“That really wasn’t a nice thing to say,” Mrs. Koff said.
“Well, it’s just between us, so what’s the problem?” Mrs. Lieb said. “Besides, you know I was just kidding.”
“Lashon hara is not a joking matter,” Mrs. Koff said. “Our Sages wrote so many warnings about the seriousness of this transgression that I don’t think one should treat it lightly.”
“I know that,” Mrs. Lieb replied. “I think they were addressing people who can’t control their mouths, not good folks like us.”
“I think I’m hearing your yetzer hara right now so I’m turning off my receiver,” Mrs. Koff said.
Mesillat Yesharim (Chap 11) says: “And if someone should whisper in your ear and say that what [our Sages] said regarding obscene speech is only in order to threaten man and distance him from sin … but as far as one says it only in jest, it is nothing, and there is nothing to be concerned about … you tell him ‘so speaks the evil inclination!’”
There’s always someone who tries to convince others that what was wrong is not so bad. S/he may use a variety of excuses that can be summarized as “the warnings weren’t meant for people like us” or “we weren’t serious but just joking so Hashem understands.”
This is a timeworn ploy and one should recognize it for what it is. Trying to entice one to transgress, the yetzer hara proposes “special circumstances” that exempt the perpetrator from liability. The yetzer concedes that the deed is somewhat problematic but only if done in a way different than the case at hand.
Vile language, harmful speech, or undue flattery toward wrongdoers are not acceptable. One who slips and violates the laws of proper speech is quick to defend himself. Don’t kid yourself — accept and correct.
One More Second: Another Thought for the Day
…he (who) hates his fellow Jew because he is jealous of his virtues and his good character traits — this is an incomparable foolishness. What harm did his fellow Jew do to him if Hashem graced him with a pleasant personality and most certainly he earned that merit from Heaven. In this context there is no basis at all for hating him. (Chofetz Chaim, Kuntres Ahavat Yisrael, chap. 3)
Rabbi Raymond Beyda serves in the Sephardic Community in Brooklyn, N.Y. He lectures to audiences all over the world. He is author of the book 1 Minute With Yourself: A Minute a Day to Self-Improvement, Sephardic Press, 2008.