Is “evil talking” part of the seven laws?
Someone, a follower of rabbis Katz and Clorfene, did not like my article which took rabbi Clorfene’s article apart piece by piece. He showed his disgruntlement publicly and included in his attempt to “expose” me, he said the following:
I can’t take you to a Noahide court for leshon harah, so I’ll have to do with the interwebs and making some noise.
He continued later on, saying
On the court: If, say, I see what I think is public leshon harah, then, yes, I could take you to a court and the court would have jurisdiction over the case and the means to enforce the Law if broken. Leshon harah is a prohibited act in Noahide Law.
Moving past the fact that this person was disappointed at the fact he couldn’t at leat try to hurt me using the courts, very much like those who use the coercion of “government” to force compliance or get retaliation against someone they feel has wronged them, let me deal with the more pertinent issue: is lashon harah a prohibited act in … ?
Firstly, what is lashon hara?
Lashon Hara is any derogatory or damaging statement against an individual. In Hilchot Deot 7:5, Maimonides supplies a litmus test for determining whether something is or isn’t Lashon Hara:
Anything which, if it would be publicized, would cause the subject physical or monetary damage, or would cause him anguish or fear, is Lashon Hara. (“What is Lashon Hara?” from http://torah.org/learning/halashon-review1/)
A looser definition can be found at chabad.org where it says:
Lashon hara literally means “bad talk.” This means that it is forbidden to speak negatively about someone else, even if it is true. (“Laws of Lashon Hara,” at http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/922039/jewish/Laws-of-Lashon-Hara.htm)
Now I know there are more details to it than that, but at least I want to give my accuser as much of a chance as possible.
Now I have a problem here. The person threatening me refers to something called “the noahide law.” Now, I’m not sure what exactly the guy is pointing to. You may know that I see the word “noahide” as ambiguous due to its various usages amongst Jews and Gentiles. But “the noahide law” … what is that? Is that the same as the seven laws commanded by God upon the children of Noah, the Gentiles, as the Talmud states?
For me personally, the term “noahide law” became confusing after I started to consider the book “the Divine Code” by R’ Moshe Weiner. I noticed that when it kept referring to a “Noahide Code,” it was different to “the seven laws for the descendants of Noah, of Gentiles.” It included the seven laws but is a much larger body of supposed “authoritative rulings” upon Gentiles. The details of the pure seven laws are smaller in number.
Now is the complainant kvetching about the pure seven laws or a subjective wider body of principles based on who knows what?
Let me just stick to the absolute and fundamental, just the pure seven without extensions. Here’s my question in more specific wording: is lashon hara part of the seven commandments?
Yes, I’m going to do what I enjoy doing. I’m going to recount the seven commandments. Here goes:
– Justice (Laws, Equity, Courts, prohibition against injustice)
– Cursing God’s name
– Forbidden sexual partners
– Eating the limb of a living animal
Now let’s just deal with the basics here, just the basics. Just look at those laws! You should see something missing. There is no sign of “lashon hara.” There is a law against cursing God’s name, but that’s literally not lashon hara. And no other law deals directly with speech. Murder does not because that is talking about the ending of physical life. Theft is about taking or withholding a person’s property without their consent. There is no core commandment against lashon hara.
So to sum up, lashon hara is not part of the seven laws.
Now I’ve seen what various rabbis have said about lashon hara, some say that it is indicated by the law against cursing God, or that it is similar to murder, or that it is as bad as or worse than idolatry, murder and sexual immorality (see Gossip in the Noahide Law). And all these laws are part of the seven laws. But although lashon hara is “similar to” and “as bad as” or “worse than” part of the seven laws, it is literally not part of the seven.
Now there is a rational basis and societal benefit to guarding one’s speech. In that way, it is very important for any human to be committed to proper speech. And the fact it has similarities to some aspects and details of the seven points to its significance for Gentiles. It’s part of living up to the responsibility that comes with being a human made in God’s image.
So no, lashon hara is not strictly or technically in the seven laws. But it has great moral importance for Gentiles.
On a side note, could I really be taken to court, a righteous court, a court upholding the seven laws, about this? If a dude, like this “gerring,” forsook reasoning with me and wanted to just make sure I got punished, could he take me to a good court?
Before I answer, I should add that that there is no positive evidence that I committed “evil speech” according to the rules of it. My accuser didn’t even bother to point out the exact phrase where I did it, nor did he cite the exact detail of the laws of “evil speech” that he thinks I broke. It’s a bit like being stopped by a policeman who accuses you of breaking the traffic laws, and you ask, “which one?” to which he doesn’t tell you which one but just goes on to claim you broke them. It causes me to doubt that there is even a solid case against me. (That is not to say I think traffic “laws” have any innate authority – I don’t think they do.)
So let’s imagine he could point to a detail of lashon hara that I had allegedly broken. Could he really mount a case against me?
Now the seven laws, in a better world, would be international law. They would apply to all Gentiles. But, as I’ve stated, lashon hara is not one of the seven laws. Since it is not international law, it is in the hands of each community to decide if and how such non-seven-laws issues should be handled. It is up to each community to decide if it should or even can “give up” an individual to another community which more readily punishes certain non-seven-laws “infractions. And I’m talking about literal communities, not virtual ones.
So my accuser lives in an entirely different country and continent to me and has a different mindset to me. It is wholly likely that he would be in a totally different community to me. In fact there’s a great chance that he would be living in Israel if he has any consistency with this “ger” notion. Therefore the notion of him trying to threaten and coerce me by means of a court because he thinks I attacked his rabbi rather than rebutting his rabbi’s teaching seems rather unlikely.
I wanted to add that last bit because I like to imagine what a Torah-observant Gentile world would look like.
OK, I shall now move on.