Today we began the laws of avak lashon
hara, which literally means the dust of lashon. They are statements that might
not sound so negative but it references or lead to discussing lashon hara.
Some examples are:
1. “Wow, I am amazed how far he
has come!” This implies he is doing great now but not so great in the past
and could lead to inquiries of what he used to do.
2. “Shhhhh, I’d rather not talk about
him.” If someone asks you about someone and you answer like this then it’s
obvious something is wrong. It’s better say I don’t know, all is fine, or just
change the subject. This admittingly is obviously not easy and it takes a lot
of stealth and creativity to avoid this type of lashon hara.
3. “I don’t want to tell you what
happened or what will be with so and so.” Obviously, something is up and
by say that you are prodding him on to wonder what really happened. Better not
to say anything or at least try to say a pareve statement like all is fine or
nothing happened. Of course, this is assuming there is really no constructive
reason to say anything.
4. One should talk the praise of
someone in front of others who don’t like the subject being talked about
because they will start bashing the one you praised. Besides the prohibition of
avak lashon hara you also transgress lifnei iver, placing a stumbling block in
front of the blind.
person has to know or figure out before you praise someone if the person you
are talking to has any qualms against the subject. For example, if you know a
person dislikes a rabbi or judge, for example if he has ruled against him in
the past, you can’t go over to him and ask how your new court case went,
especially if he just walked out of court because if it did not go in his favor
he’ll blow up and you were the cause of him ranting and speaking lashon hara.
line, if you want to talk about someone with someone else, even if what you tell
is not lashon hara but you can figure out that he is not on good terms with the subject and the conversation will lead to lashon hara, you are forbidden to start the conversation.
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.