Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 10 footnote 18 and rest of halacha 4

The Chofetz Chaim had mentioned in his note that you must first tell the victim what had happened to him and who did it before you tell anyone else in matters where it’s unlikely or not the situation where he would be compensated. This is because word spreads and if he finds out second hand what happened that might make matters worse and create a tremendous fight. We want to avoid internal fight amongst the Jews. The #1 reason for arguments is rechilus, people tell on each other to others in a fashion which allows a bad situation to escalate. Hashem created a prohibition of rechilus (which the Chofetz Chaim discusses in the next part of this book, after chapter 10) just for this reason, to minimize the possibility of finding amongst His children. A person might make an excuse for himself that he would be allowed to tell others, before he tells the victim, assuming he meets all the rules, because anyways there is a chance, albeit a farfetched chance that maybe the criminal will repent and give back what he owes. But we have to assume that it is a farfetched chance that he will actually repent since he was already rebuked and didn’t listen or is known not to listen to rebuke, therefore, unless it is probable compensation can be exacted then it is forbidden to spread the word if what happened before telling the victim even if it is for the proper intent of teaching people not to follow the ways of this evildoer. It is better to not cause fighting amongst the Jews then teach others a lesson not to follow in the bad ways of these criminals.

Furthermore, you have to be careful who you give this information to, for if you tell people who aren’t willing to listen to your warnings not to follow the ways of the criminal, for example if you are talking to people who are also thieves or part of the mafia who don’t care about the way this criminal acted. Then you might cause them to speak rechilus because they might tell the criminal what you told them, even if you met all the rules and had the right intent to try to stop them from following what he did, but telling the wrong people might escalate a big argument and might even cause them to tell on you to the government or other non-Jews and create serious problems for the Jews.

It also doesn’t matter if someone asked you what happened or you just tell them if you are allowed to then it’s fine if not, then not. Many times people make up excuses that they can tell their family members what other people have done to them, and it’s a mitzvah to do so because the verse in Yeshayahu 58:7 says “You shall not hide anything from your own flesh and blood” However only if all the prerequisites are met them you can tell them if not, then it’s absolutely forbidden and straight out rechilus/lashon hara.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 10 halacha 4 footnotes 14-17

The positive use of telling others about a person who humiliated someone else besides making an impression on other how bad it is to embarrass others or to potentially convince the perpetrator to apologize, besides that there is a great benefit that can come out for the victim even if he doesn’t get any money out if the deal, which is other people sympathizing with him which will make him feel better.

Now, you might think that only for the purpose of helping the victim can you tell one person at a time what happened but if you want to spread the word to create awareness of the severity of the sin or to get the perpetrator to fix his ways then you need to tell people in groups of 3 or more, that ensures it will spread and shows you are doing it for the right reasons and not for your own benefits, however in this case where you already tried rebuking the guy and it didn’t work you don’t have to tell people in groups, you can tell them about the severity of the crime individually and you won’t look like you are doing it for ulterior motives other than to spread the truth.

The Chofetz Chaim wasn’t sure if you are just spreading the word for the sake of warning others not to follow in that path whether you are allowed to do that with name dropping in a case where it is possible that the perpetrator my have an excuse, for example he didn’t know any better or didn’t realize the severy if his crime, then maybe you can’t say any names.

And when the Chofetz Chaim said you should tell others of what happened without first telling the victim that us only if telling other won’t have any monetary repercussions for the victim but if it does then you can tell others before telling the victim.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 10 halacha 3 and 4

Halacha 3: Even if you try to meet all the prerequisites to speak out against a perpetrator in a legal way, but if you are the same type of sinner as the perpetrator then you can’t say a anything because we assume you aren’t speaking out to help anyone besides yourself, to make the perpetrator look back and yourself look good. For example, a thief can’t rattle on another thief, or a business swindler can’t rattle on a business swindler, or a drug addict can’t rattle on another drug addict who might be selling drugs to others etc. We see this in Navi that Yehu was accountable for killing the house of Achav even though the Navi said to do so because they were an evil kingship and Yehu was rewarded for 4 generations of kings in his family for following the prophet’s word but because he wound up following in their evil ways when he became king over Israel then he became accountable for killing them. So to you can’t speak lashon hara about someone if you yourself have the same fault because you are just making yourself look good by speaking out against him, which is just covering your tracks not the intent to help the situation.

