Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 8 halacha 14

Concluding this chapter the Chofetz Chaim warns that it doesn’t make a difference whether someone else or anyone in your household is speaking lashon hara, even your parents you can’t just accept what they said if it is lashon hara.

What’s worse, the Tanna Divei Eliyahu in chapter 21 says if one hears his parents say lashon hara or any other inappropriate speech and acts as if he doesn’t hear them then there is a severe punishment that you all will not fill up your days and years, not necessarily that you’ll die before your time but you might not be able to live life to the fullest. Meaning, maybe a person will get a stroke and won’t be able to function for many years but if he would have stopped this speech in his house then he would have had all his strength and faculties even in his old age until he dies.

However, the Chofetz Chaim is very careful to emphasize that when one rebukes his parents or even anyone in his household it should be done with soft language and emphasizing the severity of the punishment for speaking lashon hara and the reward in the World to Come for not speaking.

Also, the Chofetz Chaim emphasizes that you shouldn’t yell at your parents for transgressing the Torah rather you respectfully and gently say something like “even if what you are saying is true the Torah still says it’s never right to speak lashon hara about your friend” or judge favorably the person being talked about until the speaker will stop talking the evil speech.

Practically speaking the truth is this is very hard to do however by building awareness of the issue hopefully it will deter others especially those in your household from talking lashon hara. For example, putting literature about lashon hara on your coffee table which they can pick up and read on their own if they wish. It might get them curious and eventually more careful of the issue. Also, if you can slip into a conversation about how terrible slander in the media and Politics has become in our world today, people can relate to how detrimental it is, destroying people’s lives and making everyone feel bad they might get the message that slander can be harmful even in our day-to-day life with our friends and those around us. This way making subtle impacts on our family. Another idea might be to start reading the Chofetz Chaim lesson a day at the dinner table or at least on Shabbos with the family together which raises awareness.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 8 halachos 12, 13

Halacha 12: As bad as it is to speak badly about your fellow Jew in front of other Jews it is worse to speak about your fellow Jew in front of non-Jews because there is at least a very good chance other Jews won’t accept what you say or ar least judge the victim favorably but a non-Jew will most likely immediately believe what you say especially if a Jew is willing to speak about another Jew in that fashion it must be true and will spread the world and might even harm the Jew spoken about. What’s worse is if a Jew rattles on a fellow Jew to non-Jews and gets him in trouble. This is so bad that it is equated with someone who denies the Torah and Hashem. The Chofetz Chaim notes that it’s known even back in his time of people who would hire false witnesses and tattletale on their friends as a form of extortion to extricate money from them unlawfully in non-Jewish courts.

Halacha 13: In terms of accepting lashon hara the general rule is you cannot accept any lashon hara as truth about any Jew accept about an apikores and one who tattles on his fellow Jew to non-Jews. Bottom line any Jews which loses his status of being included in “your nation” one can believe lashon hara about them. Even two parties in a fight which you are allowed to SPEAK lashon hara about if it will quiet down the argument, does not mean those listening can accept the lashon hara said as absolute truth, unless it is obvious that it is the truth and by accepting it as true it will help to stop the argument.

Another topic the Chofetz Chaim brought up in a footnote is the issue of making fun of others, i.e., mockery. People tend to make fun of others in very subtle ways so that the victim won’t necessarily pick up on what he said and take revenge and on top of that, the slyer he is the more impressed people will be at his quip and think he’s a smart comedian which will egg him on to say more and make the victim look really bad. There are a number of prohibitions that go along with this issue.

1. Leitzanus: One is forbidden to make a mockery in a negative sense.

2. Onaas Devarim: It’s prohibitive to say things that make people feel bad.

3. Those that listen and laugh are spitting Hashem.

4. Those that stand by and say nothing don’t perform the mitzvah of rebuke.

5. They are also transgressing Flattering a bad person.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 8 halachos 10, 11

