Sefer Chofetz Chaim Last Footnote in Introduction

Today we concluded the introduction to Sefer Chofetz Chaim with the last footnote there. After Sukkos we’ll continue from where we previously left off in chapter 3.

Today the Chofetz Chaim touched on a few issues like how everything he writes is based in halacha even if he quotes the mussar sefer, Shaarei Teshuva by Rabbeinu Yona, But Rabbeinu Yona was very precise to speak in terms of laws of lashon hara. The Chofetz Chaim said he anyways brought multiple proofs for all he taught when he quotes sources like Rabbeinu Yona when they rule stringently, though when Rabbeinu Yona rules leniently he will quote him on his own.

The Chofetz Chaim then said that he left no Halacha unturned and even if he wrote a leniency that those who habituate in lashon hara might take advantage of, it is still worth mentioning because Chazal in Bava Basra elaborate on the pasuk that “all of Hashem’s ways are straight and the righteous should walk in them though the wicked my stumble in them.” Meaning it is worthwhile to reveal something which sounds questionable or a leniency on face value but all of G-d’s Torah is truth and those that want to delve into it and observe it properly should have the opportunity to do so even if the wicked might choose to take advantage of it and warp it for their own evil ways.

The Chofetz Chaim then went into much detail proving that the Chaz”al which says “It’s better to do things by accident (unknowingly) then (to be taught the Halacha) and do it purposefully (anyways). The Chofetz Chaim debunked applying this rule to the laws of lashon hara because the rule doesn’t apply to mitzvos that are explicitly stated in the Torah. Would you say don’t teach people the laws of stealing since most people have issues with it anyway? Or don’t teach the laws of Shabbos because they are too difficult to keep? Of course not! On the contrary the Gemara in Erechin purposefully discusses various Halachos of lashon hara and the Torah explicitly tells us we should constantly remember what happened to Miriam in the desert when she spoke lashon hara against Moshe so of course to truly realize the severity we also must learn all the laws that pertain to it.

By learning the laws of lashon hara in detail then even if we sometimes transgress at least we won’t habitually speak it, we might even feel bad in those times when we do slip and apologize to the person you spoke about if you know you made him feel bad and at the very least make sure to try not to speak lashon hara again.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim Chapter 3 halacha 6

Quite simply today’s halacha plainly states that it is forbidden to speak lashon hara even if no harm was done, and even if you somehow knew no harm would be done.

Unlike other sins between man and his fellow which are only a sin if it actually happened liked stealing, overcharging or interest, lashon hara is a sin even if no harm what so ever is done. The proof is the fact that the gemara in Erechin 16a says the coat the Kohen Gadol wears in the Beis HaMikdash with the bells and pomegranates  is an atonement for the sin of lashon harm if no harm was done. If harm was done then the person received tzaraas, (spiritual leprosy.) There would be no need for an atonement if harmless lashon hara wasn’t a sin. It must be that the very fact a person just speaks negatively about his fellow Jew to his own benefit is enough to be a sin even if no harm is done, which Rabbeinu Yonah in his Shaarei Teshuva also points out.

Furthermore we saw why Miriam was punished with tzaraas even though Moshe didn’t take what she said to heart and it didn’t cause any skirmish or hard feelings whatsoever when Miriram told Aharon lashon hara that Moshe separated from his wife and the Torah said Aharon responded to her words. Rechilus is deserving of tzaraas if it effectuated some kind of skirmish to start, ill-feelings between two people. But lashon hara is deserving of tzaraas even if the speaker caused the listener to start talking about the situation, even if he doesm’t say something negative or tries to defend the person spoken against but point is it made an impression. So because Aharon started talking as the Torah say, after Miriam told him about Moshe, she was therefore derving of tzaraas. Nothing else was said after that and that is why Aharon never got tzaraas. Whatever he said had zero impact on anything.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim Chapter 3, halacha 5, note 5, with the footnote

Today we discussed that even in a casual manner if you say something which at first glance might not seem negative but your in trickery intent is to throw in a negative fact bout someone, even if hinted to and said straight out, it is still forbidden. 

I gave an example of two neighbors schmoozing about a new family that moved into town and they were discussing how it is a big family with 7 children and they seem to be a very nice and polite family, simple, moving into a 3 bedroom house. One neighbor just wonders how they can fit any guests but then  says he is excited to meet them and get to know them!  

That line thrown in about guests was a casual remark not meaning to be out right malicious but it might imply that this family is not as hospitable then they outwardly seem. That is lashon hara.

