Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos lashon hara chapter 10 halachos 16, 17

  Halacha 16: One has to be very careful not to fall into the mistake and think because I found out he spoke lashon hara about me behind my back I can now tell other people that he spoke lashon hara about me behind his back A. You can’t accept the lashon hara that he spoke lashon hara about you as truth. B. Even if it is true that doesn’t give you the right to tell anyone else what they did. Two wrongs don’t make a right!

Halacha 17: The last halacha ends with what might be the most common scenario of lashon hara. Reuvain asked Shimon, “who did it?” Suspecting he did it. Still, it’s not so easy to say he can reveal who did it, rather Shimon should say “I didn’t do it.” However, if Reuvain can figure out who did it if you say I didn’t do it because the choice is only two perpetrators then it gets more complicating. First off, we have to clarify that in situations where a real sin was done between man and his fellow man and retribution is needed or the perpetrator has to be stopped from doing the sin and all the prerequisites are met then of course you can tell who did it. Even in cases of a sin between man and Hashem and all the prerequisites are met then of course you can tell who did it. The scenario where the Chofetz Chaim says you have to say, “I didn’t do it” and not say who did it is when the issue is a gray area which not everyone would say is a problem, for example Reuvain says who call Jamal a black man they should have referred to him as an African American. If Shimon feels he is being blamed, he can say I didn’t do it. Just because someone asks you a question that does not mean you have to give an answer even if you saw and know what happened, even you feel they are trying to put the blame on you. Again, if it is a real black and white problem which has to be fixed then you can say I didn’t do it even if there is only two possibilities of who did and you said I didn’t but if the problem isn’t black and white then it’s not so simple to say I don’t know, because automatically the other will be at fault for what the speaker claims is a problem in his eyes what should you do? The Shulchan Aruch in Choshen Mishpat 384:2 in the Rema it says if you see damage going to happen to you it is permissible to save yourself from it even though by doing so you might cause damage to others. The Sem”a says that if the damage has already happened to you, you can’t get out of it at the expense of someone else. The Gr”a agrees with the Sem”a. This applies to physical damages as well as psychological damage therefore in terms of our situation of verbal abuse where a person decides someone did something wrong and he confronts him to see if actually did it it’s possible that one is forbidden to say who really did it because the damage is already done since in his eyes you are the culprit if not it might be permissible to deflect blame, but the Chofetz Chaim concludes that he is unsure of this matter. All this is in a situation where a third party is trying to figure out what happened if the victim is trying to figure out who did or said something, that will be discussed in the next volume, 9:14,15 of hilchos rechilus. Also, all thus is according to the strict letter of the law, but a person of higher standards should go beyond the letter when possible and take the blame on himself rather than someone becoming embarrassed even if the other person is the guilty party. Two examples of this are found in Sanhedrin 11a where Rabban Gamliel asked for 7 people to get together early with him and 8 showed up. He said whoever was invited walk out and Shnuel Hakatan walked out even though he was invited in order not to embarrass the uninvited. Another time Rebbe was giving shiur and he smelled a strong stench of garlic and he said who ever Ate garlic walk out. Rebbe Chiya got up and walked out and then everyone else followed suit. Rebbe Shimon the son of Rebbe asked Rebbe Chiya if he really was the one who caused his father anguish and Rebbe Chiya responded, no, chas vishalom.

The Chofetz Chaim concludes this volume on the laws of lashon hara with a statement from the Sefer Chasidim (chapter 22): “If one is in a group and one person did something inappropriate, but no one knows who the perpetrator is, one should say I am the guilty party, even though he didn’t do it etc.

We have concluded the first volume of Sefer Chofetz Chaim!