Halacha 10: You may not speak lashon hara to anyone whether it’s a non-relative or relative unless it’s for a positive reason. For example, you can tell your wife that it might not be a good idea to lend anything to a certain person but he or she is known not to give or pay it back. The same is true with two business partners or the like, one can tell the other that it might not be wise to do business with this certain person because he’s not going to pay you. Even if you don’t know firsthand of this problem but you have heard rumors you can still tell them to be careful because they aren’t allowed to believe what you say, just be concerned and take proper precautions. That being said you should tell them in a way that will make it sound possible and therefore be cautious but not decisive so that they will feel they can actually believe you. An example in Chazal of this type of warning is in Kiddushin 52b where the students of Rebbe Meir was warned not to enter a certain area because people might start up with them. The Chofetz Chaim bemoans that many people confuse this halacha and talks about his day with his wife including about people that started up with him in yeshiva or work. Besides the lashon hara being said your wife will most likely take it to heart and will start to not treat this person and his family nicely and she might not only belittle the person who started up with you but she might look down upon you and start making fun of you after a while. This is based on an Avos diRebbe Nosson 7:3 which says that you shouldn’t talk too much with your wife which refers to not telling her all that happened to you during your day because it will just cause fights and she will look down upon the person who started up with you and will look down upon you as well. Even if she will find out eventually what happened you shouldn’t say anything because the victim tends to exaggerate.

Halacha 11: No difference who you speak in front of whether it’s a non-relative or even a relative, a brother should not even talk about another brother in front of his parents unless he rebuked him first and the brother didn’t listen, or he knows the brother won’t listen to him but might listen to his parent to change his bad ways. We know this from the case of Yosef and his brothers. Yosef was punished measure for measure for speaking lashon hara about his brothers to his father, even though he did it so that their father will rebuke them. And although he got it wrong and really, they were doing nothing wrong so he was punished for not looking more into the matter. However, the Chofetz Chaim says it’s true that even for bad things your siblings really did you shouldn’t run to your parents to tattletale if you can fix the issue yourself.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 8 halacha 9

There is a very ancient decree and excommunication on those who speak lashon hara about the dead. Whether the person was a simpleton and all the more so if he was a sage. Insulting and degrading a sage himself is bad all the more so if talking badly about the Torah thoughts he has spoken or written about.

There are many times in Shas and the poskim that they insult each other, and the Chavas Yair explains many if the examples in Shas of why it’s not lashon hara or insulting each other. For example, Rav Sheshes told Rav it sounds like you were just dozing off and sleeping. He wasn’t saying this as an insult, on the contrary it was a praise because normally Rav was very sharp and it must have been that if he missed something he must have fallen asleep. Another example is when Rebbe said to Levi that it seems you have no brains in your skull. Now, Levi was a student of Rebbe and Rebbe was rebuking his student to work and think harder. The Rambam and Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 246:11) learn from here that a Rebbe should speak harshly to his students if he is feeling it will encourage and inspire them to work harder, not out of anger or haughtiness, but rather a drive to make sure they toughen up if it looks like they are being lazy.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 8 halacha 8

Based on a Yerushalmi in Peah 1:1 which the Smag brings down in his mitzvos and the Hghos Maimoni mentions but the Rif, Rosh, and Rambam leave out so the Chofetz Chaim just says this is according to one opinion, that it is permissible to speak lashon hara about an argument ensuing but only if the purpose of speaking lashon hara is to diffuse the argument by applying pressure to one side or both sides to break up the fight.

The source of this is by King David when he appointed Shlomo to take over the kingship and Adoniyahu started a fight vying for the kingship. Someone told King David about it and he immediately diffused the argument. Also, Moshe sent a messenger to Dasan and Aviram who started a rebellion and the messenger reported back to Moshe in order to squelch the argument. But it might be there that because there was already a rebellion ensuing then obviously the messenger could tell Moshe. But we see from here that the messenger of the court can report back even lashon hara to the court in order to enforce order.

But there are 3 conditions before speaking lashon hara:

1. You have to have seen the argument ensuing first hand or if you just heard of it second hand you have to have clarified the truth to be sure there is really and argument ensuing.

2. Your purpose for speaking out, and maybe even taking sides must be only good intentions, to break up the fight, but you can’t say anything if it’s said out of hatred.

3. If there is a way to break up the fight without speaking lashon hara, for example approaching them and rebuking them that is better unless it will stoke the coals and worsen the fight.

 However, one has to be very very very careful to thoroughly and clearly go through the matter to make sure you are clear what is happening before taking sides and speaking out in order to order to pressure the argument to stop because even if one step was overlooked it could change everything and backfire. 

