Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 6, halacha 11, footnote 30

The Chofetz Chaim says there are many details defining what being concerned over lashon hara might mean which will be discussed in more detail in the last chapter, but the general rule is that you can take proper precautions to defend yourself or others but under no means are you allowed to take any actions against him, whether physically hurt the potential threat or disgrace and embarrass him in any way as long as it is unclarified.

The Chofetz Chaim brings down a responsa from the Mahari”k (chapter 188) which is a live illustration of going beyond being concerned. There a story a poor old Jew named Reb Aharon Ruskia who a woman spread rumors that he was adulterous with her and people ran him out of town by publicly embarrassing him and not even allowing him to get an aliyah in shul. When the Mahari”k heard about this he was furious and said it’s a great sin to believe this cursed woman! A person who embarrasses and denigrates a descendant of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, treating him lightly in your eyes, is considered disgusting in the “eyes” of Hashem and will be greatly punished! There is no worse embarrassment then what was done to Reb Aharon, the way he was treated by not giving him an aliyah. Furthermore, the Gemara in Bava Metzia 58b proves from the episode of King Dovid and Batsheva, when Doeg and Achitofel tried talking out and embarrassing King Dovid in public, that embarrassing someone in public is worse than adultery. For King Dovid said, even if I was adulterous (which he wasn’t) then that deserves the capital punishment of strangulation but still he would a get a share in the World to Come but one who embarrasses another in public has no share in the World to Come (if he doesn’t repent before he dies.) Therefore, you have to be very careful and thoroughly check out the matter before you come to conclusions that a person did a wrongdoing which deserves such severe punishment like public excommunication.

Being concerned for what you heard does not mean to be on the offensive and taking action against the would-be perpetrator, it only means to be on the defensive. One must be very carefully when telling others of a possible threat to be sure they will just listen and take precautions on the defensive because if you see they will go on the offensive then you cannot warn then since the whole reason you are allowed to warn then is because of the verse “Love your neighbor as yourself” just as you would not want any harm done to yourself then you should inform others who might be in harm’s way. However, if you know the people you will tell will go on the offensive and hurt or embarrass the would-be offender then why should his blood be any redder than their blood and the mitzvah of “Love your neighbor as yourself” will apply to the possible offender because he might be a threat to others, but they are definitely going to be a threat to him so it’s better. It to tell them anything.

Bottom line you can only be concerned about lashon hara you heard to be on the defensive but not to act on the offensive.

Kedoshim – It All Leads Back to the Same Source

For Food for Thought in Spanish: Haga clic aquí para leer en español. Please share this with your Jewish Spanish speaking family, friends, and associates.

This week’s Food for Thought is dedicate in memory of a 4 year old boy,  Chizkiyahu Nachshon Meir ben Tzvi Ariel, who completed his mission in  life an succumbed to cancer on his birthday, Monday. He was buried in Tzfas by his parents, Reb Tzvi and Temima Eckhardt. Reb Tzvi used to be part of the CITE Chofetz Chaim Alumni Mussar Chabura, may we only share in simchas in the future! 

Now for some food for thought:

The duty of our heart is one of the main themes of this week’s Torah portion of Kedoshim. The portion begins: “Speak to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for holy am I, Hashem, your G-D” (Vayikra 19:2). A number of pesukim later, while discussing the fundamentals of interpersonal relationships, the Torah writes: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall reprove your fellow and do not bear a sin because of him. You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a grudge against the members of your people; you shall love your fellow as yourself, I am Hashem” (Vayikra 19:17, 18).
The Ibn Ezra makes a fundamental observation into two of these pesukim. He says that the pasuk of “You shall not hate your brother” is the opposite of “you shall love your fellow as yourself.” He further says that behold, these mitzvos are implanted in one’s heart. By observing them we can stay settled in The Land of Israel, for as we know, it was because of baseless hatred the Second Beis HaMikdash was destroyed. The pasuk continues: “you shall reprove your fellow,” which the Ibn Ezra explains  the reason for reproof, is because maybe you suspect him of some wrongdoing, which didn’t happen. The Ibn Ezra concludes that this is the reason why the pasuk ends by saying: “and do not bear a sin because of him;” because there will be punishment on you for what you thought about him. (Click here for Hebrew text.)

