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The Ethics of Speech

“Guard Thy Tongue”

Lashon Hara and the Ethics of Speech

with gratitude to Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan (The "Chofetz Chaim")


Note: Some of the sites that are linked here take an Orthodox and/or Chasidic perspective. Nevertheless, much of the content is applicable to all Jewish orientations, and non-Jewish orientations as well. Be true to yourself. But also, be honest with yourself.

Kagan’s biography can be found by clicking here.

An extremely useful commentary and learning guide can be found by clicking here and also here.

The three parts of the Morasha Syllabus on "The Stunning Power of Speech:" Part I, Part II, Part III.

Following are the 31 commandments in the Torah related to Sh'mirat Halashon, "guarding one's tongue."

 Negative commandments (things forbidden):

1. “You shall not go as a talebearer among your people.” (Leviticus 19:16)

2. “You shall not utter a false report.” (Exodus 23:1)

3. “Take heed concerning the plague of leprosy.”(Deuteronomy 24:8)

4. “Before the blind do not put a stumbling-block.” (Leviticus 19:14)

5. “Beware lest you forget Adonai your God.” (Deuteronomy 8:11)

6. “You shall not profane my holy name.” (Leviticus 22:32)

7. “You shall not hate your brother in your heart.” (Leviticus 19:12)

8-9. “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people.” (Leviticus 19:18)

10. “One witness shall not rise up against a person for iniquity or for any sin.” (Deuteronomy 19:15)

11. “You shall not follow a multitude to do evil.” (Exodus 23:2)

12. “You shall not act like Korach and his company.” (Numbers 17:5)

13. “You shall not wrong one another.” (Leviticus 25:17)

14. “You shall rebuke your neighbor and you shall not bear sin because of him.” (Leviticus 19:17)

15. “Any widow or orphan shall you not afflict.” (Exodus 22:21)

16. “You shall not pollute the land wherein you are.” (Numbers 35:33)

17. “You shall not curse the deaf.” (Leviticus 19:14)


Positive Commandments (things required)

1. “Remember what Adonai your God did unto Miriam by the way as you came forth out of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 24:9)

2. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18)

3. “In righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.” (Leviticus 19:15)

4. “If your brother be waxen poor and his means fail him when he is with you, then you shall uphold him” (Leviticus 25:35)

5. “You shall rebuke your neighbor.” (Leviticus 19:17)

6. “To Him shall you cleave.” (Deuteronomy 10:20)

7. “You shall fear my sacred place.” (Leviticus 19:30)

8. “Before the gray-haired you shall rise up, and you shall honor the face of the old man.” (Leviticus 19:32)

9. “You shall sanctify Him.” (Leviticus 21:8)

10. “Honor your father and mother.” (Exodus 20:12)

11. “Adonai your God shall you fear.” (Deuteronomy 10:20)

12. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7)

13. “From a false matter you shall keep yourself.”(Exodus 23:7)

14. “Walk in His ways.” (Deuteronomy 28:9)