Halacha 4: Because your whole intent must be for the good, for example to help the victim then you can only tell people who will help the situation. But not just police, it could mean telling doctors or psychologists what happened to help the person damaged or embarrassed to get healthy again, or anyone one else who can fix the situation. However, it is also permissible to tell anyone else with mentioning names of the perpetrator if it will stop them from following his ways or cause the perpetrator to repent and fix what he did out if pressure. But as soon as he repents you can’t tell anyone what he did in the past. Also you can’t tell anyone what happened until the victim is informed because if he finds out from someone else it might create more animosity towards the perpetrator then he would have if he was first told what and who did by the eyewitness who promises him he can try to get the situation resolved, or at least under control.

CITE Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 10 halacha two concluded

Rule #6: Before speaking out against a perpetrator you have to be sure there is no other way to fix the issue besides speaking lashon hara about him whether it is to help the victim or to stop this type of behavior, for example if you can say the story of what happened without any name calling to send the message that what happened should not be done that would be better. The extent of avoiding lashon hara we see from the case of Achan in the Book of Yehoshua. Achan stole spoils of war secretly. Yehoshua wanted to know what happened. He asked Hashem who did it. Hashem said what do you think I am, a tattletaler? I won’t speak lashon hara, make a lottery and the one picked is the one guilty. Hashem would not straight out tell Yehoshua who the culprit was rather it was indirectly Divinely revealed through a lottery because another means of revealing with saying out right was possible. Hashem acted through these means even though the gemara in Sanhedrin 11a and 44a says that not only did Achan steal the spoils that were sanctified but he also was adulterous to the highest degree with a naara hami’urasa, it was because of him that the Jews last a battle, and he transgressed the Five Books of Moses. This should put him into a category of not being part of “your nation” and therefore it should have been permissible to speak lashon hara about him. However, because there was another way to reveal his guilt it was forbidden for Hashem to tell Yehoshua that it was Achan who is causing all this trouble. We find this concept of needing to act differently, if possible, by other halachos as well. For example, if someone is running after another to kill him and you can stop it by disability the pursuer without killing him, then if you kill the pursuer, you are considered a murderer. So to if someone is going to hit someone else and you can defend the victim or the victim can defend himself with hurting the attacker then one would be guilty for hurting the attacker. When the Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 421:13 says the victim or someone around him can hit back a person who struck him the Shach says that’s only if he is defending himself so that the attacker will not strike again.

Rule #7: If by you telling others you will harm the perpetrator more than he would deserve if he was taken to court then you can’t tell anybody. Not only does this mean that if two of you tell others, let say about a thief, so you are like two witnesses but those that find out will not only go after the thief to force him to return the goods, but they will also beat him up, then you can’t tell them even at the expense of the victim never getting his stolen goods back. If you are only one person divulging the information to others, then the best you can do is ensure that those people could convince the perpetrator to show up in court and let the court deal with the problem just like a single witness can only force the perpetrator to swear in court but can’t be the reason for the sentencing.

If all 7 rules are met and still the problem isn’t resolved or the message isn’t clear for others to stay away from doing these actions, or the perpetrator has not repented then others can be told with divulging names so that the problem can be more easily resolved.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 10 halacha 2 continued

The next prerequisite for allowance to publicize lashon hara about a person who did some wrong to someone else and you want to try to fix the issue. 3. You have to rebuke the perpetrator first, is soft manner, in that way he might fix the issue, be it pay back the money for damages or give back what he stole, or apologize, without needing to tell anyone what happened. If he doesn’t listen, then it can be publicized to hopefully force him to make retribution. If you don’t think he will listen to you, that will be discussed in halacha 7. The Rambam says clearly that it’s forbidden to publicize the matter before rebuking him in private. There are different ways in how to understand Rabbeinu Yonah if part of the Torah obligation of rebuke is to first rebuke before publicizing or when it is just better character to not publicize the issue first. However, the Chofetz Chaim does point out that by first rebuking the perpetrator before publicizing makes sense for another reason since while confronting him you can question why he did what he did, what was his motivation, what happened in his eyes, and you will be doing some investigative work which is part of the second rule. You might come out that what happened is different then what you thought, or you might show him he is in the wrong and convince him to fix his error. Either way talking to him publicizing it is crucial because it will also fulfill the second prerequisite. Rebuking and investigating are connected to each other.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 10, halacha 2

