Negative Speech and the State of Rah

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Negative Speech and the State of Rah

Michael Berg
April 14, 2021
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Every year with the portion Tazria, we come to speak about what is called lashon hara, the negativity that is created through negative speech. We all know that speaking badly is not a good thing. However, if we come to a deeper understanding of not just why it is negative, but the degree of negativity that it awakens, then hopefully it will have the ability to create change within us.

In the Talmud, Rav Yochanan (bar Nappaha) quotes the other sage, Rav Jose ben Zimra, saying, "Whoever speaks badly about somebody else, it is as if he completely does not believe in God, he is completely disconnected from the Light of the Creator.” That is a very dramatic statement; they do not even use this statement about somebody who murders or steals.

Every negative action that we do, every action of selfishness, every action of the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone disconnects us from the Light of the Creator, but there are only a few things that the kabbalists say completely detach a person from the Light of the Creator: ego is one of them, and lashon hara is another. So clearly it is not simply that it is bad – it is bad to steal, it is bad to murder, it is bad to hit, there are a lot of things that are physically and spiritually bad - but here the kabbalists are telling us that the concept of speaking badly about somebody else puts us in a category of being completely detached from the Light of the Creator. Why is that? What is so much worse about speaking badly?

The Maharal, in his commentary in the Talmud in Chidushei Aggadot, says the following: “When you are speaking badly about somebody else, you are in a state of consciousness of bad.” When we see something bad in somebody, think about it, and retell it, that entire cycle is a state of consciousness of being in a negative state, in what is called Rah. However, it is a basis of the kabbalistic teachings that the Light of the Creator is Endless Good. As such, without a doubt, there can never be a situation where something that is completely bad and something that is completely good can be together; in this case, the individual who is in a state of consciousness of bad and the Light of the Creator cannot be together.

Let’s use the example of somebody who is in a state of rage, for instance, who goes and punches somebody in the face. He clearly had an emotional reaction in the moment that made him do a negative action. But that is not his state of being. The circuit of consciousness when the choice that one makes when he sits down, looks at another person, finds what is bad there, takes it into his mind, and repeats that to another person, is the circuit of what the Maharal calls the State of Rah, or “badness,” and that is a state of consciousness.

Many of us do actions of selfishness and actions we know are not spiritual, but because we enjoy it so much, we do them anyways. It is selfish, it is not spiritually right, but the reason we are doing them is because there is some internal driver, there is a benefit that we feel we are going to get. In that instance, we are not in a state of Rah. The only time we are in a state of Rah is when we are looking at someone and take the time to find what is wrong with them, and then speak about what is wrong with them to another person; that circuit puts us in the state of Rah. And the state of Rah cannot connect to the state of Good. The consciousness of seeing what is wrong cannot connect to the consciousness of Goodness that is the Light of the Creator.

So, the Maharal explains that a person can do a lot of negative things, but a person who sees what is bad with this or that, and takes the time to repeat it, is disconnecting so completely from the Light of the Creator, because it goes against the essence of the Light of the Creator. And because the essence of the Light of the Creator cannot reside within an individual who is in that state, that person is completely disconnected. And he says that when a person speaks badly about somebody else, for the most part, he usually does not extract a tremendous amount of joy from it.

The reason we should be very careful not to find what is bad in other people, and not to speak about it, is not simply because it is not a good thing and not a spiritual thing, but because it puts us in a state of complete disconnection from the Light of the Creator. Again, if we do something for our ego, and know it is not the right thing, but derive so much benefit from it, it is coming from our Desire to Receive for the Self Alone. It is a negative action that on some level, of course, disconnects us from the Light of the Creator, but it does not give us a consciousness of Rah, as opposed to when we are taking the time to see, and relay, what is bad… which then completely disconnects us from the Light of the Creator.

And I want to be clear about it: even a person who never speaks badly, but simply is in a negative state of mind where he sees what is bad, is already in the state of Rah. Why? Because it is very simple. The Creator is only constantly in the state of Goodness, and never in the state of seeing what is wrong. And if we allow ourselves to remain in that state, or to the degree that we allow ourselves to remain in that state, we are completely disconnecting ourselves from the Light of the Creator.

It is not just about speaking badly, it is about being in the consciousness of bad. Therefore, lashon hara is not just about other people. It could be that you are sitting at home, and maybe it is raining outside, and you hate the rain, so you say, "Oh, I cannot believe it is raining." When we do that, the Zohar says that on a certain level we are saying lashon hara about the Creator. Because we are saying the situation the Creator has put us in is not right.

When an individual, either personally or towards others, is in a state of seeing what is wrong, he disconnects from the Light of the Creator. If then to the degree we are in the state of seeing what is wrong with our situation or others, that is a state of Rah, a state that disconnects us from the Goodness that is the Light of the Creator. It is a very important understanding.


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