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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In halacha 8 we saw that it makes no difference how the speaker said don’t repeat it to anyone. A secret is a secret, even when said in a group of at least 3. However in the footnote, the Chofetz Chaim said, that it might be possible to repeat it to others if the speaker only said to not repeat it to the one being talked about, but he wasn’t sure. He also said that if two people are speaking and two are listening that does not count as a group of 3. The 3 must be only listeners not also speaking. The reason being, and this is an interesting but important psychology, is that Chaza”l say that bad people often regret what they do or say, therefore in this case if two were speaking an only two listening then it is very possible that those speaking might regret the negative they said about there fellow and wouldn’t want to repeat it so the news would never spread.
In halacha 9 we learned that adding anything to what one hear in front of 3 is absolutely forbidden whether it is just adding an acknowledgement that what you heard sounds nice or must be true and definitely embellishing what you heard is absolutely forbidden.
In halacha 10 the Chofetz Chaim warns that if you know that if one of the people listening is someone who is known to accept everything on face value as truth and has a tendency to spread it then you must be very careful not to speak to him anything even a hint of negativity about anyone. He concludes that the chances of being able to check off all that has to be checked off in order to use the leniency of apie tlasa is very far-fetched and even if you do there are poskim that say the leniency should not be used because it has no source in the Talmud. So stay far away. We concluded that even in a case where the statement made can be taken in two ways, should also be avoided, therefore if you want to bring your message across be as clear and positive as possible, like in a case where someone asks where he can get a good meal, be straight forward, don’t say this family always has something boiling up in there pot.
Today we learned about keeping secrets. Even if lashon hara was said in a group and could inevitably spread but if they were told to keep it a secret then no one is ever permitted to reveal it. Even if one or two others broke the promise of secrecy the third cannot reveal it because without him it will not go public. The whole allowance of apei tlasa is because when there are three people who heard the news three people are enough to create a chain reaction of everyone hearing about it. If it is one or two people then a lot of people might wind up hearing about it but not everyone. Even so there are others reason of why not to repeat it. The Yad Ketana said it can only be repeated because the person telling it obviously didn’t mind it being repated if said in a group but in this case he does mind because he told everyone to keep it a secret. There is also a verse in Mishlei (11:13) which says “One who walk as a talebearer reveals secrets.” There seems to be an extra special prohibition of revealing secrets so even if it was told in a group of four and three of them broke the secret so everyone knows about it, the fourth one is still forbidden to tell it over to anyone.
Today we discussed that apei tlasa, in most cases only can be spread within the immediate area that the original lashon hara was heard. The Chofetz Chaim made a distinction between major sins like adultery which will spread elsewhere from city to city, and for example a tailor who is known to mess up on his jobs which is minor so can only be contained in the city that it was spoken. He said that even if it is a very big city then the apei tlasa would only be spread in that area an no further. For example a minor sin or mistake like the tailor case which was said in Flatbush cannot be spread o the rest of New York City like in Queens, Manhattan or maybe even Boro Park. One way to possibly gauge the difference between a major sin and a minor one is whether it would be in the local news or make it to the national news networks. But we were unsure, with the advent of internet and social media if the city limits have broadened, but as the Chofetz Chaim is constantly saying, one should err on the side of error and stay as far away as possible from permitting such speech.
Footnote 9: Just to be aware of the severity of lashon hara. The starting assumption is that lashon hara or rechilus is ischazik issura, meaning that it is halachically assumed to be forbidden like any other prohibition which can’t just be permitted based a aingke person’s hearsay and that is why the person who lashon hara was repeated to after it was heard in front of three can’t just repeat it again since a single witness isn’t believed on assumed prohibition unless he can prove that he can make it permissible which is virtually impossible by lashon hara especially since meeting all the parameter of the permissibility of apei tlasa is very rare.
Halacha 5: If the 3 people in the group of apei tlasa are G-D fearing people who are careful not to speak lashon hara then The permissibility of api tlasa doesn’t apply because the word won’t spread. This means that the whole permissibility is based on the fact that non-G-D fearing people talk and rumors then spread whether true or not. It so happens that it makes no difference whether all 3 who are listening are G-D fearing or even just one, or if one of them was just a relative or a good friend of the one being talked about then we have to assume the lashon hara wouldn’t spread because there aren’t at least 3 people who might leak it to anyone else.
Footnote 12 says: The source of this Halacha comes from a Mishna in the first chapter of Sanhedrin that a judge, presumably a G-D fearing individual cannot report to anyone that he found the litigant innocent and the other 2 judges found him guilty. Even if it was 7 judges and 4 said guilty and 3 said innocent so now there are 3 people, apei tlasa, who heard the four judges say guilty still the 3 can’t spread the news of which judges gave the guilty verdict, it appears from the Mishna therefore it must be that apei tlasa doesn’t apply to G-D fearing Jews. He brings many proofs to prove his reading of that Mishna.
Footnote 13: There is one exception to the circumstance where one of the 3 is a relative, friend, or G-D fearing which is a case of a protest when an owner of a property claims to them that so-and-so is poaching on my land land which is ok to believe and spread so that the so called poacher can be sure he keeps the appropriate documents to prove he is allowed on the land. So even a relative, friend , or G-D fearing Jew would spread the word just to help him not to get into trouble.