There are 7 prerequisite rules that must be met before you are allowed to speak lashon hara to help a fellow person. We discussed the first two rules:


 There are 7 prerequisite rules that must be met before you are allowed to speak lashon hara to help a fellow person. We discussed the first two rules:

1.      You have to have seen the act with your own eyes or have circumstantial evidence to know what you heard second hand is for sure true. If you just heard something 2nd or 3rd hand with qualifying its authenticity it would be lashon hara to repeat what you heard even if the purpose is to help someone who was stolen from or hurt. However, there is a difference between name calling, meaning dropping a name of the perpetrator, if you only have second hand knowledge, which is forbidden, or just warning someone of what happened without any names. For example, the Rashbam in Bava Basra 39b was saying that people can pass along information that someone’s property might have been taken over by someone else illegally, and this can be passed on person to person until it reaches the owner so that he will be care to bring documentation that he is the real owner. Even though it’s possible the would-be squatter is just taking care of the land since the owner lives some place else, and it all might be a misunderstanding which could result in giving a bad name of a thief to someone, but that is of course forbidden, but what one can do is say I heard someone took over your land, without dropping any names, so that the real owner will put together his proof of ownership.

2.      You can’t jump to conclusions, and make a quick judgement call about what you saw. You have to first digest the matter. See if there is something you missed, do some investigation before reporting what you saw to someone else, to be sure your claim is true. For example, if one is 80% sure he saw someone take something out of someone purse, you can’t just inform the authorities of a certain man who you name which is a thief, you have to first clarify that it is in fact true, for example you can tell the owner you think something was stolen from his purse. If he can confirm that to be true then a name might be able to be revealed in order to get the stolen object back because it is more clear it actually happened. Or if you see someone hurt or embarrass someone else you can just tell people what happened and tell them to stay away from this guy. Research the matter, maybe he was responding to what the victim did to him first. Bottom line, what you saw must be clearly known and understood before telling someone else about it, even if it is to help the victim or help the would-be perpetrator to repent because you have to make sure there is a real perpetrator and understand what exactly he did.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 10 halacha 1

The topic of this chapter is whether or how one can speak lashon hara about someone who transgressed a mitzva between man and fellow man like stealing, denying a loan, causing injury, embarrassing, or causing pain to others and onaas devarim. If one knows someone else hurt or stole from the other then you should first rebuke the perpetrator and if he doesn’t listen and you know without a doubt that he did not do Teshuva which includes returning the stolen object, paying back damages, or apologizing for embarrassment etc. then you are allowed to tell others about what happened if it will help the victim get his money and to resolve the truth but there are 7 rules you must meet when you tell it to others.

There is an argument between Rabbeinu Yona and the Rambam (accept according to the Lechem Mishna) whether you can repeat what you saw a person do against his friend in all situations, as per the Rabbeinu Yona, or only in situations where money is involved i.e. stealing, physical injuries etc. but if it’s just a matter of psychological embarrassment and pain which just needs an apology then even if he doesn’t repent and ask for forgiveness the Rambam holds you can’t share what you saw with anyone else whereas Rabbienu Yona says you can for the sake of revealing the truth and making sure he doesn’t do this to anyone else. Keep people away from the perpetrator.

The fact that you have to know for a fact that he didn’t return money owed before speaking lashon hara is true by a normal Jew and especially a sage, you have to be sure to not talk up so quick because chaza”l say you can be assured if a sage sinned one day he has repented by the next day but if you know the money wasn’t paid back, even if the sage might feel remorse it’s not a complete Teshuva until payback so it’s lashon hara to spread what happened if it will get the perpetrator even a sage to pay back what is owed and keep people away from him until he fully repents

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 9 halchos 5, 6

Halacha 5: According to the laws of chinuch, educating your children, one has to even make sure from a young age to train them not to speak lashon hara or any other bad talk like cursing or lying. This is extra important for parents to teach their children because the Vilna Gaon says that it is very hard break habits so, especially for speech and character traits fathers should train there children to have positive character traits and refined speech from a young age so that it will be habitual when they grow up and not the opposite, if parents don’t rebuke then children say whatever they want and train them selves to speak lashon hara, lies, and cursing, which is why they continue when they grow up, since it is so hard to break the habit, though not impossible.

