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.
Note 7 defines, ate least according to the Yad Hachazaka, exactly what is “chavra chavrach ees ley:” Only when you have no intentions of spreading the news then if it just comes up in conversation, the nature of the world seems to be that it will be repeated from person to person. The news will just keep on rolling for a long time. However when one wants to intentionally spread some juicy info and he makes announcements and tries publicising to as many people as quickly as possible then the news will get out there but wil not stay out there for a long time and when eventually dissipate, this is considered outright lashon hara and does not fit the category of “chavra chavrach ees lei.”
Note 8 mentions an argument between the Chofetz Chaim and the Yad Hachazaka on why a person who heard this piece of news with at least two other people can repeat under the proper circumstances quoting who he heard it from. The Yad HaChazaka says you can quote who you heard this info from because the fact he said it in a group of at least 3 intimated that he doesn’t care if he is quoted. (Which means there could be situations where he would care and you can’t quote him.) But the Chofetz Chaim says the reason why he can be quoted is because everyone is going to know by who and what was said any way since it was said b’apei tlasa. However the Chofetz Chaim warns everyone that this shouldn’t be a reason to loosely allow you to speak lashon hara because the chances of all the parameters of apei tlasa being met is very farfetch so one should be very cautios!
Halacha 4 says that even if one of the at 3 people who heard it repeats it, the 3rd party who hears it cannot repeat it, he knows everyone heard about it, because who says it is true and if it can be confirmed that the first person heard it correctly who says he actually heard it with at east two other people. The obvious question we raised was how then does news ever spread? The answer is that there is a concept in Shas that everyone transgresses the laws of lashon hara at some point, at least avak lashon hara (quasy lashon hara which applies by the rules of apei tlasa) therefore because of the unfortunate reality of life whether it is right or not word spreads and repeating it over and over again can potentially become permissible, though as we said earlier it is usually highly unlikely.
We clarified a few details on Apei Tlasa today.
1. On a footnote at the end of note 4 we discussed that according to the Rambam, the Chofetz Chaim suggests, that it is only permissible to throw into a conversation the lashon hara you heard with at least two other people only if it is known that the person you are telling already know about it. But if he doesn’t know, even if he will eventually know you can’t be the one to reveal it. Then the question is how do you know if everyone knows. There is no set time given and in fact every place is different. You can’t expect word to travel everywhere within an hour in a big city, for example. The Chofetz Chaim concludes that he is anyways not sure if this idea is true because no one else seems to say it has to be known by everyone before repeating it, just that it will be known.
2. In note 5 the Chofetz Chaim points out that the lashon hara he’s been talking about isn’t just flat out insults or degradation but anything that might lead to harm whether financially or physically or embarrassment.
3. In note 6 the Chofetz Chaim dealt with a pressing issue of how the Rashbam seems to permit telling the one who was talked about in front of 3 people what was said about him. Isn’t that flat out rechilus, and can just cause major arguments? The Chofetz Chaim says that granted one cannot purposefully tattle on the person who spoke lashon hara to the one it was spoken about certainly not to divulge who said it, just to start a fight, but since everyone will find out what happens anyways, what was said and who said what then even if it wasn’t within a different conversation, as long as you don’t exaggerate what happened the person who heard the lashon hara among at least three other can repeat it to the one it was spoken about because the Smag who explains the Rashbam throws in that a talebearer is one who reveals secrets not one who says something which everyone knows about already.
Today we continued in the Sefer Chofetz Chaim. We discussed a very challenging problem. How does word presumed to be spread if it is forbidden to be said? The Chofetz Chaim compared it to a group of thieves that are traveling together. You wouldn’t say that the first person to steal something is innocent because the rest of the group would have stolen it any way! So to the fact that one person of a group of at least 3 happened to have leaked loshon hara amidst a conversation about something else should mean he does not get a sin, as the Rambam says, because bottom line he spoke badly about someone else who care if word spreads. And how then can word spread if no one is allowed to start spreading it?
The Chofetz Chaim explained 3 views of how to resolve this issue:
1. Rashi in Erechin who said that the case of Rabba bar Rav Huna and word spreading is where the original speaker is talking about himself so he is automatically giving permission to spread what he said about himself, good or bad, if he is willing to say it in a group of at least 3 people.
