I am trying to understand Avot Derabbi Natan 9:2. It explains that B'nai Israel tested G-d 10 times in total in the desert, but G-d did not punish them until they spoke lashon hara about the land of Israel.

Then, Avot Derabbi Natan uses a kal vachomer stating that if they were punished for speaking about land, that has no mouth, how much more so should the punishment be for speaking lashon hara about a human?

I understand the kal vachomer, itself. But, I have some follow-up questions:

  • If the Mishnah uses a kal vachomer, people are not killed for speaking lashon hara about other humans. How is this a kal vachomer?
  • The last paragraph in the Mishnah (as shown on the web page) seems to be incongruent. Earlier, the Mishnah lists all 10 tests. These were tests that all of Bnei Yisra'el did as a group. Then, he quotes a verse saying "They tested me 10 times". I assume the word "they" refers to all B'nei Yisra'el, not just the 10 spies. But when discussing the punishment for lashon hara, it mentions the verse relating that only the spies died, not all of B'nei Yisra'el. If the Mishnah wanted to compare things, why doesn't it list a verse related to the punishment of the people dying in the desert over the course of 40 years?
  • Beautiful question. Not really an answer, but may be that the punishment occurred with Loshon Horo but was for the sum of the 10 nisionot. עד שבא אברהם ונטל שכר כולם is more meforash but may be, and very probably that the punishment is for the sum.
    – kouty
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 21:02
  • @kouty. Thanks for the compliment. Your analysis is credible. The other questions would still stand. Additionally, there's a "split" punishment. The spies die immediately; the people that listened die during the course of 40 years. With some of the other 10 tests (like Golden Calf), G-d threatens to kill everyone immediately, but Moshe's prayers work, there. I have to view the list of all 10 "tests" mentioned, as there is inconsistent punishment.
    – DanF
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 21:37
  • Not sure but may be that Rav Hirsh talk about the split.
    – kouty
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 21:41
  • An example is אחד חופר בור ברשות הרבים עד עומק של 9 טפחים ואחד השלימו לעשרה
    – kouty
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 21:42
  • @kouty Your comments inspired me to edit in an extra question.
    – DanF
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 21:59

3 Answers 3


The kal v'chomer would seem to be: speaking lashon hara about Eretz Yisrael may not even be a formal prohibition (not listed in Sefer Chofetz Chaim), but it still carried a severe punishment. Kal v'chomer speaking lashon hara about a person - technically not an action, so no court mandated punishment - will elicit harsh Heavenly punishment.



Lashon hara changes the way you look at things.

It is not a localised chet, it is all encompassing because your behaviour adapts to your new negative value assesment.

E.g. post meraglim, Hashem becomes a persecutor of the Jews.

Rashi towards the beginning of Devarim says the lashon hara was on Hashem.

Hence the meraglim were killed.

There are other sources a baal halshon is killed, e.g. as proved from Nov ir hacohanim.

Once the benei yisrael accepted the lashon hara of the meraglim it was their chet too.

  • 1
    You've provided multiple angles, here. Sources to all of them would strengthen your answer. I'm esp. curious how you know what you said in the 2nd par.
    – DanF
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 14:03
  • 1
    and in Nov the cohanim were killed but what happened to Doeg? Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 15:18

One should indeed be killed for Lashon Hara. The Gemara (Arachin 15b) derives that one who speaks lashon hara should be stoned. Further, a metzora is one of four people considered to be dead (Avodah Zarah 4a et. al.).

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