Actually, it is not as categorical as implied in your question. Gossip is, at the very best, a waste of precious time, and at the very worst, character assasination.
Bullets kill physically, and verbal bullets kill a person's reputation, or who the person is. Doing so is the equivalent of murder, as you rob the person's essence, or humanity. Since we are spiritual beings, robbing that spirit is a serious, even capital offense.
Innocuous gossip about stupid nonsense, such as what a person was seen doing, or eating, or buying, is often harmless. But personal attack, even if true, is out of bounds.
What you report here is a charming homily -- an exaggerated statement to drive home how horrible gossip is. But to say that it is really the same type of sin as murder? Well ... that is a bit of a stretch.
The Bible (Proverbs 18.21) states that "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those that indulge it will suffer the consequences."
Then - in what I assume is the source of your quote - the Talmud (Bava Metzia 58b-59a) says that "one who publicly shames another is as if he shed blood." Why so? Because when a person is embarrassed, his or her face blanches, and it seems that the blood has drained away. Thus, it is as if the person who shamed them had taken their blood away. The text goes on to say it would be better to commit suicide by jumping into a furnace rather than publicly shame another person.
This is a homily - a poetic explanation that should inspire our hearts to virtue, and not only tell us the rules of behavior. But it's a touching metaphor, not a legal analysis. (So, no - please don't commit suicide to avoid shaming another. Come up with a less extreme method of improving your social ethics.)
By the way, note that the Talmudic text is about publicly shaming another -- not about gossip per se. Gossip is a biblically-legislated prohibition, so that's a big deal! But techincally it is the shaming that is metaphorized as violence, not the gossip.
The concept you are asking about is called ‘lashon hara’ [covering the areas of gossip, slander, and tale-bearing]. Literally It translates as the evil tongue, or more colloquially, evil speech. There are numerous and extensive discussions of this topic. One of the foremost Jewish authors in this area is called the Chofetz Chaim (Desirer or Seeker of Life) after the title of his book on this topic, taken from Psalm 34:12-15. The actual name of the author was Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan.
Because gossip and slander are understood to be irreparable (often demonstrated by a story: a woman who gossips is told by her rabbi to take a feather pillow to the top of a high hill on a windy day, and cut it open. The wind takes all the feathers and scatters them everywhere. The rabbi then tells the woman to gather the feathers, to which she says it is impossible, and the rabbi tells her that this same impossibility also applies to words that are sent out in the world), they are something for which it is very difficult to achieve Teshuvah (repentance and repair). The reputation and feelings of the person about whom one has gossiped are injured/damaged, and they cannot be made whole again.
The rabbis also teach that lashon hara destroys three persons: the one who says it, the one who hears it, and the one about whom it is said. In a particular form of lashon hara, the rabbis felt it was even more severe. This is the basis for your question. This was the instance in which the gossip may be true, but the spreading of it completely destroys the person. They term this as ‘halvanat panim’, the whitening of the face. In a slightly hyperbolic language, they say that this is tantamount to murder, as one removes the blood from the person (their face is drained of color and blood), and destroys them. A discussion of this phenomenon is explained (in BT Seder Kedoshim Tractate Arachin folio 5b) starting with the teachings of the school of Rabbi Ishmael. In this way, gossip is equated to murder (shedding of blood).
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