My Ears Were Burning

Loshon hora, or evil speech, is strictly prohibited in Judaism.  We are taught, as children, that Loshon hora hurts not just the subject of the gossip, but that harm is also done to the person who utters Loshon hora and the person who hears it.  Truth is not the issue.  Speaking poorly of someone, even a simple, factual recitation of an individual’s most spectacular failures, is wrong and should be avoided. 

Three victims – the speaker, the listener, and the subject.  It is easy to be victimized by Loshon hora in 2010.  I was last night. 

The red light was flashing on my Blackberry.  I had missed a couple of calls during dinner.  One even left a voice mail message.  I quickly checked the voice mail.  What I heard was a conversation between two guys.  At least one of them has yet to learn how to lock his smart phone. 

My golf buddy, Karl, “ass dials” his family and friends all of the time, often while he is on the course.  These two guys were in a far more private setting.  They talked about many of their mutual friends and all of it was clearly recorded on my voice mail.  I knew that it was my responsibility to erase the conversation, but I couldn’t do it.  Like much of gossip, it was banal, self-serving, and boring.  Yet I listened. 

Three victims – the speaker, the listener, and the subject. 

Were they hurt by the Loshon hora?  Yes in that we are harmed by anything that leads us away from being the best people we can be.  Me?  I was both a listener and a subject, a victim who listened long enough to hear my own name mentioned.  I have no one to blame other than myself.

 I can’t tell you what they said about me.  The voice mail ended soon after I became the subject.  And the truth is that it wouldn’t matter.  The harm was already done.

3 thoughts on “My Ears Were Burning

  1. What is it about Loshon hora that draws us to it? We all do it even though we know we shouldn’t. You chose to listen (brave to admit that I must say). We all choose. It’s like a magnet. We WANT to hear. We don’t often participate but we most always listen. Is it that we so hope to hear that others are as weak as we? That they could be less than ourselves?

    Your comment that Loshon hora is harmful because it “leads us away from being the best we can be” is true. It does. And it leaves one feeling empty and shamed. So we do it again and again knowing full well the personal consequences that come from our actions. But it is a magnet. From where does it get such power? I wonder.

    What is the term/word used that means: being the best we can be? We should be more mindful of it. Good post Dave.

  2. Please Post

    David,
    It seems to me that the Speaker of harmful words is the worst of the three offenders.
    The listener is next, in that he gives life to the offense.
    The subject is innocent, unless he has done something immoral.
    I have no fear of you ever doing anything immoral.
    So that brings us to your role as the listener. The fact that no one knew you were listening absolves you of that offense, until you happened to blog about it.

    As an aside, my grandfather called it a “Shonda Hora” probably being influenced by the shame invoked. My grandfather never experienced someone not locking his smart phone, but he did experience the lack of privacy when sharing a party line with his neighbor. Those were the good old days.

    No Names Michael

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