Today we started delving into the actual laws of loshon hara.
Chapter 1, halacha 1:
(A) Lashon hara
is slander about a fellow Jew even if it is the absolute truth. The Chofetz
Chaim elaborates in his Be’er Mayim Chaim on 3 gemaras that prove lashon hara
is even on truth.
(1) Moed Katan 16a:
The gemara there proves from the report that Moshe Rabbeinu’s messenger sent
back of Dasan and Aviram that only a messenger of the court is allowed to speak
slander which is true to the judges because there is some benefit for the
court, implying in general a person cannot speak slander even if it is true.
42a: There are Four types
of people who the Shechina will not go near, two of them are habitual liars and
those who habitually speak lashon hara. If lashon hara is only when one falsely
slanders another then it would be the same category as liars and we would not
need both categories therefore it must be that speaking lashon hara is even a
problem when speaking the truth.
(3) Bava Basra 164b:
Rebbe’s son brought a document which had a mistake on it. Rebbe wasn’t so
happy, Rebbe’s son, Rebbe Shimon said Rebbe Yehuda the… wrote it. Rebbe
scolded his son for telling him who wrote, he should have just said I did not
write it. We see from this case that even though Rebbe Shimon was just telling
truth it was still lashon hara and forbidden. Instead he should of stayed quiet
or just give a deflecting response like “I didn’t do it.” Because there was no
benefit to anyone for being an informant.
Another example I gave
was if a grocery store has some old, not so fresh food with bad expiration
dates. You can’t tell someone don’t shop there because of a number of reasons:
A. Maybe he wants other stuff, B. maybe he doesn’t care but if you say
something you just make things worse. C. If it’s a known thing you are just
stoking the coals. D. He can figure out himself if he wants to shop there or
Lastly we discussed
that even a change of one word from the truth could change what you say from
lashon hara to what’s called motzie shem ra which is worse than lashon hara
because the lie you say about someone could make them look even worse and
amplifies the sin of slander. If a mixture of truth and lies can switch lashon
hara into motzie shem ra certainly a complete lie is in that category and all
the more severe!
This week we concluded the prologue of Sefer Chofetz Chaim it concludes with 3 (really 4) curses in the Torah associated with lashon hara which an be found in the Torah portion of Ki Savo.
1. ארור מכה ראהו בסתר One is cursed for hitting his friend in a hidden place which the Sifri and Rashi on Chumash say refers to speaking lashon hara for he doesn’t physically strike his friend on his body but his speech effects the other’s emotions or heart.
2. ארור משגה עור בדרך This curse is for giving people bad advice on purpose for one’s own benefit but it is also a curse for leading others to sin like in this case where the speaker of loshon hara is causing the listener to potentially sin if they want to listen and the listeners cause the speaker to sin by encouraging him to speak loshon hara through showing they want to hear what he has to say.
3. ארור אשר לא יקים את דברי התורה הזאת לעשות אותם Hashem curses those who don’t take his mitzvos seriously and don’t accept upon themselves to make at least some effort to adhere to them. Even if he doesn’t care about one mitzva and habitually transgresses it even if he observes everything else he is what’s called a mumar for one thing. The issue is a lack of care to try to guard oneself from the sin not the transgression itself because it shows a lack of care to follow Hashem’s command.
4. ארור מקלה אביו ואמו If one speaks lashon hara about his parents there is an addition curse.One of the ramifications of being cursed is being excommunicated in Heaven which is pretty scary.
In conclusion The Chofetz Chaim said that this prologue should be reviewed over and over again because it might be the best deterrent out of anything else he writes, from speaking lashon hara.
Today we concluded the positive
mitzvos associated with Lashon Hara. In total there are 31 mitzvos one can
eventually transgress when habitually speaking lashon hara though all 31 cannot
be done at once.
מדבר שקר תרחק – There is a positive
mitzva to stay far away from lying, even if it is just leaving out information
or not speaking up when you see something is going the wrong way and you
can fix it. Lying transforms loshon hara to an all new even worse problem
called motzie shem ra. This mitzvah only applies to the one speaking not the one
#14 והלכה בדרכיו – We have a positive mitzvah to emulate Hashem.
Just as He is merciful you shall be merciful, just as He is gracious you shall
be gracious. By definition Hashem’s attributes are only positive, He does not
have any negative attributes. By being involved in the negtive attribute
of speaking or listening to lashon hara you are not fulfilling the positive
mitzva of emulating Hashem.
Positive Mitzvah #12:
Today we spoke about the positive mitzvah of Torah Learning and how speaking
Lashon Hara or Rechilus might leads to hundreds if not thousands of sins for
every single moment one can be learning and he wastes his time and instead
speaks loshon hara he is held accountabe for each word potentially missed since
each word of Torah is a mitzvah in of itself. There times Hashem might
over look, or in fact it is imperative and allowed to stop learning, for example
for one’s livelihood or wellbeing, but besides that Torah learning is a mitzvah
obligated every single second of the day so if wasted one is held accountable
for that and it is even worse if it is wasted through doing a sin like loshon
The Chofetz Chaim, as
a footnote also painted a picture of how careful we must be too not get
entrapped by the yetzer hara and become to engrossed in our jobs and business
to the point that we might looks like important and wealthy business men in
this world but are literally homeless, raggedy, clothes stained bums, without a
house over our heads in the Next World.
mitzvah #10 כבד את אביך ואת אמיך One also transgresses
the positive mitzvah of honoring their parents if they speak or accept lashon
hara about them whether in there face or behind there back. This extra mitzvah
also applies to an older brother, stepmother and stepfather who you have a
mitzvah to treat with extra respect beard on the extra word ואת in that verse.
