By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
If a person spoke negatively about a group of people, even if he only says it once but the outcome is against many people, it is counted as if he spoke against each individual separately. This is similar to a scenario where a person doesn’t say anything negative, all he does is wink; it is therefore understood that he is speaking Lashon Hora. Even though no negative words were spoken, it is counted as if he spoke against the person.
The Gra tells us regarding the story with Yonasan and Dovid that they made a code with the arrows to communicate whether Shaul was going to kill Dovid or not. The Gra asks why couldn’t Yonasan tell Dovid straight out since this would constitute as Lashon Hora Le’Toeles? The Gra answers that even in a place where one is permitted to speak Lashon Hora, but it is possible for the person to manipulate it in such a way that the person would not need to say it, but rather be “meramez” (say it in code) then that would be the preferred way. We see that even if one speaks in code, despite the fact that it is not the same as speaking straight out, it is still considered Lashon Hora. In the story mentioned above it was permitted by “remez” since it was le’toeles.
The Baal Haturim in Parshas Vayeishev says on the posuk that tells us that Yosef was in jail in the dungeon, that the reason Yosef was incarcerated for ten years was because he spoke against his ten brothers. He received one year for each brother, even though he actually only spoke once. This can also explain why Yosef was put in jail. We know that the punishment for speaking Lashon Hora is tzoraas; it results in the person leaving his city and sitting alone. That is what happened to Yosef when he was arrested and had to spend time in jail away from regular people. Yosef was in jail with other incarcerated people in a similar circumstance to a Metzora who is put out of the city adjoined with other people afflicted with Tzoraas.
The Yerushalmi in Brachos, daf ches, amud alef says in the name of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai that if he would have been at kabbolas HaTorah he would have requested that each person have two mouths; one to speak in Torah learning, and the other to speak mundane things. He did add that now that we have one mouth and we see how difficult it is to control it and not speak Lashon Hora, how much more difficult would it be to watch two mouths from speaking Lashon Hora. That is the reason why a Metzorah has to bring two birds as a korban after he becomes pure again. Birds are brought because the nature of the birds is to chirp and this person was unable to control his own chirping. Why does he have to bring two birds? We can understand this with the above-mentioned thought of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai that a person should really have two mouths; however, because people speak Lashon Hora, we were created with only one mouth. This is the reason why we only shecht one of the birds and let the other go, since we only have one mouth.
May we be zocheh to use our single mouth to speak well of other people and say only nice things.
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