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Lashon hara

Lashon hara (Hebrew word "evil tongue") is the Jewish sin of gossip. Lashon hara generally refers to true statements, written or spoken; untrue gossip is even more strictly prohibited. Thus, while truth is generally a defence against slander or libel, it is not a defence against lashon hara.

The main prohibition against lashon hara is derived from Leviticus 19:16: "Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people; neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD". The Talmud lists lashon hara as one of the causes of the Biblical malady of leper. In Sotah 42a, the Talmud states that habitual speakers of lashon hara are not tolerated in God's presence. Similar strong denouncements can be found in various places in Jewish literature.

There are times when a person is obligated to speak out, even though the information is disparaging. Specifically, if a person’s intent in sharing the negative information is for a positive, constructive, and beneficial purpose, the prohibition against lashon hara does not apply. Spouting lies and spreading disinformation, is always prohibited. And if the lashon hara serves as a warning against the possibility of future harm, such communication is not only permissible, but, under certain conditions it is compulsory.

Lashon is translated as "language" or "tongue". The word is generally translated as "evil speech". It is true that the concept of Lashon Hara is regarding true things. Lies and false and exaggerated information fall into a worse category called Hotzaat Diba (derogatory/slanderous or defamatory speech) which is, in fact, worse than Lashon Hara in many ways.