 Halacha 6: If someone tells you something you shouldn’t repeat it unless he tells you, it indicates to you that you are allowed to repeat what he said, except for lashon hara, even if he said you can repeat it, of course you can’t. This is based on a gemara in Yoma 4b: “How do you know if someone tells you something you can’t repeat it unless he gives you permission? The pasuk says ‘Hashem spojefrom the Tent of Meeting saying.'” “Saying” means you can repeat it.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 9 halacha 4

One shouldn’t live in a neighborhood which has groups of people constantly congregating and speaking lashon hara, baalei lawhon hara. This is based on a Rambam which quoted the Mishna in Pirkei Avos 9:1 that says, “Woe to the wicked and woe to their neighbors.” This quote was also mentioned by Rashi in reference to Korah and the tribe of Reuvein. One definitely shouldn’t join the group even if he will tell himself, he won’t accept anything he hears because just lending an ear to listen is forbidden. What’s even worse is to sit in shul in an area where people are talking and speaking lashon hara during davening because not only are you listening and probably joining into the conversation, but you might very likely miss answering by kaddish, amens, barchu, listening intently to the Torah reading etc. Also, to sit with shmuzers in a Beis medrish will also cause you to waste time from your learning and your learning won’t be as sharp since it will be fragmented.

A baal lashon hara, one who constantly is speaking lashon hara is so bad that the Chofetz Chaim warns that a Rebbe might have to expel a student if he sees he can’t stop him from speaking lashon hara, as Rav Ashi, an Amora who was one of the compilers of the gemara had to do with one of his students in Sanhedrin 31a.

If one finds himself in a group of people speaking lashon hara then he certainly should rebuke them if he thinks it will work. If it wouldn’t work but he thinks it won’t harm things then he should still rebuke them to let people know he is in disagreement of what’s happening. But if he thinks it will only harm the situation and make matters worse then it is better to say nothing. Just as praising someone is not allowed it will lead to lashon hara, so too rebuking someone for speaking lashon hara is not allowed if it will lead to worse lashon hara. It is better to try to switch the conversation or walk away. If you can’t do that then stick your finger in your ears and if that’s too embarrassing then make a face of disgust and be absolutely still, and have in mind not to accept anything that you hear.

 But at all costs one should try to stop others from sinning, just like the Rambam says that if you see a rabbi in the street wearing Shaatnez then one should pull off his garment in the middle of the street to avoid a chillul Hashem. In this case it’s easier, just create a distraction or change subjects from the conversation at hand, or as preemptive measures give incentives to people for not speaking lashon hara and learning the laws about it.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 9 halachos 2, 3

More examples of Avak Lashon Hara

  1. One should not praise people in front of a crowd no matter how much praise because it’s many times inevitable that someone who doesn’t like him will be in the crowd and start trash talking and downplaying this person’s praise. However, if (a) you know there is no one around who is his enemy, for example nobody knows him. Or (b) He is such a good person that one can’t find faults in him so even his enemies won’t say anything bad about him or will be immediately shut down if they try, then it’s permissible to praise someone in public. This could be why it permissible to talk about honorees at a banquet. Just don’t go overboard with the praises.
  2. You shouldn’t sit around with a group of people praising the gedolim, the Torah leaders of the generation because people will start comparing and it will inevitably turn into lashon hara, which is worse than speaking lashon hara about a regular Jew, because it might askew one’s attitude towards Torah Judaism. Hashem takes action against those who malign those who are closest to Him.
  3. One shouldn’t say anything which might cause others a monetary loss: A. A guest tells the world how great his host was and everyone flocks to get a meal by the host which might become too overwhelming and inappropriate people might get in also. B. Some publicizes how nice a person was for giving him a loan. This might lead to people who are con men asking for a loan and stealing the money.
  4. You should say things that sound suspicious and might sound like lashon hara. For example, if one warns others a few months later, when there has been calm in the area for a while, “I knew the whole time the guy was a thief.” Well why didn’t you say something beforehand when people could have taken precaution to protect their money?