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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.