Especially if the one talking out is a rabbi of clout, it can cause a big chillul Hashem, besides the lashon hara, and making the matter worse so in that case it’s better to just be passive, stay quiet and don’t act.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 8 halacha 7

If a person Is known to be a “bad guy” then you are allowed to speak lashon hara against him in order keep others away from him and not learn from his ways and hopefully he might repent as well if he sees so many people speaking out against him. Just be sure to say this lashon hara only for the sake of spreading the truth not to benefit, be it fame or fortune, when spreading this lashon hara, neither out if hatred for the guy.

What is considered a rasha status, a “bad guy” status? It is a person that habitually or many times committed a sin that everyone knows is wrong, like murder, adultery, or robbery, and even if it’s a minor sin, like a rabbinic prohibition, for example the gemara in Shabbos 40a discusses a case where the rabbis enacted that people cannot go into a sauna on Shabbos because people used to take hot baths on Shabbos from water heated up from before Shabbos and then it was discovered that bath house attendants use that the water on Shabbos so the rabbis forbade it then people use to make believe they went to saunas on Shabbos really going to the bathhouse so that became forbidden too. Rava said that whoever disobeys this enactment is a rasha and people could spread lashon hara about him. Because everyone knew about this enactment and people still disobeyed then lashon hara can be said against them to be sure no one else follows suit but a person who is in a habit of committing non-famous sins then know can say lashon hara about him because maybe he just doesn’t know any better. This person must be known throughout the city as a “bad guy” not just rumors and you can’t exaggerate more then what you know he does. Bottom line honesty and for the sake of truth is the key.

The Chofetz Chaim concludes that even though this halacha might create an excuse for those who constantly speak lashon hara to brand others wicked and have an excuse to spread more lashon hara but he still felt he must write down this halacha for the sake of the truth and he quoted a verse in Hoshea14:10 “For the ways of Hashem are straight and the righteous walk within them and the sinners stumble within them.”

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 8 halachos 5,6

The prohibition of lashon hara only applies to someone who is considered “part of your nation” which excludes an apikores. An apikores is someone who denies the entire Torah came from Hashem or even doesn’t believe that one mitzvah or one drasha, like a kal vachomer or gezeila shava comes from Hashem. Now the avos diRebbe Nosson (16:5) says “A person can’t say I only love rabbis but simpletons (am haaratzim) I don’t love. You have to love every Jew besides an apikores and people who convince others to sin, as King David said, ‘Those that Hashem hates I hate’ (Tehillim 139:21).” An apikores is hated by Hashem because he willfully acknowledges Hashem’s Torah and denies it so it is permissible to speak out against him and degrade him to his face and behind his back since the verse says these prohibitions only apply to those who are acting within “your nation” but a non-observant Jew who doesn’t know any better, he’s a simpleton, who doesn’t know or understand the severity of Torah life should be loved by every Jew just like Hashem loves them and one cannot speak lashon hara about them.

One must have heard himself, blasphemous talk coming out of the mouth of the would be apikores to be allowed to speak out against him or if it is known everywhere, at least throughout the city, that a certain person or group is an apikores then it’s permissible to speak out against them, for example Jews for Jesus or, an extreme example, Hitler and Nazis who everyone agrees they were bad. But if you heard secondhand information that someone might be an apikores then you are allowed to take precautions and even tell others to stay easy from him for them until it’s confirmed but you can’t just speak out in public against them until verified.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 8 halachos 2-4

Who can you not speak lashon hara about:

Halacha 2: You can’t speak lashon hara about men or women even your wife because it says, “Don’t be a tale bearer amongst your nation” your wife and all other wives are still part of “your nation”. There is another proof that you cannot say lashon hara about your wife unless there is a productive reason because there is a prohibition of motzi shem ra, if the newly wed husband claims his wife isn’t a virgin so only deserves 100 and not 200 for the kesuba then if he is right that ok but if he is wrong because he can’t prove it then the Torah finds him for saying lashon hara about his wife. The Chofetz Chaim goes on to say that it was unfortunately prevalent in his day that many people spoke lashon hara about their wives or in laws in front of their brothers and father’s house which he said is absolutely forbidden unless there is some constructive purpose.

