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.
(2) Sotah 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 not.
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!