2. The Rashbam in Bava Basra only permits those in the group to go back to the one who was talked about but not say it to any one else. If the speaker was willing to say what he said in a group of at least 3 he must not care if word gets back to the one being talked about. Granted it might start quarrels, but the Chofetz Chaim seems to be saying that is not the repeater’s responsibility, the original speaker is instigating.
3. The Rambam in halacha 5 of Hilchos Deos, chapter 7 says one does not get a sin if he happened to slip into a conversation this pice of lashon hara that he heard in a group of 3, without intent of spreading the news because he is not acting as a peddler, which is what the Torah describes one who speaks lashon hara as. A peddler is one who takes his goods from one place to another sharing or selling them to others but in this case since word will spread or already has spread in an illegal or legal manner, then the person who slips it into his conversation is not acting as a peddler since he is not giving out information which people don’t already have or won’t have easy access to and there is no intent to act as a peddler in this case of spreading the news, therefore he does not get a sin.
This week we wrapped up foot note 3 about the Gemaras in Bava Basra and Erechin which deals with the laws of apei tlasa. In the end we saw 5 views:
1: Rashbam who says the speaker gets a sin for speaking lashon hara but those that heard amongst at least 3 people could repeat it since word spreads anyways.
2: Tosfos says neither the speaker or listeners can speak out right lashon hara even in front of at least 3 people but avak lashon hara, which can be taken in two ways, as long as it has a positive slant is permissible to be said and repeated.
3. The Rambam says that though lashon hara can’t be spoken but if heard in a crowd of at least 3 If it is repeated as long as one does not have the intent to spread it, he does not get a sin.
4. Rabbeinu Yona says that one can spread the news to at least 3 at a time of a person who harmed another person, as long as all the rules of permissibility are met, which are discussed later on in Sefer Chofetz Chaim. Then others can spread the news to protect others from harm.
5. Rashi in Erechin seems to be saying that the case is when someone talks about his own business, good or bad or his own wrongdoings which normally should be kept a secret if divulged in front of one or two people but if said in a group of at least 3 he indicates that he does not care for the word to spread so other people can then go and spread the news.
The Chofetz Chaim clearly indicates that none of this negative talk is allowed to be accepted, one can only take proper precautions when necessary, even if it is permissible to spread. He concludes that it would seem that this flexibility is very complex and practically uncommon so one should be very cautious to rely on it as will be enumerated further in the rest of the chapter.
This week we wrapped up Tosfos’ view of Apei Tlasa. Outright slander is forbidden to be said or accepted by the listeners even in front of 3 people. Only a statement that could be taken in two ways, as long as one would not be embarrassed to say it in the face of the one he is talking about, assuming he does not show any negative connotations, is permissible to be said in front of the person he is talking about and even in front of three people since word will get back to whom he was talking about and he has no shame saying it since there is nothing wrong with what he is intending to say. The people who heard this statement which could be taken in two ways but was said positively can now spread it to others.
What comes out from the ramifications of this Halacha is that this statement that can be taken for good or for bad cannot be said in front of one or two people even though your intent is positive. To get around that problem one should just say a statement that can’t be taken two ways. For example, if someone asks you where he can get some food don’t tell him so and so always has a pot on the stove which can mean either he’s a glutton or he always have guests, rather say so and so always has guests over. That you can say even in front of one or two people assuming you know the person asking won’t take advantage of his host and the host really doesn’t mind having guests all the time.
We then started discussing the Rambam’s view on apei tlasa in note 3. He understood the Gemara in Bava Basra who permits speaking in front of three because word spreads as follows: the initial person who speaks slander is in fact committing a sin but since it was said in front of three people and word spreads on that fashion then if one of the three repeated what he said as long as he didn’t repeat with the intentions to spread it further he does not get a sin since the damage has already been caused. If he does say it with intent to spread the slander then he is also sinning since he is trying to further the damage to the one spoken about.
The answer to Tosfos’ view on apei tlasa is that straight out negative lashon hara is forbidden to be said whether in front of 3 or more people or even to the antagonist’s straight up lashon hara is forbidden, also to listen and accept as true. However the leniency is in a case where the statement could be taken in two ways, positive or negative. The key to the leniency is if you don’t feel embarrassed at all to be willing to say it to his face then you may say it to him or her or even in front of 3 people since it will definitely get back to the person being talked about. However if you feel any embarrassment to say it or if your expressions, voice, physical, etc is of a negative connotation it should not be said.
