Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 8 halachos 10, 11

Halacha 10: You may not speak lashon hara to anyone whether it’s a non-relative or relative unless it’s for a positive reason. For example, you can tell your wife that it might not be a good idea to lend anything to a certain person but he or she is known not to give or pay it back. The same is true with two business partners or the like, one can tell the other that it might not be wise to do business with this certain person because he’s not going to pay you. Even if you don’t know firsthand of this problem but you have heard rumors you can still tell them to be careful because they aren’t allowed to believe what you say, just be concerned and take proper precautions. That being said you should tell them in a way that will make it sound possible and therefore be cautious but not decisive so that they will feel they can actually believe you. An example in Chazal of this type of warning is in Kiddushin 52b where the students of Rebbe Meir was warned not to enter a certain area because people might start up with them. The Chofetz Chaim bemoans that many people confuse this halacha and talks about his day with his wife including about people that started up with him in yeshiva or work. Besides the lashon hara being said your wife will most likely take it to heart and will start to not treat this person and his family nicely and she might not only belittle the person who started up with you but she might look down upon you and start making fun of you after a while. This is based on an Avos diRebbe Nosson 7:3 which says that you shouldn’t talk too much with your wife which refers to not telling her all that happened to you during your day because it will just cause fights and she will look down upon the person who started up with you and will look down upon you as well. Even if she will find out eventually what happened you shouldn’t say anything because the victim tends to exaggerate.

Halacha 11: No difference who you speak in front of whether it’s a non-relative or even a relative, a brother should not even talk about another brother in front of his parents unless he rebuked him first and the brother didn’t listen, or he knows the brother won’t listen to him but might listen to his parent to change his bad ways. We know this from the case of Yosef and his brothers. Yosef was punished measure for measure for speaking lashon hara about his brothers to his father, even though he did it so that their father will rebuke them. And although he got it wrong and really, they were doing nothing wrong so he was punished for not looking more into the matter. However, the Chofetz Chaim says it’s true that even for bad things your siblings really did you shouldn’t run to your parents to tattletale if you can fix the issue yourself.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 8 halacha 9

There is a very ancient decree and excommunication on those who speak lashon hara about the dead. Whether the person was a simpleton and all the more so if he was a sage. Insulting and degrading a sage himself is bad all the more so if talking badly about the Torah thoughts he has spoken or written about.

There are many times in Shas and the poskim that they insult each other, and the Chavas Yair explains many if the examples in Shas of why it’s not lashon hara or insulting each other. For example, Rav Sheshes told Rav it sounds like you were just dozing off and sleeping. He wasn’t saying this as an insult, on the contrary it was a praise because normally Rav was very sharp and it must have been that if he missed something he must have fallen asleep. Another example is when Rebbe said to Levi that it seems you have no brains in your skull. Now, Levi was a student of Rebbe and Rebbe was rebuking his student to work and think harder. The Rambam and Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 246:11) learn from here that a Rebbe should speak harshly to his students if he is feeling it will encourage and inspire them to work harder, not out of anger or haughtiness, but rather a drive to make sure they toughen up if it looks like they are being lazy.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 8 halacha 8

Based on a Yerushalmi in Peah 1:1 which the Smag brings down in his mitzvos and the Hghos Maimoni mentions but the Rif, Rosh, and Rambam leave out so the Chofetz Chaim just says this is according to one opinion, that it is permissible to speak lashon hara about an argument ensuing but only if the purpose of speaking lashon hara is to diffuse the argument by applying pressure to one side or both sides to break up the fight.

The source of this is by King David when he appointed Shlomo to take over the kingship and Adoniyahu started a fight vying for the kingship. Someone told King David about it and he immediately diffused the argument. Also, Moshe sent a messenger to Dasan and Aviram who started a rebellion and the messenger reported back to Moshe in order to squelch the argument. But it might be there that because there was already a rebellion ensuing then obviously the messenger could tell Moshe. But we see from here that the messenger of the court can report back even lashon hara to the court in order to enforce order.

But there are 3 conditions before speaking lashon hara:

1. You have to have seen the argument ensuing first hand or if you just heard of it second hand you have to have clarified the truth to be sure there is really and argument ensuing.

2. Your purpose for speaking out, and maybe even taking sides must be only good intentions, to break up the fight, but you can’t say anything if it’s said out of hatred.

3. If there is a way to break up the fight without speaking lashon hara, for example approaching them and rebuking them that is better unless it will stoke the coals and worsen the fight.

