B’ezras Hashem next week I hope to finish the first part of Sefer Chofetz Chaim, the laws of lashon hara, and the week after starting the laws of rechilus.
Now that there is a permissibility to speak out in order to help the victims or for the sake of the truth to keep people away from doing this sin we have to. be super careful to meet the 7 rules stated in the beginning of the chapter which we’ll review now, but as an introduction you must first make sure the perpetrator didn’t do Teshuva and fix the problem then to speak out you have to meet the 7 prerequisites.
1. You had to have seen the incident yourself and not know of it from secondhand information because we know someone was damaged, but do you really know who did the damage.
2. You have to do investigation to make sure the perpetrator had no justification for what he did, whether it’s stealing, hurting, or embarrassing someone etc. And the investigation must be through the lenses of halacha to see if he is really guilty or not. This is the hardest rule to get around because people very easily make justification that they know what they saw and understand what happened and know they are right, so it’s very easy to fall into the trap of lashon hara and tell others what happened for the sake of help, but they might have overlooked something.
3. If you think you can confront the perpetrator and resolve the issues you must do that before telling anyone. The Rambam and other Rishonim say this is the classical and simple application of the verse in the Torah of “You shall rebuke someone of your nation” (Vayikra 19:17).
4. Be very sure that the entire story you are telling is the truth without any trace of lie. One exaggeration whether adding something or leaving a fact onto matter how small might change the outlook of the listeners. Even if he is for sure guilty but he might not be as bad as your exaggeration implies so it’s a big sin of lashon hara to add or even subtract a detail that might change the impression people will have about the perpetrator.
5. Your purpose in sharing the information must be a positive one which is really the basis for this entire permissibility of speaking out. An added valid excuse to talk to someone is if one as to vent and get something off his chest if he has worries or anxiety in his or her heart, as Chaza”l say in Yoma 75a that if one has worries in his hear he should speak it out with others.
6. If you can resolve the problem in some other way without telling anyone what happened then it’s forbidden to speak out. Even if you can resolve the issue with minimal guilt by not making the perpetrator look as bad as he really is then it’s a mitzvah to minimize the issue as long as the issue is fully resolved and won’t happen again. It’s a mitzvah, a nice thing to minimize guilt an example of this is in Choshen Mishpat 421:13 but it’s not an obligation because there is nowhere in Shas which clearly says minimizing guilt is the same as hiding it totally in regard to lashon hara.
7. You have to make sure that by speaking out to resolve the issue the perpetrator would not be punished more than what he would deserve if taken to court. However, if the perpetrator is very stubborn and he wouldn’t listen to Jewish courts then only with the consent and with the advice of Jewish courts one is allowed to take him to a non-Jewish court to fix the issue, see Choshen Mishpat 26:2.
The Chofetz Chaim warns that we see from all this that one is in great peril when he is faced with the position that he has to speak out because it’s very easy to mess up and speak lashon hara especially in terms of making sure you are correct about what you saw, and you don’t exaggerate one iota. This is what the pasuk in Mishlei 18:21 means that “Death and life is in the hands of the tongue.” One must think through and review in his head what he is going to say and how he is going to say it to be sure he meets all the rules because on the spur of the moment it is very easy to speak out angrily in this highly tenuous situation and slip up without thinking and be sure that you are only speaking out for the betterment of good and that’s all.