The Chofetz Chaim concluded halacha 2 saying that one
can also not speak lashon hara about one who is lacks in even branches of a
mitzvah, meaning he keeps part of a mitzvah, for example if a person is frugal
with his money and does not honor the Shabbos to the best of his ability like
if he can wear nicer clothes for Shabbos or more delicacies at his Shabbos
table and just doesn’t do so because he’s too cheap to buy them. You can’t tell
anyone this even if you have firsthand knowledge. Also if one is lacks in
rabbinic mitzvahs, whether they are fences to stop one from sinning like muktza
or decrees like lighting the menora on Chanukah or even if they are seemingly
minor rabbinic enactments like how to tie one’s shoe or how to cut your nails,
which are both discussed in the Shulchan Aruch, it still constitutes lashon
hara to tell others about his wrong doing. However if he doesn’t care about the
rabbis and has an attitude that there is no need to keep rabbinic mitzvos then
this is a different situation which Rava refers to these type of people as
sinners in Shabbos 40a and one who is not only not holy but also an evil
person, in Yevamos 20a, in that case there is a mitzvah to speak out against
Halacha 3 reiterated that there are a lot of details
that must be taken into account when seeing someone do something that he is not
supposed to be doing halachically. If he is the average Jew like most of us are
who usually is careful about sinning but sometimes transgresses then there is a
mitzvah to judge him favorably that he did it unintentionally or didn’t know it
is forbidden, or just thought it was a restriction, or nice thing to do which
only the righteous are careful in and therefore it is forbidden to tell anyone
the sin you saw or heard someone else transgress, even if two people saw it.
You can’t even hate him because there is a mitzvah to judge him favorably.
There are different halachos in terms of speaking lashon hara and having that
person allowed to be a witness. But one has to judge him favorably even if it
is a sin people know is a problem, or even assume it was intentional though
many people are lacks in the matter, even if the person transgresses it many
times. However if he is assumed to be doing a certain sin all the time then the
Halacha might change and will be discussed later in halacha 7.
One is forbidden to tell
anyone else about sins that other people do or the fact they don’t perform
mitzvos, whether referring to sins or mitzvos that everyone knows about or
those which people don’t take seriously and don’t understand the severity of the
law. He gives two examples of mitzvos not taking seriously, Torah learning and
lying. The reason why one cannot tell other that another is lax in these
matters even if those listening might not take them seriously is because they
will now look at the person being talked about in a different light for now on.
The Chofetz Chaim makes a very important differentiation. A person who
transgresses a mitzvah out of spite, purposefully not having fear of Hashem is
considered “not part of your nation” meaning even if he is biologically Jewish
or converted to be Jewish but if he is purposefully rebelling then it is
permissible to speak lashon hara about him, but most times than not people just
make up excuses of why they do things wrong and a person who just sins or doesn’t
do a mitzvah because of some excuse, no matter how lame it is you cannot tell
anyone what he did, that would constitute lashon hara in most cases.
There is one Gemara in
Bava Basra 111b where it seems that Rebbe Yannai spoke lashon hara about Rebbe
Yehuda HaNasi to Rebbe Samlai in front of Rebbe Yehuda HaNasi’s face which
might be worse because of embarrassment. Rebbe Yehuda asked Rebbe Yannai a
question and Rebbe Yanna told Rebbe Samlai let’s go he really doesn’t want to
learn he’s just giving me a hard time. But the Chavas Yair says that a rebbe is
allowed to speak harshly to a student in order to motivate him to learn deeper
and more diligently which was Rebbe Yannai’s intent in this case therefore it
was permissible what he did. Obviously Rebbe Yannai was able to deduce that
Rebbe Yehuda Hanasi was able to handle and learn from such rebuke.
Footnote 3: In Brachos 19a it says that if a Tzadik does a sin we assume he immediately did teshuva unless in a case of where he did not return the item he owes the person he took it from. This would seem to preclude that even if a person seems to have changed his ways for the good he is not considered a baal teshuva if he has not returned what he owes. If why does it seem that we are saying here that once we see a person has changed for the good then you can never speak slanderously against him because we can assume he repented, if he didn’t return what he owes he didn’t repent?
