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Sukkat Shalom B'nei Noach






In this discussion, we delve into the essence of gossip and explore strategies for transforming it into positive communication. Join us on a journey from negative chatter to uplifting dialogue.


Tsara’at is often misunderstood as leprosy, but it is actually a white rash or eczema on the skin. This is caused by psychological mistakes that people can make, such as Lashon Hara, Rechilus, Motsie Shem Ra, haughtiness, and lust for money.

Lashon Hara, sometimes translated as gossip, for example, refers to harmful and denigrating speech about someone, even if that information is true. An example of this is when someone speaks negatively about a colleague at work, spreading negative facts, even if those facts are true.

On the other hand, Rechilus involves gathering information about another person and then spreading it from person to person. Imagine, for instance, someone collecting confidential information about a friend and then sharing it with others without the friend’s consent; this would be considered Rechilus.

Motsie Shem Ra, on the other hand, involves causing someone to receive a bad reputation by spreading negative, but fictional facts about that person. An example of this is when someone spreads false rumors about a competitor to damage their reputation and improve their own position.

While these behaviors may seem to fulfill deep-seated psychological needs, such as:

1. Maintaining stable group norms.
2. Forming and sustaining group norms.
3. Preventing individuals from flouting group norms, thus serving a controlling function (you don’t want others to talk about you, “what will the neighbors say”).
4. Fostering a sense of “we-ness” and hence fostering cohesion within a group.
5. Providing a means to vent and thereby regulating and reducing stress.
6. Sometimes being a convenient way to obtain information and understand one’s position within a work environment – and potentially advancing oneself in this manner.

It is important to recognize that they can have harmful consequences. Rewarding gossip with positive reactions reinforces this behavior, leading to a vicious cycle of negative communication.

To break this pattern, we need to become aware of our own tendency to gossip and actively strive for positive communication.

Positieve Communication

This can be achieved by adhering to the “Ten Commandments” against Lashon Hara and Rechilus:

1. Speak no evil. Only express positive statements. Let kind words be on your tongue.
2. Do not listen to evil. Refuse to entertain gossip, slander, and other negative expressions.
3. Do not rationalize destructive speech. Excuses like “But it’s true” or “I’m just joking” or “I can tell my spouse everything” simply won’t suffice.
4. See no evil. Judge others positively, as you would want them to judge you.
5. Beware of speaking evil without uttering a single negative word. Body language and even seemingly positive speech can cause significant harm.
6. Be humble; Avoid arrogance. Humility serves as your strongest defense against destructive speech.
7. Beware of repeating information. Loose lips sink ships. Even positive information requires permission before being shared.
8. Honesty is indeed the best policy – most of the time. Be cautious and always tell the truth, unless it harms others, violates your privacy, or exposes your achievements publicly.
9. Learn to apologize. Everyone makes mistakes. If you have spoken ill of someone, rectify it promptly.
10. Forgive. If someone has wronged you, let it go.

By adhering to these “Ten Commandments,” we can contribute to a more positive and supportive environment for ourselves and others.

While we cannot change the gossiping behavior of others, we can be mindful of how neurotransmitters like oxytocin influence our behavior and ensure that we do not contribute to rewarding gossip by offering positive responses to negative expressions. Above all, we can be proactive in our communication by consciously choosing positive and supportive language, as suggested by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi.

“Therefore, my beloved and cherished ones, I beseech you time and again that each of you endeavors with all your heart and soul to firmly implant a love for your fellow human beings in your heart. And, in the words of the Biblea, ‘Let none of you consider in your heart what is evil for his fellow man.’ Moreover, [such consideration] should never arise in anyone’s heart [in the first place]; and if it does, one must push it away from the heart ‘like smoke being dispersed’, as if it were a truly idolatrous thought. For speaking evil [of another] is as serious as idolatry, incest, and bloodshed. b And if this is the case with speech, then surely evil thoughts about another are even worse, for all wise hearts are aware of the greater impact [on the soul] of thinking than of speaking! c

Therefore, it is essential that we train ourselves to cultivate a culture of respect and kindness, not only in our words but also in our thoughts. As individuals, we can make a difference by being aware of the impact of our words and actively striving to build a community where positive communication is valued and rewarded.

Learning Points

  1. Lashon Hara, Rechilus, and Motsie Shem ra exemplify damaging speech patterns.
  2. Adherence to the “Ten Commandments” against gossip fosters a positive environment.
  3. Understanding the neurological rewards of gossip empowers us to break the cycle.
  4. Cultivating respect and kindness in both words and thoughts is essential for building a supportive community.

By Angelique Sijbolts


1 Chaizkuni
2 and 3  Kli Yakar  and  en Rabbi Kalman Packouz
4 Niet roddelen, kwaadspreken of lasteren door Rabbijn Meïr
5 Roddelen waarom doen we het
6 De positieve kanten van roddelen
7 The Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith
8 Numbers 23:18
9 …
10 Roddelen hoe werkt het in de hersenen.
11 Positive Speech by Naftali Silberberg
12 Gossip: The Triple Murder Threat
by Lori Palatnik and Bob Burg
A Zechariah 8:17.
B Talmud Arachin 15b.
C Tanya, Part IV, epistle XXII.

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