Even to possibly just say they are a simple family of 9 living in a 3 bedroom house would be at least avak lashon hara (rabbinic, dust of lashon hara) because that will imply they aren’t hospitable. Of course as we learned before the permissibility or forbiddance of avak lashon hara depends on one’s tone and intent was it meant to be positive or negative, and how did it come out.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim Chapter 3, Halachos 3 &4

Chapter 3, Halacha 3 spoke about the issue of joking around and making fun of others which is also a Torah level sin of lashon hara even if one’s intent is not malicious and one had no hatred in his heart towards the person he was talking about. 
The Chofetz Chaim in footnote 2 says, and this happens to be mentioned in next week’s parsha of Ki Seitzei, that what Miriam said about Moshe to Aharon that he had divorced his wife in order to be in a constant state of purity in order to be ready to talk to Hashem at all times which implied he sacrificed the mitzvah of having children, was lashon hara which she was punished for though she had no intent in maligning her beloved brother. This is THE example to prove his point that lashon hara even occurs if one does not hate his fellow or mean to cause him any harm. By constantly reminding ourselves of this calamity by reviewing the verse in next week’s Torah portion in Ki Seitzei 24:9, “Remember what the Lord, your God, did to Miriam on the way, when you went out of Egypt,” then one will be on his way to being more attuned to controlling himself from speaking lashon hara.

Chapter 3, Halacha 4:  The Chofetz Chaim next mentioned that even if one doesn’t mention the name he is talking about but it can be figured out by the listeners in context it is still forbidden to speak it. Even a hint of sorts, if one intent in his heart is to cause the listener to figure out what he’s talking about which in this way might cause monetary, physical or emotional damage or distress to the person he had in mind it s forbidden. 
The Chofetz Chaim in footnote 3 gives a story pertaining to this halacha  found in the gemara Yerushalmi in Peah 1:1. Where there were a group of Jews designated to work in the pits at a labor camp and on one of the work days a Jew by the name of Bar Chovetz ran away. The group started shmuzing in the work place and asked each other what should we have for lunch? One sly fellow, with malicious intent said aloud ‘Why don’t we have Chovtza?” Which was a type of a lentil. The taskmaster or boss over heard the conversation and something triggered in his mind and he asked, ‘Where is Bar Chovetz?” In which case, this Bar Chovetz got into trouble and Rebbe Yochanan called this lashon hara because the sly guy intentionally suggested eating a food which had a similar name to Bar Chovetz that triggered in the boss’s mind his name and got the guy in trouble. This is how far we apply lashon hara!

Sefer Chofetz Chaim Chapter 3 Halacha 1 footnote 1 (part 2)

Today we concluded with reading a little bit more of the introduction to Sefer Chofetz Chaim which we try to do around a fast. He mentioned that one of the reasons Lashon Hara is so prevalent is because the sources for these laws are spread out all throughout Shas and poskim and that is why he felt he must put everything together into one sefer with such detail and elaboration. This will allow those misinformed or not knowledgeable in the matter to have it at there fingertips and those that do know the Halacha can easily review in order to combat the yetzer hara, evil inclinations pull and excuses to speak lashon hara. With that being said we saw today in even greater detail the same thing we have been seeing the past couple weeks that speaking lashon hara even if true, when the guy is right there in front of you is still forbidden. When Rebbe Yossi in Erechin seems to say it’s permissible, Tosfos says is only a statement that doesn’t necessarily sound like lashon hara, meaning it can be understood two ways, positive or negative. According to the Sefer Yereim and Rabbeinu Yonah Rebbe Yossi was talking in situations where spreading the lashon hara will be beneficial for the victims or others to stay away or be careful for example spreading news of a thief, or an extortionist, or one who verbally or physically hurts others. Or if a person is known to purposefully transgress a sin that everyone knows is a problem and he was warned and doesn’t care about it then one can speak about that issue with others, for example if he or she eats non -kosher food like pig or shell fish. If you are willing to spread the news with the suspect in the crowd (barring the issue that he might go after you next) that is an indication you are talking about it for the sake of the truth and the honor of Hashem or to protect others and help the victim. Otherwise, if one is only willing to talk about the issue behind his or her back that is indicative that the person making the statement or spreading the news is doing it for personal reasons making him or herself look good in front of others while putting down other people, which is absolutely forbidden. Bottom line if it is not constructive don’t say it whether in front of the person or behind his or her back.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim Chapter 3 Halacha 1 footnote 1 (part 1)

The Gemara in Eruchin 15b makes a very ambiguous statement. Rabba says any statement that is said to the guy’s face is not lashon hara and Rabba proves this from Rebbe Yossi who said “I never said anything and then had to look behind my back.”

