All my days I grew up among the sages,
And I have found nothing better for a person than silence;
And not the studying, but the doing is the main thing.
And all who speak too much bring on sin.
—Shimon ben Gamliel
Discussion Guide [1:17].
In the development of a person’s character, there is a complex interaction between studying moral principles,
the example given by parents and teachers, the person’s temperament, and life experiences and actions.
What do you think schools, and religious schools specifically can do to develop character?
What do you think went wrong in those people who are learned in religious values, but act badly toward other people?
In modern life, much of which is lived in close, non-family organizations, such as schools, corporations, and government
organizations, the issue of lashon hara has become even more important. In the late 19th century, Rabbi Israel Meir HaCohen
wrote an important book on lashon hara, gossip and slander, entitled Chafets Chaim (‘seeker of life’—a name he himself was called).
His position is essentially that lashon hara—even listening to it— is prohibited unless there is a compelling reason to say it.
Such a reason is that you will prevent another person from being harmed by warning them against associating with a bad person.
The rules are also somewhat relaxed if the infirmation is already public knowledge. The problem is that in institutional settings
negative gossip is often a good guide to survival.
In school or at work, do you think that listening to or repeating negative information about others is ever permissible?
Under what circumstances?
What should institutions such as schools and offices do, if anything, to deal with gossip about bad personal behavior?