On yesterday’s daf we learned that one must be careful when speaking about others – even if he is saying things that are positive. In the continuation of that Gemara, Rav Amram quotes Rav as saying that lashon ha-ra – negative speech – is one of the three sins that a person will invariably transgress every day. Clarifying this statement, the Gemara on today’s daf says that it is not lashon ha-ra itself that cannot be avoided, rather the statement refers to avak lashon ha-ra – literally “the dust of evil speech.”
When the Gemara talks about lashon ha-ra, it is discussing situations where one person says unkind things about another – even if they are true. Avak lashon ha-ra, on the other hand would be a statement that is not, in itself, negative, rather that it can be interpreted as negative, or may lead to a negative statement being made, like the case involving Rabbi Shimon be-Rabbi and his statement about the scribe as related on yesterday’s daf .
In a similar vein, our Gemara brings Rav Yehuda quoting Rav as saying that most people transgress the prohibition of stealing, some transgress the laws of sexual impropriety, but everyone transgresses the laws of lashon ha-ra. Again the Gemara suggests that Rav’s intention was avak lashon ha-ra rather than actual lashon ha-ra.
The rishonim point out that the Gemara does not really anticipate that everyone will transgress laws of stealing, rather it is a reference to the things that people say in the course of business transactions that are less than truthful. The Maharsha suggests that the three transgressions mentioned – stealing, sexual impropriety and lashon ha-ra – are metaphors that represent the three types of sins that are committed – monetary crimes, physical misbehavior and spiritual transgressions.