The answer is that the
Gemara in Brachos and also in Bava Metzi’a 62a which also says, if he relented
why does he still have the money, is talking about case where he is able to pay
back and he doesn’t then we can technically speak out negatively against him as
long as we meet all the prerequisite which will be taught in chapter 10. But
here we are talking about a person who didn’t out right steal but rather he was
a sleezy, dishonest businessman wheeling and dealing, forcing people to buy or
sell things against their will. He became disliked and known by all to be very
tough guy to deal with. One day he realized his mistake and changed for the
good, becoming an honest businessman man known to all. In this case and in
similar cases where it is virtually impossible to return everything he
dishonestly took from so many people or he doesn’t have the means to return
everything then once he has proven to have completely changed and is now an
honest fellow one cannot bring up what he used to do and slander him.
Footnote 4: If one saw
someone do a sin he must go over to the guy in private and politely, and gently
rebuke him. Only after he repeated his sin in a manner that shows he doesn’t
care about the rebuke and about mending his ways than one can publicly
embarrass him into repenting.
Two very important lessons we learn today:
1. People talk, even
if they are rabbis and there are far and in between people who are modest and
private who you can trust to tell them something and they won’t spread it.
2. It is illogical to
say that if a person did something wrong in his youth even if very severe he
still has that problem now, after so many years even if you did not see him
repent. If he seems to be acting in a kosher way there is no reason to suspect him
of his previous deeds.
Bottom line: People grow up (most of the time)! Therefore there is
no excuse to speak lashon hara about them.
Today we started the 4th chapter of Sefer Chofetz Chaim which discusses speaking lashon hara about deeds a person or his family did of prohibition between man and Hashem, for example breaking Shabbos or not eating kosher. This means one cannot speak out someone or about that person's family that they use to not keep kosher or the like even if they have totally changed there ways and everyone knows that, and even if it is behind his back because if he would be there it is very likely he would be embarrassed if it was brought up.
It would seem though, that if he was there and he himself brought up the subject about his past, talking about old times and the mistakes he made or just recollecting about good times with his friend at the movies or parties for instance, then it would be permissible for others to continue the conversation and reminisce assuming it won’t damage his reputation or him physically or monetarily and that the person continuing the conversation doesn’t have intent to denigrate him.
The Chofetz Chaim brought an illustration about how just the fact a person would be embarrassed is reason not to mention his past misdeeds even if it won’t harm him in any way, from a Gemara in Bava Metzia 59a where King David said that anyone who mentions his sin that he did with Batsheva (which was not as severe as it looked, he did complete repentance, and everyone accepted him as king at that time) would still be worse than the sin itself because if anyone would cut him no blood would be spilled, I.e. he is so embarrassed over what happened. All the more so if it will monetarily, or physically harm someone, for example he won’t be able to find a job because of what you said, or even just to scare him is not permissible.
If done with malicious intent the Rabbeinu Yona says in Shaarei Teshuva 214 that these type of people the Shechina, Divine Presence, does not rest among them.
The Chofetz Chaim also illustrates how by just not watching what you say one can create severe ramifications. There is a Gemara in Shabbos 33b which relates that Yehuda Ben Geirim was privy to a conversation the judges in the Sanhedrin about Rome. Rebbe Yehuda was praising Rome for all the useful roads, bridges, bathhouses etc. that were made which could be used by the Jews to serve Hashem better. Rebbe Shimon ben Yochai said they did it all for there own pleasure and sinful ways. Yehuda Ben Geirim went back home and in innocent conversation discussed what he heard in the Sanhedrin that day. Somehow word got out to the Roman government of what Rebbe Shimon Ben Yochai said which had grave results.
However the Chofetz Chaim did say that one can confide in a righteous person who is known to be modest and private that you can trust won’t say anything else to anyone and know he will not come to judgement about that person being talked about and he is not trying to insult the guy, then you can tell that rabbi about someone, for example who is not eating kosher, or keeping Shabbos appropriately, for maybe he will be able to help him fix his ways. Another application of one you can trust would be a psychologist or the like who is paid to listen to problems and to keep his mouth shut.
We concluded the unit on judging your fellow Jew favorably. The Chofetz Chaim said that even though it is very proper and good character to judge one favorably in cases when it would seem more unfavorable, however technically according to halacha one does not have to judge favorably in this circumstance. But if one does judge others favorably even in these circumstances, at least treating it as a doubt them Hashem will reciprocate and judge you favorably.
