Be On Guard Against Gossip

Yael Eckstein  |  July 29, 2022

Without wood a fire goes out;
    without a gossip a quarrel dies down.
—Proverbs 26:20

We continue with devotional thoughts from the Book of Proverbs every Friday. One of the 11 books in the Torah known as the Ketuvim, Hebrew for “writings,” Proverbs is part of the “wisdom tradition,” which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes.

A few weeks ago, as I was coming out of the synagogue on Shabbat morning, there was a commotion. People were standing around just outside the synagogue discussing an argument that had taken place between two long-time members of the community.

“Oh my, did you hear what happened?” “I can’t believe he said that!” The chatter was feverish. I was not in the loop as to who or what was involved in the tumult, and frankly, I didn’t want to know. One thing I learned from my parents from the youngest age was to stay away from controversies that have nothing to do with me.

It’s human nature to be curious when there is some juicy piece of information. People want to be in the know, they want to hear all about who did what or said what to whom. My daughter noticed the buzz all around us and asked me what happened. This gave me the opportunity to remind her of the danger of lashon hara, literally, “evil speech,” the Hebrew expression for gossip that serves no productive purpose.

Be On Guard Against Gossip

Proverbs teaches us the importance of avoiding participation in controversy through gossip: “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.”

People think that they are just passive observers when they share and listen to the details of some argument or heated disagreement. But as this verse teaches us, this is a mistake. When we listen to gossip about a disagreement or fight, we expose ourselves to a specific version of the story. Whether we like it or not, by listening we enable the escalation of tensions.

The side of the story we have listened to skews our view of the people involved. We are drawn into certain viewpoints and opinions about the people and facts involved. As the two sides vie for public opinion, the controversy only grows in scope and impact on the peace of the entire community. The more the quarrel spreads, the more difficult it is for reconciliation.

Gossip is never harmless. We must be on guard against gossip and prevent the spread of damaging speech that threatens the peace between neighbors.

Your Turn:

Next time you are approached with a juicy piece of gossip, stop. If there is no way for you to help the situation, politely decline to listen to harmful speech.

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