Chofetz Chaim: A Lesson A Day II
The concepts and laws of proper speech arranged for daily study.
By Rabbi Shimon Finkelman and Rabbi Yitzchak Berkowitz
Mesorah Publications, Ltd.
We have seen that to speak derogatorily of ones fellow is to degrade ones own status as a creation btzelem Elokim (in Gods image).
For one who speaks loshon hora, the teshuvah (repentance) process is the same as for all sins between man and his Creator: confession, sincere regret, and the resolution never to speak loshon hora again.
One is not required to discuss the matter with the subject of ones sinful words and seek his forgiveness, unless actual harm was caused. (Teshuvah for having caused harm through loshon hora will be discussed later.)
SEFER SHMIRAS HALOSHON
Rabbi Raphael Hamburger1, in his work Marpei Loshon, offers another insightful explanation of the verses, Which man desires life ... guard your tongue from evil ... He bases his thoughts on the following passage from Sefer Chovos HaLevavos (Shaar HaKeniah, ch. 7):
On the Day of Judgment, many people will find themselves credited with meritorious deeds which they did not do. These are not mine! each one will declare. He will be told, These are the deeds of those who spoke disparagingly of you [and thereby caused their merits to be transferred to your account]. And the one who spoke disparagingly will be told, These deeds were taken from you when you spoke against So-and-so.
Conversely, some will find acts of guilt on their account which they never committed. When each one will protest, These are not mine! he will be told, These were taken from the account of So-and-so, against whom you spoke ...
The above is found in other sacred works as well.
A person may spend a day or two earning for himself eternal bliss through Torah and mitzvos, only to exchange these merits for his neighbors sins by speaking against him. A few more days might go by as he accrues more reward, only to lose it all in the same manner when another opportunity for evil talk comes his way. This pattern might continue until his day of death, when he departs this world stripped of all his possessions, that is, the Torah and mitzvos in which he invested much time and effort.
Therefore, David first exhorts us, Guard your tongue from evil, and only then does he say, Turn from evil and do good. The way to ensure that the reward of mitzvah observance remains ours for all eternity is by refraining from speaking ill of our fellow Jew.
1. Eighteenth-century Torah luminary