“Lashon hara is geshmake,” (“Gossip is tasty,”) my rabbi announced to my seminary class years ago. My first inclination was to think, “Oh, no Rabbi, you too?!” But then I realized that God created our world so that gossip would be delicious to most people. Of course there are those who simply have no taste for it. But for the majority of us, spreading information about others – particularly those we don’t like very much – is simply irresistible.
Just like there is an entire media industry built around food, with pictures, recipes, and reviews – people love everything associated with the act of consumption – so too, there is a media industry built around gossip. Pictures, articles, tidbits in magazines, blogs, and newspapers seem to follow us wherever we go, tempting us to take part.
But just as an observant Jew might see or smell a non-kosher food that’s appealing, she wouldn’t partake in it because she has made a commitment to not let any forbidden foods cross her lips. We must approach gossip the same way. As an idea gets cooked up in your mind and you consider letting it pass into your mouth, ask yourself first – is it kosher? If it definitely isn’t – even if it’s succulent – swallow it. If you’re not sure if it’s kosher – just like you’d check with a rabbi when it comes to a hechsher (kosher symbol) on a package of food you’re not sure of – check with a rabbi here too.
Let’s not beat around the bush – being snarky is lots of fun. Looking clever, while we put someone else down (social media allows people to do this more than ever) gives many of us real pleasure. But let’s not allow ourselves the indulgence. Lashon hara is just as forbidden in Jewish person’s mouth as a piece of pork is. Quitting cold turkey may be too hard, but going on a “gossip diet” is a start.
We are in the midst of a two thousand year exile, whose cause and continuation is due to these poisonous, destructive words. Let’s all commit to speaking more responsibly and may we merit to see the redemption speedily in our days.