Positive Mitzvah #11: את
ד’ אלוקיך תירא One of the six constant mitzvos is to fear Hashem. This means
that we must constantly have in mind that we can’t get around Hashem’s radar.
Hashem is always watching us and will punish us for bad deeds based on the
severity of our actions. Many times when speaking lashon hara it leads to other
sins because when we speak loshon Hara we let down our fear guard and that
drives us to do one sin after another until we put up the fear gaurd again.
Positive mitzva #7 = ומקדשי
תיראו We have a positive mitzvah to have an extra sense of fear and
awe of Hashem in His holy places. The basic understanding of this mitzvah is
that it is talking about in the mishkan or Beis Hamikdash but most poskim hold
it applies now a days in our shuls and yeshivas, therefore one should not shmuz
mundane talk in shuls or yeshivas and certainly not speak loshob hara or
rechilus. You are making your speech or listening to loshon hara even worse
then it already is when doing it there because you are showing you have no care
for the King of all Kings who focuses his holiness in these places and you are
totally ignoring his laws in His “face” lihavdil.
Positive mitzva #8: והדרת פני זקן There is a positive mitzva to show special
respect to the elderly and a sage and by speaking any form of lashon hara about
them not only does one transgress the prohibition of lashon hara but also does
not fulfill this mitzvah. If one hears the lashon hara and does not stop it or
protest it and even accept it he also transgresses this positive mitzva,
whether he is standing in front of the elderly person or sage or behind his
back. And if the person is both elderly and a sage the transgression is
Positive mitzva #9 וקדשתם There is a positive mitzva to treat a kohen with extra respect
for example giving him the first Aliyah to the Torah. If one speaks or accepts
lashon hara about a kohen he also transgresses this mitzvah, just like by the
Mitzvah 5: הוכיח תוכיח את
עמיתיך: There is a mitzvah on the listener of loshon hara to rebuke
the speaker. This should be done as soon as possible to minimize the amount of
sins being transgressed or even to stop it when you see it is about to happen.
There are times when you can allow him to finish like if there are other people
around and you want to share with them that he is saying lies and should not be
believed or one should listen to his whole speech if you feel there might be a
concern you have to watch out for but you can’t believe what he says and should
rebuke him after he stops speaking just in case he is talking for no good
reason he can always reply I am telling you this for your own benefit. There
are other times when it is better not to say anything if you know the speaker
will not listen because rebuking him might just cause to speak even more lashon
hara and that would be counterproductive.
Mitzvah 6: ובו תדבק:
A person has a mitzvah to hang around, do business with, have meals with and
even try to marry off your children to guys involved in Torah study or even
strive to marry off your sons to daughters of sages if possible in order to be
influenced and learn from there Torah ideals. If one hangs around groups of
people who just shmuz, may tell some good stories but get into tons of loshon
hara, then one loses out on fulfilling this mitzvah.
mitzva 3: בצדק תשפוט עמיתך
is a mitzvah to judge people favorably. Certainly a righteous G-d fearing Jew,
but also us in between people who sometimes make mistakes we must judge
favorably. That does not mean we should lie to ourselves but the Chofetz Chaim
suggests that always having an open mind with the attitude of searching out the
positive in anything you see or hear will help you come up with a truthful
reason of why something might sound or look wrong is really alright. However he
also says there is no need to judge a wicked person favorably and a complete
stranger there is no mitzva to judge favorably but it is a positive attribute
to do so anyways. Often times people don’t straight out lie when speaking
loshon hara but might take things out of context say half the story or quote
part of a sentence. Other times the tone of voice someone reports in sometimes
might cause others to take it out of context. Another thing that must be taken
into account is the person you are talking about might have had a bad day or is
in a lot of pain. Therefore both the speaker and listener must be very careful
to be דן לכף זכות.
Positive mitzva #4 גר ותושב וכו׳
וחי אחיך עמך There is a mitzva
to support any Jew whether born Jewish or converted by giving him gifts, loans,
partnerships or just finding him any job. Anything so that he will not have to
go around and beg and he has a livelihood. Since that is the case one can
certainly not say anything bad about a worker or a perspective shidduch just
because you don’t like them and if there are some serious issues that must be
dealt with it will be discussed how to do so in detail in the Halacha later on
in Sefer Chofetz Chaim.
This week we began to discuss the positive mitzvos related to
1. זכור את אשר
עשה ד׳ למרים בדרך וכו. There is a mitzvah to constantly remind ourselves verbally and
picture in our minds the punishment Miriam received for speaking lashon hara
about her beloved brother Moshe whose intent was just positive and was said in
private to her caring brother Aharon, so that all the more so we will be
careful not to maliciously speak lashon hara about others.
2. ואהבת לרעך
We should be sensitive about the feelings and respect of others just like we
would want them to be sensitive to our own feelings and honor. This is another
method of discouraging ourselves from speaking lashon hara.
#16: “לא תחניפו את הארץ” This is a prohibition against flattery. It could apply to both the speaker and listener.
People who speak loshon hara might do it to find favor and flatter the listener. The person listening flatters the one who speaks loshon hara if he nodded his head in acquiescence or added a few words that adds to the slander. This sin’s severity causes Hashem’s Holy Presence to leave the Jews and it was one of the causes of the exile after the Second Temple was destroyed when the Sages flattered King Agripus.
#17 ״לא תקלל חרש״ A prohibition against cursing your fellow even if he is deaf or not present and all the more so if he can hear you curse him. Though this is not a part of lashon hara but many times when one gets angry and starts speaking lashon hara it leads to cursing the one he is speaking about.