This week we wrapped up foot note 3 about the Gemaras in Bava Basra and Erechin which deals with the laws of apei tlasa. In the end we saw 5 views:
1: Rashbam who says the speaker gets a sin for speaking lashon hara but those that heard amongst at least 3 people could repeat it since word spreads anyways.
2: Tosfos says neither the speaker or listeners can speak out right lashon hara even in front of at least 3 people but avak lashon hara, which can be taken in two ways, as long as it has a positive slant is permissible to be said and repeated.
3. The Rambam says that though lashon hara can’t be spoken but if heard in a crowd of at least 3 If it is repeated as long as one does not have the intent to spread it, he does not get a sin.
4. Rabbeinu Yona says that one can spread the news to at least 3 at a time of a person who harmed another person, as long as all the rules of permissibility are met, which are discussed later on in Sefer Chofetz Chaim. Then others can spread the news to protect others from harm.
5. Rashi in Erechin seems to be saying that the case is when someone talks about his own business, good or bad or his own wrongdoings which normally should be kept a secret if divulged in front of one or two people but if said in a group of at least 3 he indicates that he does not care for the word to spread so other people can then go and spread the news.
The Chofetz Chaim clearly indicates that none of this negative talk is allowed to be accepted, one can only take proper precautions when necessary, even if it is permissible to spread. He concludes that it would seem that this flexibility is very complex and practically uncommon so one should be very cautious to rely on it as will be enumerated further in the rest of the chapter.
This week we wrapped up Tosfos’ view of Apei Tlasa. Outright slander is forbidden to be said or accepted by the listeners even in front of 3 people. Only a statement that could be taken in two ways, as long as one would not be embarrassed to say it in the face of the one he is talking about, assuming he does not show any negative connotations, is permissible to be said in front of the person he is talking about and even in front of three people since word will get back to whom he was talking about and he has no shame saying it since there is nothing wrong with what he is intending to say. The people who heard this statement which could be taken in two ways but was said positively can now spread it to others.
What comes out from the ramifications of this Halacha is that this statement that can be taken for good or for bad cannot be said in front of one or two people even though your intent is positive. To get around that problem one should just say a statement that can’t be taken two ways. For example, if someone asks you where he can get some food don’t tell him so and so always has a pot on the stove which can mean either he’s a glutton or he always have guests, rather say so and so always has guests over. That you can say even in front of one or two people assuming you know the person asking won’t take advantage of his host and the host really doesn’t mind having guests all the time.
We then started discussing the Rambam’s view on apei tlasa in note 3. He understood the Gemara in Bava Basra who permits speaking in front of three because word spreads as follows: the initial person who speaks slander is in fact committing a sin but since it was said in front of three people and word spreads on that fashion then if one of the three repeated what he said as long as he didn’t repeat with the intentions to spread it further he does not get a sin since the damage has already been caused. If he does say it with intent to spread the slander then he is also sinning since he is trying to further the damage to the one spoken about.
The answer to Tosfos’ view on apei tlasa is that straight out negative lashon hara is forbidden to be said whether in front of 3 or more people or even to the antagonist’s straight up lashon hara is forbidden, also to listen and accept as true. However the leniency is in a case where the statement could be taken in two ways, positive or negative. The key to the leniency is if you don’t feel embarrassed at all to be willing to say it to his face then you may say it to him or her or even in front of 3 people since it will definitely get back to the person being talked about. However if you feel any embarrassment to say it or if your expressions, voice, physical, etc is of a negative connotation it should not be said.
Today we finished the first note of the Be’er Mayim Chaim in Chapter 2 of Sefer Chofetz Chaim. The Chofetz Chaim makes it very clear that there is no reason what so ever to allow out right lashon hara to be spoken even if it is in front of three people and it will spread to the one being talked about. It actually could be worse. Only if there is some benefit like in a court case the litigant can tell the judges how he was wronged or a messenger of the court can even tell the judges he was disrespected when on the mission of the court to bring someone in. Otherwise it is absolutely forbidden!
In Halacha 2 the Chofetz Chaim begins to explain where the concept of “apei tlasa” does apply. Which is when a pareve statement is made that can be taken one of two ways. As long as you connotation and body language does not indicate negativity then one can say this statement in front of at least 3 people because it will spread and get back to the one being talked about so obviously if he said is he is saying it in a positive light because he wouldn’t want the subject to know what he is saying if it was negative. This type of state is in the category of “avak lashon hara”. The example the Chofetz Chaim gives of such a statement is if a person asked a group of people where can I find some good around here and one of them respond there is always a fire brewing down the street at this guy’s house where they always have fish and meat. This can be taken in a positive light to mean he has a big family and is well to do so they can afford, with G-D’s help lavish food, or it can mean they are always ready to serve guests. But it can also be taken negatively that the guy is a glutton and a fresser. So as long as the one who says the statement doesn’t sound negative and sarcastic then he can say it in a group because we can assume he is just trying to be helpful and positive.
This chapter talks about the concept of “apei tilasa” which literally means “in front of 3” this refers to an ambiguous leniency in the laws of lashon hara. It is based on a Gemara in Bava Basra 39a, in the name of Rabba bar Rav Huna who says that anything said in front of 3 people is not considered lashon hara. The Chofetz Chaim makes it very clear that the bigger the crown the worse the lashon hara is. He proves it through logic and sources in the Sifri and other gemaras.
The Chofetz Chaim spends a lot of time elaborating on explaining what the Gemara in Bava Basra is talking about, going through all the Rishonim in order so that no one will be mistakenly think that it is straight out permissible to talk lashon hara in front of 3 people with no strings attached.
