells that the tongue is an instrument so dangerous that it must be kept hidden from view, behind two protective walls (the mouth and teeth) to prevent its misuse.

The harm done by speech is even worse than the harm done by stealing or by cheating someone financially: money lost can be repaid, but the harm done by speech can never be repaired. For this reason, some sources indicate that there is no forgiveness for lashon ha-ra (disparaging speech). This is probably hyperbole, but it illustrates the seriousness of improper speech. A Chasidic tale vividly illustrates the danger of improper speech: A man went about the community telling malicious lies about the rabbi. Later, he realized the wrong he had done, and began to feel remorse. He went to the rabbi and begged his forgiveness, saying he would do anything he could to make amends. The rabbi told the man, “Take a feather pillow, cut it open, and scatter the feathers to the winds.” The man thought this was a strange request, but it was a simple enough task, and he did it gladly. When he returned to tell the rabbi that he had done it, the rabbi said, “Now, go and gather the feathers. Because you can no more make amends for the damage your words have done than you can recollect the feathers.”

Speech has been compared to an arrow: once the words are released, like an arrow, they cannot be recalled, the harm they do cannot be stopped, and the harm they do cannot always be predicted, for words like arrows often go astray.

Which, of course, brings us to Facebook and other social media.

Think about what you post and what you share on the social media you use. Think about what your friends share. Ask yourself: How much of it is, essentially, gossip and innuendo? How much of it is the telling of tales? How much of it is implication without proven fact? How much of it is bullying, the calling of names? How much of it is intentionally designed to make fun of, to “own” a particular side (in a bad sense)? How much of it is harmful speech?

How much of it do YOU originate, propagate, or share?

Remember again: Speech has been compared to an arrow: once the words are released, like an arrow, they cannot be recalled, the harm they do cannot be stopped, and the harm they do cannot always be predicted, for words like arrows often go astray.

This is not just a problem for the Conservatives. This is not just a problem for the Liberals. Both sides do it.

Think what you wish, privately. Think closely about what you post, what you say, and how you say it. Stick to proven facts, not rumors. Let’s get disparaging speech off social media.

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