by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
Judaism considers gossip a serious transgression. But what is the definition of gossip? Is it only malicious slander that is harmful to another, or can it even be a casual, harmless comment that is negative?
One morning after prayers in the Synagogue of the holy Baal Shem Tov, two men had a disagreement. Out of frustration, one of them threatened to tear his adversary to pieces, and with that the dispute ended. The Baal Shem Tov called together some of his closest disciples, and using a mystical strategy, showed them a spiritual vision that caused the students to scream from fright. They witnessed (on a metaphysical level) the man carrying out his threat and tearing apart his friend.
In Jewish sources, the human being is defined as "the communicator". The mystics explain that communication goes to the very core of our existence and that the words we utter release a powerful force into the universe. Every time we speak, we create a new reality that has a tangible affect on those around us.
Saying something seemingly harmless but negative about someone else creates a flow of negative energy that can inflict damage upon that human being. It is for this reason the Talmud states that evil talk kills three people: the speaker, the listener and the one who is spoken of.
The good news is that the same is true in the reverse. Positive talk has great results. When we verbalize sentiments of optimism, hope and encouragement, we make a tangible difference even before anything happens.
A 14th century sage once wrote:
Before you speak, you are the master over your words. After you speak, your words are master over you.