 However, one has to be very very very careful to thoroughly and clearly go through the matter to make sure you are clear what is happening before taking sides and speaking out in order to order to pressure the argument to stop because even if one step was overlooked it could change everything and backfire. 

Especially if the one talking out is a rabbi of clout, it can cause a big chillul Hashem, besides the lashon hara, and making the matter worse so in that case it’s better to just be passive, stay quiet and don’t act.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 8 halacha 7

If a person Is known to be a “bad guy” then you are allowed to speak lashon hara against him in order keep others away from him and not learn from his ways and hopefully he might repent as well if he sees so many people speaking out against him. Just be sure to say this lashon hara only for the sake of spreading the truth not to benefit, be it fame or fortune, when spreading this lashon hara, neither out if hatred for the guy.

What is considered a rasha status, a “bad guy” status? It is a person that habitually or many times committed a sin that everyone knows is wrong, like murder, adultery, or robbery, and even if it’s a minor sin, like a rabbinic prohibition, for example the gemara in Shabbos 40a discusses a case where the rabbis enacted that people cannot go into a sauna on Shabbos because people used to take hot baths on Shabbos from water heated up from before Shabbos and then it was discovered that bath house attendants use that the water on Shabbos so the rabbis forbade it then people use to make believe they went to saunas on Shabbos really going to the bathhouse so that became forbidden too. Rava said that whoever disobeys this enactment is a rasha and people could spread lashon hara about him. Because everyone knew about this enactment and people still disobeyed then lashon hara can be said against them to be sure no one else follows suit but a person who is in a habit of committing non-famous sins then know can say lashon hara about him because maybe he just doesn’t know any better. This person must be known throughout the city as a “bad guy” not just rumors and you can’t exaggerate more then what you know he does. Bottom line honesty and for the sake of truth is the key.

The Chofetz Chaim concludes that even though this halacha might create an excuse for those who constantly speak lashon hara to brand others wicked and have an excuse to spread more lashon hara but he still felt he must write down this halacha for the sake of the truth and he quoted a verse in Hoshea14:10 “For the ways of Hashem are straight and the righteous walk within them and the sinners stumble within them.”

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 8 halachos 5,6

The prohibition of lashon hara only applies to someone who is considered “part of your nation” which excludes an apikores. An apikores is someone who denies the entire Torah came from Hashem or even doesn’t believe that one mitzvah or one drasha, like a kal vachomer or gezeila shava comes from Hashem. Now the avos diRebbe Nosson (16:5) says “A person can’t say I only love rabbis but simpletons (am haaratzim) I don’t love. You have to love every Jew besides an apikores and people who convince others to sin, as King David said, ‘Those that Hashem hates I hate’ (Tehillim 139:21).” An apikores is hated by Hashem because he willfully acknowledges Hashem’s Torah and denies it so it is permissible to speak out against him and degrade him to his face and behind his back since the verse says these prohibitions only apply to those who are acting within “your nation” but a non-observant Jew who doesn’t know any better, he’s a simpleton, who doesn’t know or understand the severity of Torah life should be loved by every Jew just like Hashem loves them and one cannot speak lashon hara about them.

One must have heard himself, blasphemous talk coming out of the mouth of the would be apikores to be allowed to speak out against him or if it is known everywhere, at least throughout the city, that a certain person or group is an apikores then it’s permissible to speak out against them, for example Jews for Jesus or, an extreme example, Hitler and Nazis who everyone agrees they were bad. But if you heard secondhand information that someone might be an apikores then you are allowed to take precautions and even tell others to stay easy from him for them until it’s confirmed but you can’t just speak out in public against them until verified.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 8 halachos 2-4

Who can you not speak lashon hara about:

Halacha 2: You can’t speak lashon hara about men or women even your wife because it says, “Don’t be a tale bearer amongst your nation” your wife and all other wives are still part of “your nation”. There is another proof that you cannot say lashon hara about your wife unless there is a productive reason because there is a prohibition of motzi shem ra, if the newly wed husband claims his wife isn’t a virgin so only deserves 100 and not 200 for the kesuba then if he is right that ok but if he is wrong because he can’t prove it then the Torah finds him for saying lashon hara about his wife. The Chofetz Chaim goes on to say that it was unfortunately prevalent in his day that many people spoke lashon hara about their wives or in laws in front of their brothers and father’s house which he said is absolutely forbidden unless there is some constructive purpose.

