Every kind of trafficking in evil report or rumors—whether true or not—by carrying them from one person to another, or by relating unpleasant or harmful facts about another, is forbidden.
–The Encyclopedia of Jewish Religion
Words with Friends
A few months ago, I was having a conversation with Ilene, one of my closest friends, about some issues that persistently tear my family down. One of the things I love about Ilene is that she comes from a family that is truly Jewish—she knows way more than most American Jews about their history, culture, religion, philosophies and many things both Yiddish and Hebrew. I come from a staunchly Christian family. I know a hundred hymns by heart and I can quote Scripture at the drop of a hat. Over the years I have learned many different perspectives from Ilene, and I can talk faith and family freely without recourse (or remorse). So, I told her about the spirit of negativity that hangs over us and influences our speech.
Invariably, when our family gets together, one or two of us finds ourselves at odds with another, and walks away hurt and damaged. What’s the deal? Why can’t we lift each other up and focus on the good things God has done for us? Why do we expect each other to agree all the time and get twisted when someone has a different viewpoint? We are all adults between the ages of 58 and 89; why do we dig our heels in and insist on being right? What happened to the compassion and tolerance we crow about and the love of God we say we have? It all seems to turn into a great big soapbox when we’re at odds with each other. We’ll pray together then say things that are hurtful and only vaguely accurate afterward.
As I spilled a heavy heart into the phone, Ilene just listened. After a while she broke in and said, “You know, we Jews have a term for that, we call it lashon hara, and maybe it’s something you and your family need to learn.” Continue reading