"You shall not go around as a talebearer among your people." (Lev. 19:16)

When a person speaks good words, the speech, which is the life-force of a person and the life-force from G‑d, rises up and arouses the supernal words.

On the verse: "Then the L-rd, G‑d formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul", (Gen. 2:7) the Targum Onkelos translates: "and man became a 'speaking spirit.'" A person's speech is an expression of the very soul that G‑d breathes into him.

When he speaks evil words…he comes close to losing his life-force altogether….

Then, additional life-force radiates upon him from Above. However, when he speaks evil words, his vitality leaves him and does not rise up. He comes close to losing his life-force altogether. This is what people say about a tale-bearer, "Er hot ois geret" [Yiddish for "He said it out", meaning that he spoke out his very life-force]. (Tzivot HaRivash, p. 12b)

We find many instances in which the Sages [of the Talmud] speak against "evil speech" [in Hebrew, "lashon hara", meaning slander and tale-bearing]. How, then, did they themselves say: "Most people commit theft, and everyone speaks the 'dust' of lashon hara"? (Baba Batra 165a)

The "dust" of lashon hara means those subtle innuendos that most people make, even those careful not to speak overt lashon hara. Yet, by making this statement, the Sages themselves seem to be saying lashon hara about the Jewish people!

Actually, the Talmud is judging Israel favorably. They said this as a prayer: "Master of the World! How long until you show compassion on Israel, and take them out of this bitter exile? They have already sunken so deeply among the impure shells, and face such great concealment and obstacles. The longer You draw out the exile, the deeper they will fall into impurity, G‑d forbid. Hurry, please, and redeem them!" (Toldot Aharon, Shemot)

[Adapted by Eliezer Shore from Sefer Baal Shem Tov, Kedoshim]