Halacha 3: sometimes it is forbidden to talk lashon hara about children. For example if the are orphans and speaking out against them might cause physical or emotional harm, for example there foster parents will kick them out of the house or orphans have more sensitive feelings but if they need to be taught a lesson then you can tell on them so that they will be reprimanded but only if you know they won’t be too severely punished. The Chofetz Chaim does say that even though the example he gives is of an orphan child that is the most prevalent of issues with lashon hara about children but if any physical, monetary, or emotional harm would happen to any child then lashon hara shouldn’t be spoken. What he means is that, for example, if a child was caught coloring on the wall most people will just laugh it off, he’s a child, he doesn’t know better he just has to be taught not to do it, he’ll grow up one day. That is why many times there is not an issue of lashon hara with children. If an adult would do such a thing that would be a crime called graffiti. Of course as was said if harm is done by saying the lashon hara of course it should not be said and now a days we have to be cognizant of the fact that emotional stability is very fragile. My Rosh Yeshiva zt”l, Rav Henoch Leibowitz use to say that back in the early 1900s Americans were like cobwebs now a days we are like tissue paper. Halacha 4: If a person is an on ha’aretz, a simpleton, not learned, he is still Jewish and one cannot speak lashon hara about him but certainly if he is a rabbi or sage it is even worse because one must show more respect to the sage, respect to the learned is respect to the Torah but even worse if lashon hara was spoken about the rabbi then people who ask him questions or go to his shiurim might stop and that will cause them to make up their own observance of Torah and ultimately a new religion because they feel they can’t trust there Rabbi who is learned.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim Chapter 8 Halacha 1

The Chofetz Chaim introduces the 8th chapter with the caveat that anything that sounds simple has to be brought up anyways either because it fits better in the flow or because needs reminders and reiteration so that they won’t make mistakes, in any event their is usually something new that comes out in the end. He begins the chapter with saying that speaking lashon hara applies to both men and women even with relatives and even if you are talking about relatives and they don’t care what you say because we’re all family still it’s lashon hara because you might’ve come to conclusions to quick. This happens to be true about lashon hara on the topic of things done between man and his fellow man, where you can’t come to conclusions you have to question and prove first. But if you saw something wrong being done between man and Hashem then even if you did come to the right conclusion you can’t say it to anyone else because there is no purpose unless you think this is the only way to correct his folly by having someone else go over to him and help him.

The Chofetz Chaim in his Be’er Mayim Chaim explains that this halacha is based on the episodes of Yosef and his brothers as well as Miriam talking to Aharon about Moshe. The Sifri says that when Miriam told Aharon about Moshe separating from his wife the purpose was to go over to him and rebuke him. She even praised Moshe granting that he was a greater prophet than them but is he holier than our forefathers who had prophecy and stayed married. She did this for the sake of the mitzvah of having children, totally pure intentions, yet she was punished. Why was she punished? Because she came to conclusions to quickly. Her attitude should not have been Moshe is wrong and we have to rebuke him rather it should have been something doesn’t look right why don’t we ask him what’s wrong and clarify the issue. A change of perspective and attitude could be the difference of Whether it’s lashon hara or not. Also, even though Moshe Rabbeinu didn’t care one iota what was said because he is so humble, he wasn’t insulted in any way, still it is lashon hara.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 7, halachos 13, 14

We finished the 7th chapter of Chofetz Chaim laws if lashon hara today. There are times when a court is allowed to take action into their own hands and beat someone to admit to a crime but that is only when it is clear to the victim and the court that this is the would be burglar, for example if the victim runs into court and tells the judges he has circumstantial evidence that so and so stole from him and the court sees the evidence and it makes sense or there are witnesses that the evidence seem to be true then the court can take action in order for the thief to admit guilt. The case we had last week of Mar Zutra hitting his household member in order to admit wrongdoing because he was accused of stealing a silver goblet from a guest because he was caught drying his hands on someone’s clothes was a very special circumstance where he knew it could only have been someone in his household who was the perpetrator and everyone else were not suspicious and had an assumed presumption of honest therefore even though the fact the guy wiped his hand on someone’s shirt is only slight evidence but now that this narrowed down the possibilities it was strong enough evidence to act upon. But in general, to just rely on a claim that a victim has and his suspicions is not allowed because the perpetrator could be anyone in the city so you need clear evidence to act. It is inappropriate for an individual or even the city council or police to act solely on the claim and suspicions of a victim. Concrete evidence must be submitted to the courts and they can take action if needed to force admission to a crime.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 7, halachos 11 and 12

 Consequential evidence is only reliable if it is really evident that what he said is true but not if it’s partially recognizable with connecting some obvious dots or if it’s secondhand knowledge even if it seems directly recognizable still it cannot be believed, you can only be concerned and investigate.