He starts with the Rashbam who says that it is certainly prohibited to say anything bad about anyone in front of 3 but once it was said any one of the 3 can repeat it to the one it was talked about because since it was said in front of 3 it is definite that it will get back to him anyway. I had a question why it would be permitted to tell the guy talked about since we learned that reinforcing what he already know is still bad like rubbing salt on an open wound?
Tosfos on 39b sounds like he is saying that even the one speaking the lashon hara is permitted in front of at least 3 because since word spreads n that dynamic it is like he said it to his face. The Chofetz Chaim had a lot of difficulty understanding what this means since you certainly can’t lie, that is motzie Shem ra, and even the truth, if said to his face is forbidden and a person who causes a public embarrassment has no share in the World to Come! Just calling him names has the same issue and even if we say if a guy is insulted he is allowed to insult back, so if he hears what the speaker said and told 3 people a response so they can now report it back to the speaker. That also doesn’t work because one can only respond to being insulted in public and to the guys face at the moment of insult and this is after the fact even if his response is considered to the insulter’s face, it is still lashon hara because the timing is off. So we are left with not understanding what Tosfos is saying and when exactly does the leniency of apei tlasa apply, to be continued…
The last Halacha in
this chapter talks about not saying lashon hara about others even if you
include yourself in what negative thing happened, and even if you were really
talking negatively about yourself but you compare yourself to others either
saying you are like them or even saying you are worse but they still are bad,
that is still lashon hara about them and forbidden to say. Hashem was able to
forgive what the prophet Yeshaya said about himself but not the fact that he
demeaned the rest of the nation in the process, even though he had no intent of
demeaning them. (See Yeshayahu 6:5, 6 with Rashi there.) For example one
shouldn’t tell his friends or parents I failed my test but others did too and
others got Ds while the smartest ones aced it. You can say I failed and I don’t
know how the others did or just stay quiet about the others if anyone asks how
the test went.
Halacha 7: We have an obligation not only to sacrifice our money but all the more so, our self pride for the sake of not sinning especially this grave sin of lashon hara. Even if you are sitting in a crowd and can’t just walk away and if you don’t speak up in the conversation you’ll be laughed at or made fun of, or even worse people will start characterizing you and fellow Torah observant Jews as out casts, still in all one cannot join in on speaking lashon hara.
Halacha 8: Lashon Hara is an issue whether spoken, written, or even hinted to like by pointing or winking with a clear indication that you are trying to send a bad message about someone else or making fun, even just handing someone a sloppy letter that someone else wrote is still forbidden. However we learned that if something bad is known about someone and was heard in front of at least 3 people then repeating it is permissible as long as it does not make things worse. Also if you are trying to teach a lesson and saying it won’t make things worse it could also be permissible and we will elaborate more on the exceptions in chapter ten.
Halacha 5: Not only is one not allowed to speak lashon hara voluntarily but even if someone is trying to coerce another to speak slanderously about someone else, it doesn’t matter if it is your parents, rabbi, or even the king you cannot tell them any lashon hara about someone else unless it is for a constructive purpose and all the parameters mentioned later on are met. Lashon hara is like any other mitzva, Torah or rabbinic which one cannot listen to parents or even a rabbi if they say to transgress and must even stop them from transgressing if one sees any of them doing a sin.
Halacha 6: If it means one has to lose money, whether losing a chance of a promotion or even a demotion or even losing one’s job, and even if it means the means of one’s livelihood and supporting a family is in danger one still must not speak lashon hara and be ready to look like a fool in the eyes of one’s boss and fellow employees. Lashon hara is like any other mitzva that one must be ready to sacrifice all his money and not transgress, whether on a Torah level or rabbinic.
Chapter 1 Halacha 4:
When the Rabbis say lashon hara is worse than the big 3, idolatry, adultery,
and murder, and not only is one punished in this world, one has no share in the
World to Come, they are referring to someone who habitually speaks lashon hara,
a baal lashon hara. This person might have known lashon hara is a sin but now
he doesn’t even realize he is doing anything wrong because he speaks it so
often. This is worse than the big 3 because, for example, if one is sentenced
to death for murder and before he is executed he admits he did wrong and
repents then he gains his share in the World to Come but this person who is
constantly speaking lashon hara and not even thinking about the ramifications
of what he is doing or saying is essentially rebelling against Hashem without
any remorse. The fact that he doesn’t think he is doing anything wrong and has
no intention of admitting his guilt and repenting make it worse that the big 3.
Chapter 1 end of
halacha 1 – 3
End of halacha 1: There is a discussion amongst the
Rishonim whether lashon hara and rechilus are all part of one verse of לא תלך רכיל בעמיך or is rechilus (tattletale) is worse than
lashon hara (slander) and lashon hara is learned from לא
תשא שמה שוא and although we should not need a verse for rechilus because we
can learn it out from a Kal vachomer (fortiori) from lashon hara however the
Torah goes out of its way to have a separate verse for rechilus in order so
that the court can give lashes to one who falsely slanders someone else.
Another ramification of the extra verse “Don’t walk as a tale bearer amongst
your people” is that the prohibition starts even before one actually speaks
lashon hara rather when he is walking to do the sin it starts.
Halacha 2: A reminder that other prohibitions like revenge,hating
someone in one’s heart etc. can be transgressed while speaking lashon
Halacha 3: A person who habitually speaks lashon hara is in a whole new
realm called a “baal lashon hara” he or she goes around collecting info about
people and then sits around with a crowd talking slander every day. This type
of person is viewed as someone who spites Hashem and his Torah because he
doesn’t just sin every once in a while but premeditatedly sins every day by
creating groups of shmuzzers to speak loshon hara and rechilus.