Sefer Chofetz Chaim Perek 2, Halacha 2, Note 2

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.

Chapter 2 Halacha 1 (part 1)

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…

Chapter 1 Halachos 1-3

Chapter 1 end of halacha 1 – 3

End of halacha 1: There is a discussion amongst the Rishonim whether lashon hara and rechilus are all part of one verse of לא תלך רכיל בעמיך or is rechilus (tattletale) is worse than lashon hara (slander) and lashon hara is learned from לא תשא שמה שוא and although we should not need a verse for rechilus because we can learn it out from a Kal vachomer (fortiori) from lashon hara however the Torah goes out of its way to have a separate verse for rechilus in order so that the court can give lashes to one who falsely slanders someone else. Another ramification of the extra verse “Don’t walk as a tale bearer amongst your people” is that the prohibition starts even before one actually speaks lashon hara rather when he is walking to do the sin it starts. 
Halacha 2: A reminder that other prohibitions like revenge,hating someone in one’s heart etc. can be transgressed while speaking lashon hara. 
Halacha 3: A person who habitually speaks lashon hara is in a whole new realm called a “baal lashon hara” he or she goes around collecting info about people and then sits around with a crowd talking slander every day. This type of person is viewed as someone who spites Hashem and his Torah because he doesn’t just sin every once in a while but premeditatedly sins every day by creating groups of shmuzzers to speak loshon hara and rechilus.

Chapter 1 Halacha 1

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!  

Prohibitions 16-17

#16: “לא תחניפו את הארץ” This is a prohibition against flattery. It could apply to both the speaker and listener.
People who speak loshon hara might do it to find favor and flatter the listener. The person listening flatters the one who speaks loshon hara if he nodded his head in acquiescence or added a few words that adds to the slander. This sin’s severity causes Hashem’s Holy Presence to leave the Jews and it was one of the causes of the exile after the Second Temple was destroyed when the Sages flattered King Agripus.

#17 ״לא תקלל חרש״ A prohibition against cursing your fellow even if he is deaf or not present and all the more so if he can hear you curse him. Though this is not a part of lashon hara but many times when one gets angry and starts speaking lashon hara it leads to cursing the one he is speaking about.