The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
they go down to the inmost parts. — Proverbs 18:8
Imagine someone invites you out to lunch. You sit down to a great-looking meal with a group of friends. Everything seems perfect, and you are ready for a fun time. Everyone eats and enjoys the meal. However, when you get home, you start to feel nauseous. It turns out the food was toxic. And to make matters worse, the friend who “hosted” the meal paid for it at someone else’s expense.
In retrospect, that meal wasn’t so great after all. In fact, you wish you had not gone.
This scenario may seem familiar, but in a different guise. This is often how we feel after sitting with friends who serve up nothing but gossip. At first, what’s being offered seems juicy and enticing. But after a steady diet of gossip, we often feel sick. Everyone may have had a great time, but at someone else’s expense. And irreparable damage has been done.
In fact, the Jewish sages teach that when gossip is passed along, it is as if three people die. Who are those three people?
The most obvious person to be impacted is the person who is the object of the gossip. As the human being is diced and sliced and served up as fodder for a good time, reputations are destroyed. There is a reason why a term for embarrassment is “losing face.” When someone is disgraced by gossip, his or her identity is destroyed; it’s a kind of death. And following the destruction of that person, the by-product is often the destruction of precious relationships.
The second person considered “dead” is the speaker of the gossip. When God created humans, the distinguishing element between humans and animals was a human’s ability to speak. God’s intention was that people would use speech for good things, like prayer, encouragement, and other positive communication. Each time we use this ability for destruction, we betray the very purpose of God’s creation. In essence, we “kill” a little bit more of the human being God created in His own image.
The third person that “dies” from gossip is the listener. Gossip is like spiritual pollution, and like secondhand smoke, it can kill. In Proverbs we read: “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.” Once you listen to gossip, its toxic energy is inside you. This is why we feel sick.
Let’s resolve to stay away from toxic gossip. Remember, God gave us two hands to cover up our two ears when necessary! Life is too short to waste time speaking badly about other people or listening to “dirt” about others. Speak kindly and truthfully. In doing so, we will help purify the spiritual environment and create a healthier climate for everyone.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President