Halacha 3: sometimes it is forbidden to talk lashon hara about children. For example if the are orphans and speaking out against them might cause physical or emotional harm, for example there foster parents will kick them out of the house or orphans have more sensitive feelings but if they need to be taught a lesson then you can tell on them so that they will be reprimanded but only if you know they won’t be too severely punished. The Chofetz Chaim does say that even though the example he gives is of an orphan child that is the most prevalent of issues with lashon hara about children but if any physical, monetary, or emotional harm would happen to any child then lashon hara shouldn’t be spoken. What he means is that, for example, if a child was caught coloring on the wall most people will just laugh it off, he’s a child, he doesn’t know better he just has to be taught not to do it, he’ll grow up one day. That is why many times there is not an issue of lashon hara with children. If an adult would do such a thing that would be a crime called graffiti. Of course as was said if harm is done by saying the lashon hara of course it should not be said and now a days we have to be cognizant of the fact that emotional stability is very fragile. My Rosh Yeshiva zt”l, Rav Henoch Leibowitz use to say that back in the early 1900s Americans were like cobwebs now a days we are like tissue paper. Halacha 4: If a person is an on ha’aretz, a simpleton, not learned, he is still Jewish and one cannot speak lashon hara about him but certainly if he is a rabbi or sage it is even worse because one must show more respect to the sage, respect to the learned is respect to the Torah but even worse if lashon hara was spoken about the rabbi then people who ask him questions or go to his shiurim might stop and that will cause them to make up their own observance of Torah and ultimately a new religion because they feel they can’t trust there Rabbi who is learned.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim Chapter 8 Halacha 1

The Chofetz Chaim introduces the 8th chapter with the caveat that anything that sounds simple has to be brought up anyways either because it fits better in the flow or because needs reminders and reiteration so that they won’t make mistakes, in any event their is usually something new that comes out in the end. He begins the chapter with saying that speaking lashon hara applies to both men and women even with relatives and even if you are talking about relatives and they don’t care what you say because we’re all family still it’s lashon hara because you might’ve come to conclusions to quick. This happens to be true about lashon hara on the topic of things done between man and his fellow man, where you can’t come to conclusions you have to question and prove first. But if you saw something wrong being done between man and Hashem then even if you did come to the right conclusion you can’t say it to anyone else because there is no purpose unless you think this is the only way to correct his folly by having someone else go over to him and help him.

The Chofetz Chaim in his Be’er Mayim Chaim explains that this halacha is based on the episodes of Yosef and his brothers as well as Miriam talking to Aharon about Moshe. The Sifri says that when Miriam told Aharon about Moshe separating from his wife the purpose was to go over to him and rebuke him. She even praised Moshe granting that he was a greater prophet than them but is he holier than our forefathers who had prophecy and stayed married. She did this for the sake of the mitzvah of having children, totally pure intentions, yet she was punished. Why was she punished? Because she came to conclusions to quickly. Her attitude should not have been Moshe is wrong and we have to rebuke him rather it should have been something doesn’t look right why don’t we ask him what’s wrong and clarify the issue. A change of perspective and attitude could be the difference of Whether it’s lashon hara or not. Also, even though Moshe Rabbeinu didn’t care one iota what was said because he is so humble, he wasn’t insulted in any way, still it is lashon hara.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 7, halachos 13, 14

We finished the 7th chapter of Chofetz Chaim laws if lashon hara today. There are times when a court is allowed to take action into their own hands and beat someone to admit to a crime but that is only when it is clear to the victim and the court that this is the would be burglar, for example if the victim runs into court and tells the judges he has circumstantial evidence that so and so stole from him and the court sees the evidence and it makes sense or there are witnesses that the evidence seem to be true then the court can take action in order for the thief to admit guilt. The case we had last week of Mar Zutra hitting his household member in order to admit wrongdoing because he was accused of stealing a silver goblet from a guest because he was caught drying his hands on someone’s clothes was a very special circumstance where he knew it could only have been someone in his household who was the perpetrator and everyone else were not suspicious and had an assumed presumption of honest therefore even though the fact the guy wiped his hand on someone’s shirt is only slight evidence but now that this narrowed down the possibilities it was strong enough evidence to act upon. But in general, to just rely on a claim that a victim has and his suspicions is not allowed because the perpetrator could be anyone in the city so you need clear evidence to act. It is inappropriate for an individual or even the city council or police to act solely on the claim and suspicions of a victim. Concrete evidence must be submitted to the courts and they can take action if needed to force admission to a crime.