Do not speak derogatorily of others

The Literal Commandment

'You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:16)

 

The literal commandment is that we should not be a slanderer. The Hebrew word which is translated as "slanderer" (rakil) comes from a word that means "to travel" and implies "going about spreading gossip or slander".

 

Messiah Says

Messiah implicitly affirmed this commandment:

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. (Matthew 5:22)

 

We should not speak derogatorily of others (whether what we say about them is true or not). Messiah affirms that such an action is a sin and sin is worthy of the punishment of hell.

 

Pictures of Messiah

We can speak derogatorily of others in a manner that is either true or false.

When our speech is false then we are lying which we should not do because Messiah is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14:6) We deny who He is when we speak falsely.

When our speech is true then we are embarrassing others. Embarrassment results from an awareness of some flaw of character or improper action. This commandment (do not embarrass others) pictures Messiah in that He did not come to point out our flaws or sins. He did not come to judge the world but to save the world. (John 12:47)

Public rebuke should be reserved for those who have not responded to private correction and admonition.

 

How Messiah Fulfilled

Messiah fulfilled this commandment by not speaking derogatorily (slanderously) of others. Although His public rebuke of the those scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees who were in error was likely humbling and humiliating for them, He spoke only the truth in what was a public rebuke.

 

Traditional Observance

This commandment is traditionally observed by not "going about as a talebearer" and speaking slanderously of others. This is the core of an entire doctrine within Judaism of avoiding "an evil tongue" [Hebrew: lashon ha-ra].

Speech of this type is the source of many quarrels and disputes and should be avoided.

 

Other Notes

We are able to fulfill this commandment today and we should avoid speaking derogatorily of others.

 

It is interesting that G-d concludes this commandment with "I am the LORD". The implication of such phrasing is that G-d declares, "I am your G-d. Do not speak slanderously because slanderous speaking is not Who I am or what I am about."

James, the brother of the Master, recognized the power of evil speech and wrote this:

So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. (James 3:5-10)

 

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Commandment Details

  • Mishneh Torah # 19
  • Mishneh Torah Book # 1
  • Mishneh Torah Book Knowledge
  • Mishneh Torah Category 2- Personal Development
  • Reference Leviticus 19:16
  • Scripture Book Leviticus
  • Chapter 19
  • Verse 16
  • English You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD.
  • Hebrew טז לֹא-תֵלֵךְ רָכִיל בְּעַמֶּיךָ, לֹא תַעֲמֹד עַל-דַּם רֵעֶךָ: אֲנִי, יְהוָה.
  • Greek 16 οὐ πορεύσῃ δόλῳ ἐν τῷ ἔθνει σου, οὐκ ἐπισυστήσῃ ἐφ᾿ αἷμα τοῦ πλησίον σου· ἐγώ εἰμι κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὑμῶν.
  • Parashah 30- Kedoshim
  • Positive/Negative Negative
  • Sefer Hachinuch # 236
  • Sef. Hach. Command The prohibition on gossiping slanderously
  • Category Love
  • We can fullfill today Yes

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