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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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. |
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.