Today we finished the first note of the Be’er Mayim Chaim in Chapter 2 of Sefer Chofetz Chaim. The Chofetz Chaim makes it very clear that there is no reason what so ever to allow out right lashon hara to be spoken even if it is in front of three people and it will spread to the one being talked about. It actually could be worse. Only if there is some benefit like in a court case the litigant can tell the judges how he was wronged or a messenger of the court can even tell the judges he was disrespected when on the mission of the court to bring someone in. Otherwise it is absolutely forbidden!
In Halacha 2 the Chofetz Chaim begins to explain where the concept of “apei tlasa” does apply. Which is when a pareve statement is made that can be taken one of two ways. As long as you connotation and body language does not indicate negativity then one can say this statement in front of at least 3 people because it will spread and get back to the one being talked about so obviously if he said is he is saying it in a positive light because he wouldn’t want the subject to know what he is saying if it was negative. This type of state is in the category of “avak lashon hara”. The example the Chofetz Chaim gives of such a statement is if a person asked a group of people where can I find some good around here and one of them respond there is always a fire brewing down the street at this guy’s house where they always have fish and meat. This can be taken in a positive light to mean he has a big family and is well to do so they can afford, with G-D’s help lavish food, or it can mean they are always ready to serve guests. But it can also be taken negatively that the guy is a glutton and a fresser. So as long as the one who says the statement doesn’t sound negative and sarcastic then he can say it in a group because we can assume he is just trying to be helpful and positive.
This chapter talks about the concept of “apei tilasa” which literally means “in front of 3” this refers to an ambiguous leniency in the laws of lashon hara. It is based on a Gemara in Bava Basra 39a, in the name of Rabba bar Rav Huna who says that anything said in front of 3 people is not considered lashon hara. The Chofetz Chaim makes it very clear that the bigger the crown the worse the lashon hara is. He proves it through logic and sources in the Sifri and other gemaras.
The Chofetz Chaim spends a lot of time elaborating on explaining what the Gemara in Bava Basra is talking about, going through all the Rishonim in order so that no one will be mistakenly think that it is straight out permissible to talk lashon hara in front of 3 people with no strings attached.
He starts with the Rashbam who says that it is certainly prohibited to say anything bad about anyone in front of 3 but once it was said any one of the 3 can repeat it to the one it was talked about because since it was said in front of 3 it is definite that it will get back to him anyway. I had a question why it would be permitted to tell the guy talked about since we learned that reinforcing what he already know is still bad like rubbing salt on an open wound?
Tosfos on 39b sounds like he is saying that even the one speaking the lashon hara is permitted in front of at least 3 because since word spreads n that dynamic it is like he said it to his face. The Chofetz Chaim had a lot of difficulty understanding what this means since you certainly can’t lie, that is motzie Shem ra, and even the truth, if said to his face is forbidden and a person who causes a public embarrassment has no share in the World to Come! Just calling him names has the same issue and even if we say if a guy is insulted he is allowed to insult back, so if he hears what the speaker said and told 3 people a response so they can now report it back to the speaker. That also doesn’t work because one can only respond to being insulted in public and to the guys face at the moment of insult and this is after the fact even if his response is considered to the insulter’s face, it is still lashon hara because the timing is off. So we are left with not understanding what Tosfos is saying and when exactly does the leniency of apei tlasa apply, to be continued…
The last Halacha in
this chapter talks about not saying lashon hara about others even if you
include yourself in what negative thing happened, and even if you were really
talking negatively about yourself but you compare yourself to others either
saying you are like them or even saying you are worse but they still are bad,
that is still lashon hara about them and forbidden to say. Hashem was able to
forgive what the prophet Yeshaya said about himself but not the fact that he
demeaned the rest of the nation in the process, even though he had no intent of
demeaning them. (See Yeshayahu 6:5, 6 with Rashi there.) For example one
shouldn’t tell his friends or parents I failed my test but others did too and
others got Ds while the smartest ones aced it. You can say I failed and I don’t
know how the others did or just stay quiet about the others if anyone asks how
the test went.