In the next pasuk the Ibn Ezra first points out that the explanations of “don’t take revenge” or “bear a grudge” can be found in Chaza”l (see Rashi on this pasuk.) Then he brings two definitions of “you shall love your fellow as yourself.” Many people say that the letter lamed in the pasuk is extra, like the “lamed” in “L’Avner” (Shmuel Beis 3:30), meaning, ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ However the Ibn Ezra personally says: “I believe it is as it sounds as it is that one should love the good that comes to his friend just as if it happened to him.” And the reason the pasuk concludes “I am Hashem” is because “I am the one G-D, I created all of you.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)

The Ibn Ezra is explaining to us a major rule in the Torah! The punishment for this sin, as we experienced, is destruction and exile. The positive and negative mitzvos he says are total opposites. If you read the Ibn Ezra’s commentary closely, he seems to be explaining that these two pesukim are explaining each mitzvah from beginning to end. “You shall not hate your brother in your heart,” refers to baseless hatred, which  happens if one is quick to judgement and dislikes a person for doing things, whether to that individual or in general, that are not good. One might feel he wants to take revenge for that wrongdoing or at least bear a grudge against him or her; but what he has a mitzvah to do,and is supposed to do is confront the person and question what happened, because perhaps the suspicion was inaccurate. On the other hand, many people say that the positive mitzvah is to love your fellow as yourself. You wouldn’t want people to suspect you of doing something you didn’t, and you certainly don’t want others to bear a grudge or, worse, take revenge upon you.

These opposite mitzvos make sense, but the Ibn Ezra says he has a different understanding of “Loving your fellow as yourself,” which is to love the good things that come to your fellow as if they were yours, the same way you would appreciate the good that happens to you. Meaning, the Ibn Ezra’s focus of loving your fellow is not on how to treat the person, but how to treat his possessions or good tidings. How does that fit with being the opposite of not hating your brother in your heart, which seems to be clearly talking about how not to treat the individual himself, rather than his possessions or good tidings? Why does the Ibn Ezra call them opposite mitzvos?
The Ibn Ezra seems to be tying the last part of the pasuk with the middle saying, that the means to appreciate the good that others have received is through introspection and the realization that you and him or her both come from the same source. The One Hashem created both of you. It would seem natural that if a person truly realizes and feels this bond and relationship with his fellow Jew, a commonality of sorts that we all come from the same source, then inherently we will care about our fellow Jew and his possessions or good tidings as if they are our very own.

On the other hand, the opposite could also happen. If we don’t imbibe the deep faith that we are all created from the same source, then we can come to view our fellow Jew as someone different, a stranger, and people inherently have a disconnect that leads to hatred for one’s fellow man. Ideally viewing ourselves from the same source will save us from this inner hatred but if the hatred seeps in the Torah gives us a solution to get rid of it by telling us to confront the individual and rebuke him or her. In this way it will resolve any issues or friction against him or her.

In fact we can now appreciate the severity of each mitzvah and why transgressing them can lead to destruction and exile; for observing the mitzvah of loving one’s fellow is living by the belief that we are all created from one G-D, and we have a mitzvah to feel and live that way amongst our fellow Jew. However, G-D forbid we don’t live our lives in that manner, then our feeling is a disconnect which is like we came from more than one source, chas vishalom, the polar opposite.

The Ibn Ezra sums it up nicely in the next pasuk which discusses the prohibition of crossbreeding animals: “And the reason to mention ‘You shall not crossbreed your livestock with different species,’ (Vayikra 19:19) is to warn us that after we are Holy, that we don’t do any corruption toward our fellow man, so to one should not change the way Hashem intended for animals to be made, and this is why that pasuk starts off with, ‘You shall observe My statutes,’ (verse 19).” Everything goes back to the source of Hashem is One with a plan and actions of how He created and expects the world to exist.