Just about everyone would like to make the world a better place. However, we are often stuck on the question, "What can I do?" One thing we can all do -- be more careful with how we speak. A wrong word can end a marriage, a friendship, a relationship. The Torah is very strong and direct in guiding us. The Torah uses the term Lashon Hara ("evil tongue") when admonishing us regarding derogatory speech.
The Torah has three classifications of Lashon Hara. The first, classical Lashon Hara -- what one says is true, but defamatory. The second, Motzie Shem Ra, ("bringing out a bad name") -- defaming through a lie. The third, Rechilut, ("tale bearing") -- telling someone what another person did or said about them. All of them are forbidden. One is not allowed to speak, listen to or believe Lashon Hara -- except for very specific situations to prevent loss and damage.
Lashon Hara destroys friendships, bankrupts businesses, ruins marriages and shortens lives. The Talmud tells us that we, the Jewish people, are in exile because of it (Yoma, 9b; Gitin 57b). There are 17 prohibitions from the Torah and 14 positive commandments which may be violated when one speaks or listens to Lashon Hara. Included amongst the negative commandments are: "You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people" (Vayikra 19:16), "You shall not utter a false report" (Shemot 23:1), "You shall not profane My holy name" (Vayikra 22:32). Amongst the positive commandments that may be violated: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Vayikra 19:18), "In righteousness shall you judge your neighbor" (Vayikra 19:15), "The Lord your God shall you fear" (Debarim 10:20) and "Walk in His ways (Debarim 28:9)
If you really care about the world, humanity, ecosystems, poverty, health, education, perfecting the world, being happy and creating happiness for others -- then the place to start is with your mouth, guarding your tongue. If one removes gossip, slander, divisiveness and anger from one's vocabulary, one automatically and dramatically improves one's own life and the lives of everyone in one's environment."
Spirituality and Godliness take knowledge and work on oneself -- one's character traits. Being careful in one's speech IS a genuine way to be spiritual, to come close to G-d. Try it. See what it does for you, your family, your relationships -- and your relationship with the Almighty.
Rabbi Isaac Farhi