However even if it really is clearly evident that what he is saying is true then you can only believe it but you cannot repeat it unless the person spoken about is known to be a bad person or if the issue could be a threat to others and you have an obligation to help them like a burglar or a swindler in business and you have clear evidence that this person is up to no good so you have an obligation to help other defend themselves. However, you cannot actively cause a monetary loss or physically hurt the person spoken about even if you know he did something wrong. It would seem you can boycott him, a passive monetary loss but you need witnesses and if you know someone swindled you in business you can’t just take money away from him you have to take him to court. The Chofetz Chaim says that though you know someone took something of yours you can go and get it because there is a concept of taking things into your own hands (Choshen Mishpat 4:1) but you can’t forcefully get it away from like hitting him to get it back, (though the Shulchan Aruch there seems to say you can, this needs further investigation.)

There is a case in Bava Metzia 24a where Mar Zutra Chasida hit his student or servant to convince him to admit to stealing a silver goblet from a guest which he figured out must have been him because the guy washed his hands and dried them on someone’s shirt so there was clear indication that because he doesn’t care about other’s property he must be a thief and the guy admitted. However, the Chofetz Chaim says Mar Zutra Chasida was allowed to beat him to admit though it was only based on circumstantial evidence Not two witnesses because he was a judge, judging this case and this was a special circumstance where a lesson had to be made so he was allowed to as a court in emergency purpose hit the guy to admit guilt.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 7 halacha 10

Another indication that lashon hara is true is circumstantial evidence, divarim nikarim, it definitely makes the lashon hara compellingly true however if it’s possible to judge the person talked about or the situation favorably then you should and not come to conclusions immediately even if there seems to be clear guilty evidence like video footage etc. The Chofetz Chaim says in a note that you should first investigate 7 times before drawing conclusions even If it seems true because the yetzer hara is very strong and quick to try to ensnare you in the trap of accepting lashon hara. No matter how clear and obvious the evidence looks, still be very diligent, 7 times, before deciding what you heard is true. After investigating if you still think it’s true then it can be accepted as truth and fact if there is no other way to judge it favorably. 

The source for this permissibility to accept lashon hara with circumstantial evidence is based on a gemara in Shabbos 56a which discusses the episode of King David supposedly accepting lashon hara from Tziva about Mefiboshes the son of Shaul that he is rebelling against the king. King David told Tziva you can have his possessions, indicating he’s accepting what Tziva said and will punish Mefiboshes. Rav said King David accepted lashon hara but Shmuel said there was indications that Tziva was right. What were the indications? That when Mefiboshes went out to greet King David later he was untidy and dishonorable looking to be in the king’s presense. Though this was a reason to suspect that what Tziva said was true but Mefiboshes rebuffed and pretended to. E friendly so King David told him to split his possessions equally with Tziva. Rav said King David accepted lashon hara because the evidence of Mefiboshes rebelling came after Tziva spoke to King David. How can King David act then upon it? The Chofetz Chaim answered that there was slight evidence that he was rebelling when he did not show up with Tziva upon King David’s request. It was only totally clear afterwards when Mefiboshes came out to greet King David in a disrespectful way. Shmuel held that King David was allowed to accept the lashon hara early because he was sure the real evidence will soon surface as it did but Rav felt that because it didn’t happen yet, the semi evidence isn’t enough and he should not have accepted it. What confounds the issue is that the gemara points out that Tziva is a proven liar in the past so even If there is partial evidence that he’s correct he lost his believability and King David should not have believed him. The Chofetz Chaim in another note said that there was other evidence that Mefiboshes was rebelling because normally he was like part of the family at King David’s table for meals and he had not shown up. This would have been evidence alone that Tziva was right if not for the fact that he proved himself to be a liar. This is why Rav said King David should not have believed him. However Shmuel held that King David listened and acted on Tziva’s advice on condition that he was correct and later saw the circumstantial evidence with his own eyes and that is why it was ok for King David to accept what he heard. What we learn from here is that without real circumstantial evidence it’s forbidden to believe someone speaking lashon hara even if he is not a proven liar until now but with circumstantial evidence even if he did lie some other time it’s permissible to believe him now.