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If I speak Loshon Hara under my breath so that no one else hears it but me (and Hashem of course!), is it the same issur?

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Speaking לשון הרע which does not actually get heard can be likened to someone to desires to commit a sin but then is thwarted by someone or something. Strictly speaking, the Torah prohibits actions rather than thoughts. However, most Torah commentators (Ibn Ezra, Sforno, Malbim, Hertz) treat lusting to sin as a weaker form of commiting the sin itself. And of course, it is viewed as something to be avoided. However, this assumes that the person willfully intended to commit the sin, which in your case is speaking slander. It would seem that if you accidentally spoke לשון הרע under your breath AND no one else heard or even saw you forming words, then by the letter of the law you are guiltless. This would be similar to someone who almost commited a sin by accident. Even if it had happened, he could repent, but he need not do anything.

  • but is the issur the speaking or the being heard? – warz3 Feb 2 '15 at 1:40
  • Miriam spoke to Aaron, if she simply muttered against Tzipporah under her breath would she have gotten tzaras? – warz3 Feb 2 '15 at 1:40
  • In Numbers 12:1 we can assume that Miriam was openly talking. Throughout the 40 years there must have been other people who thought to speak against Moses. Yet we only know about those who actually spoke. – Tim Biegeleisen Feb 2 '15 at 1:52

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