In this weeks’ Parsha, we’re given a gentle tap on the shoulder to remind ourselves of what ‘Loshing’ can really do. Whether it’s that someone in your group assignment who’s a bigger lump than your local third years or that mysterious co-worker who’s been ‘sick’ one too many times, Lashon Hara is never appreciated (and let’s be real… you’ll probably get tzorisis)
The Parsha highlights two different kinds of people who participate in Lashon Hara; a person of ‘distinction’ versus a ‘smaller’ person. When a ‘smaller’ person speaks lashon hara they will constantly justify their actions, failing to recognize its impact. In contrast, a ‘distinguished’ person is someone who’s humiliated by the act and immediately searches for ways to atone for his sins. A person who’s distinguished will remain so, even if they slip up a few times, as long as they make the conscious effort to find their way back.
However, the Parsha isn’t being unreasonable. Talmudic discussion recognizes that even the greatest of sages struggled with this concept, even The Chofetz Chaim, an individual renowned for abstaining from any slanderous talk. His ability to do so astonishes many, prompting discussion as to how he would achieve this. However, we later come to find that he achieved this through constantly engaging with the people around him.
I think we take a really important message from this. A lot of lashon hara, a lot of grievances towards those around you, comes from assumptions we make about others. Perhaps you become frustrated by a lazy group member, an inexperienced co-worker, a rude passerby and voice your anger to your friends. However, if we spent that time uncovering the layers of each individual, learning about their background, personality, hobbies, and day to day lives, we would develop a greater understanding of why they are who they are.
If we can take anything from this parsha, sometimes it may seem easiest to revert to judgement, placing people in a negative light. If we spent more time appreciating those around us, looking at the positive aspects of their personalities, we can live a more fulfilling life. Everyone has something to offer. If you give yourself a chance to listen, who knows what you’ll find.