The Chofetz Chaim said that many people took this Gemara out of context to mean that if you are willing to say something to the guy’s face whether good or bad it is permissible. He proves this assumption wrong based on many Rishonim including the Rambam, Tosfos, Smag and the Rabbeinu Yona.

First off, besides lashon hara if one is willing to embarrass a guy to his face like being up a story of a baal teshuva in his early years or even discuss what someone’s relatives use to do before they changed there way for the good, that is also the prohibition of onaas devarim, making a person feel bad.

Even if you saw a person do a sin between man and Hashem like breaking Shabbos you can’t just hate him and publicize his sin to the world even if he is right there in front of you. Rather you should take him aside and gently rebuke him.

Even if he was rebuked properly and he did it again where there is now room in Halacha to hate him it is still not an easy matter to spread what he did to others even if he is around as we saw in the case in Pesachim 113b of Tuvia sinning and Zigud who saw this going to Rav Pappa’s court to testify what happened and Rav Pappa gave Ziggud lashes for coming in as a single witness which is lashon hara. Testimony needs at least a pair. The Chofetz Chaim does mention that one is allowed to speak lashon hara of a group of unruly people to warn others to stay away from them but that is not what the Gemara in Eruchin is talking about.

Therefore as of now we have not come up with the exact case in Eruchin but we will find out next week when we finish the footnote, b’ezras Hashem.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim Chapter 3, Halachos 1 and 2

Halacha 1: There are 3 levels of lashon hara all worse than the next.

A. Saying lashon hara behind one’s back which not only do you get a sin of lashon hara but you also get a curse for hurting someone in a hidden way.

B. Saying lashon hara about someone in the crowd. So he is there but it is not to his face.

C. Saying lashon hara to one’s face with a group around which not only do you have the sins of lashon hara and ona’as devarim which is insulting someone to his or her face but you are also acting in a very negative manner by using the terrible attribute of audacity and chutzpah besides the fact that you embarrassed the guy which if done without teshuva one has no share in the World to Come.

Halacha 2: There is a chaza”l that says if one is willing to say something to the guy’s face then it must be permissible to say but that is only in context of avak lashon hara, a statement that can be taken in two ways, good or bad, depending on one’s connotations, voice, movements, who it’s being said to etc. The fact that one is willing to say it to the guy’s face is usually a litmus test that he is saying something positive because the nature of a person is to avoid someone he is speaking bad about but that does not mean that if he is willing to speak negatively about the guy to his face it is permissible. It just means you are willing to stoop so low to go beyond human nature. For example if you say “someone is big” then that can mean he is a big fat lazy shlub or it can mean that he is big and strong and can help people lift things or protect them. Depending on how one says it, does he look or sound nervous when saying it confident. Or is he making gestures that look like he is making fun of the guy. Is it in context of trying to help someone in need or is it with a group of scoffer last that love making fun of people all these things must be taken into account but if he is willing to say the guy is big when he is right there it is most likely an indicator that it’s a positive statement. The key is to think of what you are about to say and how you are going to say it will cause more harm or will help.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim Chapter 2 Halacha 13

 This week we concluded the second chapter which focused on the laws of Apei tlasa, speakingbin a group of at least 3 which guarantees that word will travel.

We learned a very important Halacha which doesn’t necessarily apply to lashon hara but to the laws of apei tlasa. There are times when a person will tell something that seems to be private like about his business or personal life, for example a sin that he did. If he divulged the information to one or two people we would have to assume he did not want it repeated however if he said it in front of at least 3 people he shows he does not care that it will be repeated and it is permissible to repeat it to anyone. The Chofetz Chaim has two versions of this clause:

1. It is proper manners to not repeat anything someone tells you unless he gives explicit permission to repeat it. This is based on a Gemara in Yoma 4b which said that Hashem gave permission to Moshe to repeat what He told him from inside the Tent of Meeting which no one else was able to hear. That is what the word “leimor” teaches us. If for Torah that Hashem taught Moshe, and besides that there is no way to harm or insult Hashem in any way, but still permission has to be given to repeat it all the more so when someone tells you something it should not be repeated unless with permission, certainly if it is something personal but even if it is not personal one should still accustom himself to keep his mouth shut. An application of this halacha is that if someone tells you that someone else is very sick or in the hospital you can’t just spread it for others to daven for them. You have to first ask permission.

