3 Elul 5776
by Dr. Stacy Nagel
If you ever watched the television series “Hee Haw”, you may have seen the Hee Haw Honeys sing the following:
“Now we’re not ones to go ‘round spreading rumors.
No really we’re just not the gossiping kind.
Oh you’ll never hear one of us repeating gossip…
So you’d better be sure and listen close the first time!”
I hate to admit it, but this song makes me giggle, as does Olympia Dukakis in “Steel Magnolias” when she states the line “If you don’t have anything nice to say…come sit by me!”
But as I reflect on this past year and prepare for the High Holy Days, I have been thinking a lot about the power of words. Speech can be used to build or destroy. Gossip has power and can tear apart relationships, families, and entire communities. The Torah, of course, prohibits speaking Loshon Hara, and we are even prohibited from listening to it.
My problem? Sometimes I will vent to friends about another individual that I feel did me an injustice. I might even tell the friend “I’d say it to his/her face too”. But if I really would say it to the person’s face directly — why am I not doing that instead of speaking indirectly to someone else?
Some of my closest friends are extremely strong and candid. I love these folks because even though they are open and honest, they also are kind and gentle in how they express their opinions. So I think it’s important to not only speak directly, but also to express yourself in a way that recognizes the other person’s feelings and shows compassion and respect for them.
It’s not easy, but the first step in avoiding Loshon Hara is to recognize your own faults and commit to improving on them. So, I am going to work harder this year on asking myself: Is this my business? Is this helpful? Am I saying this in a way that expresses my feelings openly to the person involved without diminishing their feelings?
If you don’t have anything nice to say…don’t say it!