Two cases in the Gemara where they did not judge favorably but the reason being is because halachically you don’t need to and these were extenuating circumstances which was not worth going beyond the letter of the law:
1. Bava Metzia 75b: There is a halacha that one should not lend money without witnesses lest the would be borrower would deny he borrowed money and people will curse the lender for giving a bad name to the would be borrower for no reason. This was a real issue to the point that Ravina would not lend money to Rav Ashi without witnesses, lest he forgot he borrowed money, even though they were partners together in writing down the Gemara and they were the leading rabbis of their generation. Why didn’t people judge the lender favorably and not curse him if he claimed the borrower owes him money, maybe he is correct? It must be that halachically one can judge others unfavorably in situations like this where there should have been witnesses at the time of the loan.
2. Sanhedrin 26a: Rebbe Chiya bar Zarnuki and Rebbe Shimon ben Yehotzadak were on there way to the Sanhedrin to testify that there should be a leap year that year. That year happened to be a shmita (sabbatical) year and they saw people in the field plowing and assumed they were hired to plow in a non-Jewish owned field. They then saw people tending to a vineyard and assumed they were fixing fences not working on the actual crop. Reish Lakish saw these two rabbis did not reprimand either of these people and thought they should not be allowed to testify because they don’t care about the laws of shmita so they did not reprimand those people in the fields. He even told Rebbe Yochanan not to accept them as witnesses. Why didn’t Reish Lakish judge them favorably, especially since they were such great sages, Amoraim! It must be that he had no obligation to, and because these farmers looked like they were doing something wrong, and transgressing shmita is so severe than Reish Lakish felt he should not go beyond the letter of the law but rather according to strict judgment and assume there was a problem.
3. On the other hand we see the opposite illustration in Shabbos 127b where a worker judged his employer favorably when the worker asked for his salary right before Yom Kippur and the employer said he had no money, land, possessions or even food that he can send back home with him. The employer then came to him after Sukkos, paid him plus gave him a bonus and asked his employee what he was thinking. When the employee gave excuses, judging his employer favorably with some far fetched excuses, the employer said all that is pretty much true and just as you judged me favorably so should Hashem judge you favorably.
This week we discussed a very important concept about what triggers a person to speak lashon hara most times. That is not judging your fellow Jew favorably. There is a mitzvah to judge everyone favorably based on the verse, ״בצדק תשפוט עמיתך״ “you shall judge your nation with righteousness” (Vayikra 19:15).
The Chofetz Chaim discussed two levels of people: (1) one who is known to be a G-d fearing Jew, even if you heard or saw something which more likely looks inappropriate or against Halacha you still have a mitzvah to judge him favorably. (Parenthetically rebuking someone where there was an obvious wrong doing is clarifying with that person, not considered judging unfavorably.) In fact the main issue of why Miriam was punished with tzaraas for speaking ill against Moshe to Aharon, even though she was trying just to get to the heart of the truth and certainly not trying to denigrate Moshe in any way, she was only concerned with the fact that because Moshe divorced his wife there won’t be any chance of anymore little Moshe Rabbeinus populating the world, as the Sifri in B’haaloscha says, still in all, with all her positive intent, for her level she was punished because she should have judged Moshe favorably that separating from his wife was the appropriate thing to do under the circumstances of his level of closeness and interaction with Hashem as the leader of the Jews.
(2) People who are in the middle, meaning they are normally Torah observant but they some times slip up. These type of people, if you see them do something or say something which there is a 50/50 chance could be good or bad it is a mitzvah to judge them favorably. Certainly if it is most likely that he didn’t do or say anything wrong you must just him favorably. But even if it most likely looks like something wrong was said or done it is very much the correct thing to do to try to at least leave it in doubt and not speedily conclude he did something wrong. Even if it is pretty evident in your eyes that he is guilty of any wrongdoing that does not give a person the right to tell others about it. This is where the transgression of lashon hara comes in. Exceptions to the rule of keeping quiet are discussed in chapters 4,5, and 10 with all there parameters.
Bottom line one shouldn’t be quick to judgement when you hear or see something which seems to be a problem whether a sin between man and G-d and even a sin between man and his fellow man lest it will lead to lashon hara (unless all the parameters are met and you are supposed to talk.)
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.
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.
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.