        2.      Really it is only inappropriate to repeat something (assuming it is not lashon hara, which is pretty much always forbidden) if it was said in private unless given permission. If it was said outside then it can be repeated if it is not something private, for example if you were talking about last night’s baseball game but if it was a private matter which he told you outside then if repeating it to someone else might cause something bad to happen to the one who first said it then it can’t just be repeated if not then it will be fine to repeat. However if it was said in front of at least three people even if it might be harmful if repeated one can still do so because the one who first divulged the information to the group indicated he didn’t care for it to be repeated since he said it in public, assuming he didn’t say to keep it hush hush. However one can only intentionally spread it if it was business that was divulged because he obviously wants it leaked and spread everywhere but if he divulged some personal information that for example he admits to a group that he ate in a non-kosher restaurant one time then though it is permissible to repeat but one shouldn’t have intention to spread the news because it is a cause of embarrassment. Even though he indicated he doesn’t care if it is repeated it is still not right to purposely publicize just like one should give a negative nickname to someone even if he seems to not care because deep down inside it is still shameful.

CITE Sefer Chofetz Chaim Chapter 2 Halacha 12

It is out right lashon hara to criticize and make fun of a drasha/lecture or sermon said by anyone especially a rabbi. Assuming what was said was not anti-Torah even if it is true that he might have made some mistakes it is still lashon hara even if it is true. Everyone likes different styles, some people like hearing stories, others like hearing new insights into the verses of Tanach, and even others might enjoy a deep lumdishe shiur in halacha therefore no one can complain to others that the sermon was boring or irrelevant because one person might have interests in something said whereas the other didn’t. Lessons hit home with different people in different ways therefore even if the complaint was b’apei tlasa, in-front of at least 3 people so word spreads it is still not permissible since everyone has their own opinion about these types of matters. Especially since many times it is guaranteed that things will be exaggerated and misquoted or half quoted so there is definitely no room to even think that the leniency of apei tlasa can be applied here.

What is worse is that these type of people who are scoffers and ba’alei lashon hara purposefully run to these sermons just to make fun of them afterwards with their group of friends. Not only do they get a sin for speaking lashon hara, scoffing at sages and words of Torah and lying, but the very steps they take to come to shul to hear the sermon are each a sin since they are running to do a sin. Not only that but often when the sermon is done there is a Kaddish and they are already gossiping with their friends so they miss out and cause others to miss out on amens and yehei shmei rabba which is worth keeping the whole world in existence. These scoffers make fun of the rabbi that he imperfect or he is just doing it for the money so why should we listen to his rebuke and mussar.

It takes one to know one, the real issue is that because they know they have faults which should be corrected, the natural tendency of a human being is to be on the defensive. Even if it is true that the rabbi goes around saying lectures to support his family, he still most likely chose this profession because of his love of Hashem and his brethren who he wants to see doing the right thing, therefore there is no room what so ever for any joking around and belittling of Torah lectures and sermons, especially the Rav of a shul who people constantly look up to for guidance in Jewish law and general advice. It is a tremendous chillul Hashem that could cause a lot of monetary damage and embarrassment.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim Chapter 2 halacha 11

Today we discussed a very important concept. A judge, government official, board member, and anyone of that sort cannot revealed how he or she voted especially if it takes off blame on him or herself and dumps the blame on the others it is rechilus or lashon hara. Certainly to say I disagree with the ruling or the vote, which will ensue negativity and hatred is forbidden but even to say I originally held this way but I was forced to vote another way, or even if one says, this is what I originally thought but now I see I was wrong and I voted otherwise is rechilus according to the Yad HaKetana. 

Bottom line transparency isn’t always proper and can very likely be lashon hara/rechilus. The Chofetz Chaim had a very logical reasoning behind why the minority can’t reveal what they felt as well as why individual’s statements from a meeting shouldn’t be shared with anyone outside the meeting. Many times a statement of an individual might not be fully correct, or might even be a knee jerk reaction which was not meant to be said and it is only a part of a picture that is being painted in a meeting which can only be revealed and publicized in it’s finished product. The Chofetz Chaim says that the truth is usually on the side of the majority because when putting all heads together and analyzing everything, taking things into account which an individual might have overlooked causes the truth to come out and therefore the majority of a vote is most likely the closest thing to the truth.

That being said, is only true assuming you are dealing with a group which is trying to come up with the truth and has the means to do so. Therefore, for example, if the majority of the world disagrees with the notion that there is G-D in the world or if the Torah was divinely given to the Jews and should be observed that does not mean they are correct. A misguided, ignorant majority is not considered a majority.

What’s important here to know is that the minority opinion in a situation where there is a valid majority does not have the right to publicize their opinion after the vote is cast because they will just spread salt on an open wound which otherwise would have healed after sometime after that whomever lost.