When we hear of someone who committed a misdeed, what is our gut reaction? Do we consider people guilty until proven innocent or innocent until proven guilty?
If someone is a suspected predator should we publicize the information based on hearsay or should we try to first determine the facts? If we become knowledgeable of people having committed major violations, are we afraid to do anything or unsure if the information we have, should be disseminated? Do we share our suspicions of others freely? Do we withhold important information? Are we aware of people whose lives have been ruined because of unsubstantiated allegations that surrounded them? Upon hearing slander of another person do we find it revolting or interesting? What should be shared and what should not?
This is why the classic work known as Chafetz Chaim is of such great importance. It was written by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (1839-1933), and the illustrious author is known by the title of this famous work. It is a resource that deals extensively with what is permitted to share and what is not; what is permitted to listen to and what is not. It cites seventeen negative and fourteen positive Biblical transgressions that are committed regularly by those who are either uninformed or lacking control of their speech. Among the commandments cited is, “Be careful from the affliction of Tzaraas,” an ailment akin to leprosy that came upon those who spoke negatively of others. The Torah warns us to be careful not to commit any violation that would have the perpetrator be deserving of the Tzaraas affliction. This applies whether the violation is private, public, with intention or without intention to cause any harm or hurt.
One of the issues holding people back from studying the laws is feeling a sense of futility. Can they really master it all? Even if they learn, how long will the teachings last? How will they manage travelling in circles of people who have no interest or idea regarding these laws?
The Chafetz Chaim responded citing the words of the Mishneh: “Do not distance yourself from that which has no end.” This refers to a concern that some people may have that if they can not get it all, it is not worth their effort. How would a person react if he was placed before a sprawling field of valuable gems and was given a limited time to collect them? Would he say, “If I can’t have them all it doesn’t pay to take any?” Of course not! That, said the Chafetz Chaim, is what someone should feel regarding being careful with one’s speech. “For every second that a person controls his tongue, he merits great spiritual light beyond the comprehension of any angel or creation.”
Every moment, even a single opportunity, yields wonders. Furthermore, learning creates awareness and it is certain that once someone is aware of the laws, it will affect his behavior. Even if he slips, he will still have a foundation to serve as an anchor.
Do we consider ourselves experts in making judgement calls or do we seek to learn what is right or wrong, in our perception and expression?
Rabbi Hershel D. Becker
 Ki Setze 24:8
 Ramban Ki Setze 24:9
 Avos D’Rebbe Nasan ch. 27:3
 Vilna Gaon in name of Midrash
 Introduction to Shmiras HaLashon by Chafetz Chaim