Lashon hara: One might say this is the single most destructive behavior in a community. It creates a deep mistrust when community members constantly hear others spoken about with derision. It leads to division and competitiveness. It significantly hampers any activities needing collaboration.
There’s also its effect on children. When they hear us speak about neighbors or relatives, it feels hypocritical to them when we then tell them the Torah teaches us how to feel and to rise above our surroundings. Why didn’t we resist the desire to gossip? Why didn’t we take the high road?
The biggest loss, however, is the missed opportunity to create oneness by speaking of others with respect or, at least, understanding. Giving the benefit of the doubt, admitting we would never want to be in their shoes, allows us to connect to our fellow Jews.
Maybe this is why the yetzer hara puts up such a big fight on this subject. He makes us feel full of righteous indignation at the slightest “infraction” we spot in other people, as if all we need is to condemn So-and-so’s action, and world peace will prevail. In reality, however, such times establish the perfect opening to say, “It makes sense to feel this way, but there’s so much I don’t know. I wouldn’t others looking into my life from the outside and judging me.”
Adding in ahavas Yisroel is the best medicine for the challenges of our times. When our children see us constantly looking deeper, beyond superficial labels, seeing people as trying to do the best they can, our children develop greater resistance to reactionary responses. It will then be a lot easier for them to look beyond the smoke and noise of our superficial times and see a world in which Hashem’s original plan is almost complete.
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos,