To function properly, a modern society requires a relatively free flow of important information. However, Judaism prohibits repetition of damaging information, even if it is true, as Lashon Ha-Ra. How can a political candidate campaign for office if he is unable to say, for example, that his opponent is underqualified? How can a newspaper report on a candidate’s misdeeds, relevant as they may be? While we intuitively see the importance of responsible negative speech in such circumstances, of voters’ and constituents’ “right to know,” we need to frame such an attitude within halakhic parameters.

Lashon Ha-Ra and Political Campaigns

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

I. Lashon Ha-Ra in Modern Society

To function properly, a modern society requires a relatively free flow of important information. However, Judaism prohibits repetition of damaging information, even if it is true, as Lashon Ha-Ra. How can a political candidate campaign for office if he is unable to say, for example, that his opponent is underqualified? How can a newspaper report on a candidate’s misdeeds, relevant as they may be? While we intuitively see the importance of responsible negative speech in such circumstances, of voters’ and constituents’ “right to know,” we need to frame such an attitude within halakhic parameters.

Two avenues of Jewish law offer promise. The first is that of to’eles (benefit). Within certain other conditions, lashon ha-ra is permitted when there is a clear benefit to its recipients. While this category of permission requires further refinement before broad application, it seems like an important and relevant qualification to the laws of lashon ha-ra.

Another avenue is that of nisparsem ha-davar (already publicized). Once negative information has already been widely disseminated, there may be room to allow further publicization since, more or less, “everyone knows it.” Recent responsa and articles in Israel have advanced such a thesis (see Be-Mareh Ha-Bazak, vol. 6 no. 96 n. 1 – PDF; R. Shlomo Aviner, She’eilas Shlomo, vol. 3 no. 485; R. Azriel Ariel, Lashon Ha-Ra Be-Ma’arekhes Tziburis Demokratis” in Tzohar, no. 5 – PDF). However, with a good deal of trepidation, I respectfully dissent from this view.

II. Already Publicized

The arguments are strong to permit repetition of damaging information that is already well known. R. Yisrael Meir Kagan, in his classic work on the laws of forbidden speech, Chafetz Chaim, repeatedly states this leniency explicitly:

  1. In explaining the Talmudic statement that you may call someone a sinner if he violates a rabbinic prohibition (Shabbos 40a), the Chafetz Chaim (part 1, ch. 4 n. 7) asks how we can permit such a blatant violation of lashon ha-ra. He answers that this must refer to someone who violates the rabbinic prohibition publicly. Because such a violation is well known, the prohibition of lashon ha-ra does not apply at all to the information.
  2. Similarly, the Talmud (Pesachim 112b) tells how R. Yehudah Ha-Nassi referred to residents of one town as “scoffers.” How, the Chafetz Chaim (ibid., n. 41) asks, can such a negative declaration be permitted? He answers that since their behavior was well known, one is entirely permitted to discuss it.
  3. Similarly, in explaining the view of Tosafos, the Chafetz Chaim (ibid., ch. 2 n. 1 in parentheses) states that when one person publicly berates another, you are allowed to relay that information because lashon ha-ra does not apply to it.
  4. In explaining the view of Rabbenu Yonah, the Chafetz Chaim (ibid., ch. 3 n. 12) suggests that the case in which he permits repeating negative information is one in which the action was done publicly, so the information is already publicized.
  5. The Gemara (Gittin 31b) tells how either Rav Huna or Rav Chisda refused to rise when the Torah scholar Geniva passed, failing to show him respect. He explained to his colleague that Geniva caused fights among scholars and therefore was unworthy of such respect. The Chafetz Chaim (ibid., ch. 8 n. 16 in asterisk), troubled by the negative speech, explained that Geniva’s trouble-making actions were widely known and therefore the criticism was permitted.

The conclusion jumps off the page that repeating widely know information does not fall under the prohibition of lashon ha-ra, yet the issue is not as simple as may seem.

III. In Front of Three

The Chafetz Chaim contains contradictory statements that complicate the matter:

  1. The Chafetz Chaim (ibid., ch. 2 par. 3) discusses the leniency, according to the Rambam and some others, of repeating negative information that is stated in front of three people (be-apei telasa). The assumption is that the information is no longer private and will eventually become widely publicized. However, you may only repeat such information under specific conditions (detailed in subsequent paragraphs), including that you only mention it incidentally and you do not intend to spread the information. How can that be, if public information does not fall under the prohibition of lashon ha-ra? While we can easily distinguish between the cases, further statements reveal that the issue is more complicated.
  2. In paragraph 4 of the chapter, the Chafetz Chaim states that if the information you heard in front of three people becomes well-publicized, you may repeat the name of the person who told you. The wording implies that you may only set aside the condition against repeating the name of the person who told you the information but not the other conditions. Meaning, you may still only mention the information in passing and without intent to spread the information. However, well-publicized information still falls unders the guidelines of apei telasa.
  3. In discussing lashon ha-ra about a child, the Chafetz Chaim (ibid., ch. 8 par. 3) states that guidelines on well-publicized information can be found in ch. 2 par. 3, the section about apei telasa. It does not say that lashon ha-ra does not apply at all but, implicitly, that the above conditions must entail before the information can be repeated.
  4. When discussing the issue of a persistent rumor (yatza kol), the Chafetz Chaim (ibid., ch. 7 par. 4) does not say that the laws of lashon ha-ra do not apply. Rather, readers are directed to the above section of apei telasa and its attendant conditions.
  5. You may not state that someone violates Jewish law, including that he does not learn Torah (Chafetz Chaim, ibid., ch. 4 par. 2). Even though it is generally public information that a person does not learn Torah, you may still only repeat such information under the conditions of apei telasa (ibid., n. 6).

R. Binyamin Cohen, in his Chelkas Binyamin commentary to Chafetz Chaim (part 1, ch. 2 CB n. 10), compiles this list of contradictory rulings and leaves the matter unresolved. I’d like to suggest the following explanation that, I believe, accounts for every case listed above.

IV. Granting Permission

There are two interpersonal elements to lashon ha-ra: damaging the person about whom it is told (i.e. causing negative consequences) and insulting him. Why is information told to three people treated differently than totally private information? The commentators explain that since the information will quickly become public knowledge, your telling it does not harm the individual. The damage has already been set in motion.

Then why can’t you freely repeat the information? Because, I suggest, you are still insulting him. Even if everyone in the world knows about a politician’s marital problems, he will still be hurt when people discuss it. As the Gemara (Bava Metzi’a 58b) says and Rashi explains, you are forbidden to call someone an insulting nickname even if everyone does it and he is used to it (dash beih); frequency does not remove pain but dulls it through surrender. Therefore, you are only allowed to repeat lashon ha-ra that was told to three people under specific circumstances in which you do not intend to hurt the subject. However, if a person indicates that he does not object to the insult, if he forgives and permits it, then others may freely discuss the information. The information no longer falls under the prohibition of lashon ha-ra in any way.

I suggest that the leniency of publicized information (nisparsem ha-davar) only applies to an act committed in front of others. By sinning in public, the actor is declaring that he does not care whether other people know of his infractions. He does not consider discussion of his actions insulting. He gives permission, thereby removing the prohibition of lashon ha-ra. However, when information about a private act is publicized, the prohibition still applies, albeit under the category of apei telasa.

As we review the first list above, we see that all the cases where the prohibition no longer applies (arguably) involve public actions: a public sinner, a city that is publicly full of scoffers, someone who publicly berates others and a scholar who causes fights among and in front of his colleagues. The second list involves acts in general, presumably only private in contrast to those in the prior list (refraining from studying Torah is not an act committed in public).

V. Differences

If all this is correct, then the leniency of publicized information cannot always be used in the public arena. A candidate campaigning for election may freely discuss his opponent’s public actions but may not mention those committed in private, even if widely reported in the media.

Additionally, according to the initial understanding off this subject, you may repeat any information that is well known. Therefore, once the information has left the public arena and has been generally forgotten, you may no longer repeat it. My proposed understanding is that the subject has given permission to others to reveal the information. Presumably, this permission has no time limit.

We began by discussing two avenues of leniency that allow for public discussion within the parameters of the lashon ha-ra laws. The permission of publicized information is more limited than we had initially thought, even if it provides some public leeway. The leniency of public benefit offers another area with rich potential for contemporary application.

(See this post where we explored the issue of public benefit regarding lashon ha-ra in history: link)

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

117 comments

  1. MiMedinat HaYam

    good to see other views than the (establishment interpretation) of the chofetz chaim.

    his views in this matter (esp on “toelet”) was not universally held, but he was the CC ..

  2. If I’m not reading it wrong, the Chafetz Chaim explicitly said (Section 1, 2:2, Mekor HaChaim) that heter be’apei tlasa is only when the information can be taken two ways and it isn’t a “ganai gamur.”

  3. That’s before he gets to the Rambam’s view in par. 3

  4. why isnt it all uman bumnaso

  5. Or we can realize that the halakhicization of lashon haRa is a recent and negative phenomenon, restore it back to the ethical imperative it once was and use our common sense and concience to decide when speech is appropriate.

    See Dr. Benny Brown’s article on the topic for more info.

  6. I was recently involved in a discussion where someone quoted chapter and verse the Chafetz Chaim with a peirush who said that even the “known matter” is only when there is to’eles. If this is true, there are major problems with many Jewish news outlets and political discussions covering political action in other Jewish areas (such as Bet Shemesh discussions in the US).

  7. I would echo R’ Chardal’s point and add that the Talmud also includes restrictions on repeating somethoong someone told you if you didn’t get explicit permission to repeat it, and on sichat chulin/bteilah as well, yet these seem to be ethical imperatives rather than “halachasized”.

    KT

  8. “Or we can realize that the halakhicization of lashon haRa is a recent and negative phenomenon, restore it back to the ethical imperative it once was and use our common sense and concience to decide when speech is appropriate.

    See Dr. Benny Brown’s article on the topic for more info.”

    So predictable. Reb Gil, any time you post on lashon hara, this is what you’re going to get.

  9. this is what you’re going to get

    No. We haven’t yet gotten all the rationalizations for the regular use of la’shon ha’ra if its about people with whom you disagree politically. [Falsely calling Amoz Oz a BDS-supporter comes to mind].

  10. Or a more recent example: why it’s not la’shon ha’ra to spread for communities to declare Triangle-K’s hechsher on meat not acceptable without any objective facts or opportunity for R. Ralbag’s side to be presented.

  11. aja: why isnt it all uman bumnaso

    Please elaborate.

    Chardal: Or we can realize that the halakhicization of lashon haRa is a recent and negative phenomenon

    I haven’t seen Dr. Brown’s article but didn’t the Rambam “halakhicize” this long ago?

    joel rich: I would echo R’ Chardal’s point and add that the Talmud also includes restrictions on repeating somethoong someone told you if you didn’t get explicit permission to repeat it, and on sichat chulin/bteilah as well, yet these seem to be ethical imperatives rather than “halachasized”.

    The Chafetz Chaim discusses the former and B”H we were able to halakhicize the latter on this blog: https://www.torahmusings.com/2005/08/talking-politics/

    IH: why it’s not la’shon ha’ra to spread for communities to declare Triangle-K’s hechsher on meat not acceptable…

    Isn’t that a classic case of to’eles? It isn’t only Triangle-K. There are plenty of hechsherim which are “not recommended”, particularly in the Wild West of Brooklyn where anyone can open up a kashrus supervision shop.

  12. R’Gil
    and what percentage of the olam won’t repeat over something they were told unless they got specific permission? and what percent won’t talk about things other than torah unles “absolutely necessary”. and on the triangle k I’d agree except no one seems to be able to say what the issue is.
    KT

  13. Is it? R. Ralbag was viewed by many as a hero for his Amsterdam situation; yet viewed as “Wild West of Brooklyn” for his national hashgacha?

  14. joel rich: and what percentage of the olam won’t repeat over something they were told unless they got specific permission

    בבא בתרא קס”ה:
    רובם בגזל, ומיעוטם בעריות, וכולם באבק לשון הרע

    and on the triangle k I’d agree except no one seems to be able to say what the issue is

    I’ve heard but it is not something you can repeat. All you are allowed to say is “not recommended”.

  15. Ih: Is it? R. Ralbag was viewed by many as a hero for his Amsterdam situation; yet viewed as “Wild West of Brooklyn” for his national hashgacha?

    No one is saying that he’s evil, just that his supervision is “not recommended”.

  16. Joel get’s it right: “I’d agree except no one seems to be able to say what the issue is.”

  17. I guess it’s a matter of whom you trust for recommendations on which kosher supervisions to accept.

  18. I guess that’s true for political hearsay as well, then. So much for Lashon ha’Ra having any meaning.

  19. False comparison. Someone can also say “I don’t recommend voting for X”.

  20. Ploni and Plonit want to get married. One set of parents are opposed because either one is “not up to community standards”. The couple breaks it off, but the hearsay (which may or may be true since it hasn’t been itemized or substantiated) follows the “accused” and pretty soon the “accused” is shunned by everyone in the national federation of such communities.

    Lashon ha’Ra, or “I guess it’s a matter of whom you trust for recommendations”?

  21. Again, false comparison. Rabbi Ralbag is a member-in-good standing in the Jewish community. The issue is whether food his organization supervises is “recommended” and the nearly unanimous opinion of experts is no.

  22. Ploni and Plonit are members in good standing as well. But one is blackballed for an unspecified reason and the spread hearsay has made them non-marriageable. The “accused” is still tolerated in the community, beyond marriage prospects.

  23. nearly unanimous opinion of experts is no

    Ah. I’ve been searching for some facts. Can you share with us the experts who have looked at the facts and can speak to them (and allow for R. Ralbag to respond in kind)?

  24. Still a false comparison. Marriage is about compatibility between two people. I understand your point and it is wrong. You are allowed to make practical recommendations to people without revealing your basis. This is about Rabbi Ralbag’s product which is being sold to the public.

  25. And a prospective chattan or kallah is not “being sold to the public” in a manner?

  26. In a very different way. If he does have an objective problem, such as he is a homicidal maniac, then such treatment is justified. But most such issues are subjective and depend on the other person.

  27. It seems to me the common sense issue of Lashon ha’Ra is: hearsay vs. substance. It is mediated, as chardal nicely summarized, through “our common sense and concience to decide when speech is appropriate”.

    By legislating it in legal code, we end up perverting its essence.

  28. Common sense is always necessary, but not instead of halakhah.

  29. I second chardal. Whatever the CC’s intentions, Loshon Hara has long since turned into the code of omerta in many O circles.

  30. “Falsely calling Amoz Oz a BDS-supporter comes to mind”

    There’s plenty of loshon hara aimed at the right.

  31. r’ gil – “The issue is whether food his organization supervises is “recommended” and the nearly unanimous opinion of experts is no.”

    i think its more nuanced than that but every rabbi of a community should be able to tell you if you ask why the hashgacha is not “recommended”. its a standards issue not a personal one.

  32. R’ Aiwac,
    Anecdotally iiuc there seems to be truth in what you say, but I had a different cost in mind – I wonder how people have been “hurt” because well meaning others are basically taught that anything other than “hello” (and of course not to the opposite sex) is forbidden. The hurt could be injury caused by lack of information, relationships not formed etc.

    Next to impossible toquantify and compare to the pre-cc state, but that’s how actuaries think.

    KT

  33. Y’know, loshson hara inflation kinda reminds me of the vague nature of verbal sexual harassment laws and regulations nowadays…

  34. R’Gil,

    בבא בתרא קס”ה:
    רובם בגזל, ומיעוטם בעריות, וכולם באבק לשון הרע

    LOL-just went next door to the West Side Jewish Center – see the Artscroll footnote along the lines that of course scrupulous study of the laws of lashon hara can avoid this problem (at least they didn’t source this in rashi :-))

    KT

  35. >I haven’t seen Dr. Brown’s article but didn’t the Rambam “halakhicize” this long ago?

    Read the article, he deals with that.

    And we both know that the Rambam in many instances wrote about general values in principles in the yad without it meaning that those areas are as clearly delineated as shabbos or nidda. There is a reason that the CC quoted so much from non-halachic ethical works in his book – he could not find much on it from the traditional sources of halachic psak. I think that his project made things worse by legislating ways to avoid outing evil. A person with sound values and sound common sense simply does not need sefer CC.

  36. GIL:

    “I’ve heard but it is not something you can repeat. All you are allowed to say is “not recommended”.”

    ridiculous.
    and worst case is people assume there really is no good reason, but there is some disimformation campaign for political or financial reasons (even you admit kashrus has its wild west aspects). so there must be nothing wrong with it and they proceed to eat it.

  37. R’ Abba,
    that’s what I hear all the time – kashrut, it’s all politics. IMHO it relates to a broader change in how individuals relate to authority (i.e. it’s much less effective to say “trust me” these days)
    KT

  38. Chardal: This seems too detailed to me to be just “general values” but I guess I’ll have to read Brown’s article:

    אחד המספר בלשון הרע בפני חברו או שלא בפניו והמספר דברים שגורמין אם נשמעו איש מפי איש להזיק חברו בגופו או בממונו אפילו להצר לו או להפחידו הרי זה לשון הרע. ואם נאמרו דברים אלו בפני שלושה כבר נשמע הדבר ונודע ואם סיפר הדבר אחד מן השלושה פעם אחרת אין בו משום לשון הרע והוא שלא יתכוון להעביר הקול ולגלותו יותר.

    Abba: No, it isn’t ridiculous.

    Joel: Maybe you’re spending too much time on blogs 🙂

  39. A person with sound values and sound common sense simply does not need sefer CC.

    R’ Yisrael Salanter was the granddaddy of the Baalei Mussar, the king of values and common sense, and he thought differently:

    קיצור תולדות חיי החפץ חיים

    זכורני בימי נעורי, אחרי איזה שנים לצאתם לאור, הגיע מכתב מווילנא מהגאון ר’ אליה אליעזר מו”ץ שבו מודיע לאבי כי חותנו הגאון החסיד ר’ ישראל מסאלאנט ביקש ממנו להמציא לו ספר חפץ חיים ושלח לו מר אבי, וכפי עדות תלמידיו הגדולים היה הספר הזה תמיד על שולחנו באחרית ימי חייו

  40. R’ JOEL:

    “that’s what I hear all the time – kashrut, it’s all politics.”

    isn’t it? even if only unintentionally?

    “IMHO it relates to a broader change in how individuals relate to authority (i.e. it’s much less effective to say “trust me” these days)”

    this isn’t an issue of not trusting someone who says “trust me,” but rather trusting someone who is really saying “trust an unknown third party”

    i was once in shul when the rabbi pronounced from the pulpit that a certain meat store (known for cheap prices, incidentally) is assur. a congregant called out and asked for clarification, what’s the problem. the rabbi said he didn’t know, but that is what he was told. told by whom? he couldn’t say. on what grounds? he didn’t know.

    skepticism about unspecific hearsay from an unknown third party on a matter that even gil admits has its “wild west” mercenary aspects at some point becomes more than merely rejection of authority

  41. GIL:

    ““I’ve heard but it is not something you can repeat. All you are allowed to say is “not recommended”.”

    i’m trying to imagine a scenario whereby one knows something about a kashruth agecny that renders it “not recommended” (whatever in the world that even means) but one can’t tell the problem. for illustrative purposes only, can you give me a ficitious example unrelated to tri-k

    “No, it isn’t ridiculous”

    yes, it is ridiculous 🙂

  42. GIL,

    wait a sec, it’s something that can’t be repeated, then how did you find out?

  43. Or we can realize that the halakhicization of lashon haRa is a recent and negative phenomenon, restore it back to the ethical imperative it once was and use our common sense and concience to decide when speech is appropriate.

    Charedim can’t. They don’t believe in common sense or conscience. They such qualities, or perhaps just the people who claim to use them, as a threat to Torah. For them everything HAS to be halachicized. This is a significant point in the works of the Chazon Ish and other charedi authorities.

  44. rabbis create their own distrust by members of the community because of the lack of transparency. Especially when money is involved – e.g. kashrut – and where money sways opinions. this is a broad issue effecting all parts of orthodoxy including mo.

  45. Abba: i was once in shul when the rabbi pronounced from the pulpit that a certain meat store (known for cheap prices, incidentally) is assur. a congregant called out and asked for clarification, what’s the problem. the rabbi said he didn’t know, but that is what he was told. told by whom? he couldn’t say. on what grounds? he didn’t know.

    Seems irresponsible to me. You have to investigate before assuring something.

    for illustrative purposes only, can you give me a ficitious example unrelated to tri-k

    That won’t work because it will be obvious.

    wait a sec, it’s something that can’t be repeated, then how did you find out?

    I was in the room as two senior rabbis discussed a similar situation.

  46. ruvie: rabbis create their own distrust by members of the community because of the lack of transparency

    And they would also create distrust when they reveal confidential information. Lose-lose

  47. “And they would also create distrust when they reveal confidential information. Lose-lose”

    Gil,

    Maybe you should write a series on Kashrut and the problem of transparency?

  48. r’ gil – you are right but why do you think people are more skeptical and cynical with regards to rabbis – is it more info is available that cast aspersions or distrust in general of all authority (especially government) or certain actions people today no longer tolerate and rabbis really don’t know where the olam is because of daat torah.

  49. Maybe someone should prepare a “transparency list” of Kashrut organizations similar to Freedom House” for countries.

  50. “I’ve heard but it is not something you can repeat. All you are allowed to say is “not recommended”.”

    That is like the 140-characters encapsulation of what ails frum society today. Just think about it. There is nothing pious or normal about this.

  51. Gil, What you are saying is not merely ridiculous, it is rabbinic malpractice. If there are serious problems with Triangle K then the rabbis have to tell us what they are. They have to say for example, that the mashgichim he hires are unreliable, or that he relies on shitot that are not accepted by mainstream poskim, or whatever the reason is. Otherwise it is a form of slander. The rabbis are telling us that Ralbag is not reliable and asking us to just trust them. Whoever heard of something like that? They are attempting to destroy Ralbag’s reputation, and hurt his parnasah and they won’t tell us why?

    If some rabbis were telling people in the community that you weren’t reliable, shouldn’t I ignore them until they explained why they were saying so?

  52. “There is a reason that the CC quoted so much from non-halachic ethical works in his book – he could not find much on it from the traditional sources of halachic psak” (chardal on April 19, 2012 at 1:01 pm).
    Even a casual perusal of “Be’er Mayim Chaim” in Chofetz Chaim will show that this is simply not true. You don’t even have to peruse the sefer, just look at his introduction, particularly the second footnote where he speaks about his citations of Shaarei Teshuvah..

    “I wonder how people have been “hurt” because well meaning others are basically taught that anything other than “hello” (and of course not to the opposite sex) is forbidden.” (joel rich on April 19, 2012 at 12:05 pm).
    This comment also betrays an ignorance of the sefer. Again, just read the introduction. The CC writes there that one of the reasons he wrote the sefer was that unless they know the laws of lashon hara, people might think that almost all speech is forbidden. So it’s hard to see how teaching it would cause people to think that “anything other than a casual hello is forbidden”.

    LOL-just went next door to the West Side Jewish Center – see the Artscroll footnote along the lines that of course scrupulous study of the laws of lashon hara can avoid this problem (at least they didn’t source this in rashi :-))(joel rich on April 19, 2012 at 12:59 pm).
    I don’t get the joke. Apparently you didn’t take the time to look up the citation. The CC’s logic there is pretty compelling.

  53. Also, are you aware that R. Ralbag’s son is now one of the rabbonim in the Five Towns and univeraally acknowledged as a great talmid chochom. Soon he will take over the kashrut organization. Should the shul fire him? Should the Young Israel fire Ralbag senior? If his kashrut is not reliable, how can he serve as a rabbi of a Young Israel? If he is providing phoney hashgachot, why don’t the rabbonim chase him out of town?

    I hope you now see the problem of undermining someone’s reputation without providing justification for doing so. Isn’t that the essence of lashon hara?

    Do you really think it is unfair for us to ask the rabbis to simply explain why they don’t think a rav is reliable (a rav incidentally, whose standards of kashrut were completely reliable to the Amsterdam community, even the haredim there)

  54. R’cw,
    my comments were not related to the sefer:
    1. was related to the what I percieve to be the common perception as to what is included in lashon hara by those who are taught summary versions of the laws of lashon hara, not what a careful student who has thoroughly studied the c”c would conclude is or isn’t concluded. BTW can you imagine the state of kashrut if there were no national kashrut organizations and everyone had to rely on their own knowledge of kashrut to determine what to eat (it’s now an exact parallel but imho worth thinking about)

    2.LOL was related to what one would conclude is/was the actual real world state as attested to by the gemara as to the facts on the ground even though it “can be avoided”

    So perhaps off line you might share with me how you reached a conclusion for public consumption of my ignorance or not taking the time to look up the citation. (I would have written you off line but cw is not enough for me to go on – and I did google it to try to find an associated email)

    KT

  55. “Falsely calling Amoz Oz a BDS-supporter comes to mind”

    That’s not lashan hara, that’s motzi shem ra!

    “rabbis create their own distrust by members of the community because of the lack of transparency. Especially when money is involved – e.g. kashrut – and where money sways opinions.”

    The only person I trust on kashrut is my own rav. And if he has a problem with a particular hechsher, he tells me *exactly* what the problem is. None of this “not recommended” stuff.

  56. RR: Your kind of black-and-white attitude is precisely why issues like this should not be discussed in detail. Rabbi Ralbag is a great talmid chacham and wonderful Jew. I’ve met his son from the Five Towns, by the way. Also a wonderful talmid chacham. If either is your rabbi and tells you Triangle-K is acceptable, then eat it in good health. Otherwise, ask your rabbi and do as he advises.

  57. Gil — your kind of do as I say, not as I do is precisely whu issues like this (Lashon ha’Ra) should not be discussed in detail until those who talk the talk, walk the walk.

  58. >Even a casual perusal of “Be’er Mayim Chaim” in Chofetz Chaim will show that this is simply not true. You don’t even have to peruse the sefer, just look at his introduction, particularly the second footnote where he speaks about his citations of Shaarei Teshuvah..

    Shaarei Teshuva is not an halachic work but an ethical one. Its prominance in the sefer betrays one of many methodological flaws.

  59. IH: I guess that’s where common sense lashon ha-ra differs from rules-based.

    Chardal: I disagree. Sha’ar gimmel is clearly halakhic. I seem to recall R. Chaim Hirschenson dismissing a Rabbenu Yonah as mere mussar and his mechutan, R. Tzvi Pesach Frank, gently chastising him for it. I’ll have to find it and see if it was a citation from Shaarei Teshuvah.

  60. The whole point of the CC’s comment in the preface about quoting Shaarei Teshuvah is to dispel Chardal’s idea. He says explicitly that everything the ST writes, especially regarding LH, is based on halachic parameters, and he nonetheless cited him as a stand alone source only when indicating leniency. When it is a stringency he cites supporting sources.

  61. R’ Joel,
    My comments were a response to what I perceived to be the meaning of your comments. If I misunderstood you, I apologise. And if I didn’t misunderstand you, I apologise for the unnecessarily heated response. It’s not my usual style, but to paraphrase Gil, perhaps I’m spending too much time on blogs.
    1. I’m not sure what you mean by “summary versions of the laws of lashon hara”. AFAIK, those schools that teach the laws of lashon hara (and there are many) use Chofetz Chaim or other, similarly detailed texts. I’ve never met anyone who was serious about refraining from lashon hara who hadn’t studied the laws in detail.
    Your analogy to kashrus is a good one. That’s why I can’t fathom how one can criticize the CC for not only calling attention to the widespread transgression of an issur d’oraisa but actually attempting to do something to rectify the situation by codifying the relevant laws found in Shas, Rishonim and Acharonim. It’s not as if he created these laws from whole cloth.

    2. I still don’t understand what is so funny about the idea that it is possible to avoid even a widespread abuse of an issur. And what does that have to do with Artscroll? Should they not have cited what the Chofetz Chaim says? After all, his point there is that it’s important to realize that lashon hara CAN be avoided, otherwise people would just stop trying.

  62. “Shaarei Teshuva is not an halachic work but an ethical one. Its prominance in the sefer betrays one of many methodological flaws.” (chardal on April 20, 2012 at 2:06 am).

    This is the footnote I was referring to: “And let the reader not wonder, since this sefer in its entirety is based on halachic principles, why do I bring in numerous places proofs from Shaarei Teshuvah of Rabbeinu Yonah, which is an ethical work. For in truth it is obvious to one who studies his holy words in depth in many places that he took care that his words should not fall outside the parameters of the law. And particularly with regard to the laws of lashon hara that he compiled, for each and every detail that he writes there is a source in Gemara, as I will, G-d willing, demonstrate in my sefer. However, he was very concise and did not cite the sources of these laws, as is the manner of the Rishonim. Nevertheless, for the most part I did not rely on him alone except in cases where his words imply a leniency (and so, too, with regard to other ethical works), but in almost every case where they imply a stringency I have cited other proofs, as the reader will see”. My apologies for the inelegant translation. I’m sure there are better ones out there.
    Now that that point is taken care of, do you care to elaborate on the other “flaws” in the CC’s methedology?

  63. R’cw,
    1.I guess we travel in different circles
    2.Nothing to do with artscroll other than they were where the footnote was (I think that it would have been enlightening to comment on why if it were possible to avoid it, the gemara notes the fact was that it was 100% pervasive-but perhaps that’s too long a discussion for a footnote)
    KT

  64. All I know is that most MO and Chareidim accept what Chardal terms “halachicization” of lashon hara by the CC. Most, accept for the academically minded cadre here posting at Hirhurim, have never heard of Dr. Benny Brown, nor, frankly, do they care. You can stand in Times Square and scream “Dr. Benny Brown” until you are blue in the fac…nobody really cares. Dr. Benny Brown in the halachic scheme of things carries no weight and his papers are interesting but do not have standing in psak halochoh as accepted by the MO and Chareidi worlds. The CC won (if you accept Brown’s theory) and if you want to live you life according to some pre-CC fantasy, be my guest. Just ask me to join in.

  65. Sorry. Should have written “Just don’t ask me to join in”.

  66. Here is R. Tzvi Pesach Frank’s letter: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=1544&st=&pgnum=232&hilite=

    And here is where the Chafetz Chaim addresses his use of Shaarei Teshuavh: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=47570&st=&pgnum=51

  67. So, based on the Chafetz Chaim’s own apologetic words the claim that he did not view Shaarei Teshuva as a normative halachic work that could be quoted by itself as precedence. Seems pretty clear cut.

    [That others view Shaarei Teshuva differently is irrelevant to assessing how the Chafetz Chaim viewed it in his own psak].

  68. “The CC won ”

    And 50 years ago women not covering their hair won.

    You have to speak up for your ideals. Even if you disagree with them, surely you understand.

  69. As bloggers and commenters perhaps we would all benefit from regularly seeing the T’filla on p. 4 of the CC link above:

    ונזהר מלדבר דברי שקר, חנפה, לצנות, אונאת-דברים, הלבנת-פנים, מחלקת ,גאוה, כעס, וכל דברים אסורים.

  70. And 50 years ago women not covering their hair won.

    You have to speak up for your ideals. Even if you disagree with them, surely you understand

    In hachi nami. However, the problem is that everytime Gil posts on the topic of lashon hara, he is already reminded, or hit over the head with Dr. Benny Brown and the halachization of lashon hara by the CC. Okay, we get it. Gil accepts the Sefer CC and follows it. If other don’t, please don’t derail the entire thread. Start your own blog or stay on the topic at hand. It never ceases to amaze me that the same comments appear over and over again. Who’s going to be convinced by this repetitive commentary. Gil? Me? What purpose does it serve? Most people don’t buy it. Its one thing to stand up for principles. This is just plain overkill.

  71. Rafael — to be clear my view is that many people who claim to be following the CC are actually not (by claiming all sorts of loopholes that allow them to make exceptions).

    The T’filla (as above at 10:11 am) sums up what people claiming to follow the CC should be doing.

  72. To be even clearer: self-serving loopholes that allow them to make exceptions.

  73. “So, based on the Chafetz Chaim’s own apologetic words the claim that he did not view Shaarei Teshuva as a normative halachic work that could be quoted by itself as precedence. Seems pretty clear cut.” (IH on April 20, 2012 at 9:57 am).

    Actually, what seems pretty clear cut is that the Chofetz Chaim himself DID NOT feel that way: “For in truth it is obvious to one who studies his holy words in depth in many places that he took care that his words should not fall outside the parameters of the law. And particularly with regard to the laws of lashon hara that he compiled.” All that can be proven from his practice of citing other sources as well is that many people didn’t study Shaarei Teshuvah in depth and so assumed that what he wrote was “lifnim mishuras ha’din”.

  74. Rafael — to be clear my view is that many people who claim to be following the CC are actually not (by claiming all sorts of loopholes that allow them to make exceptions). (IH on April 20, 2012 at 10:39 am).

    Have you studied Chofetz Chaim? Unless you have, this comment is meaningless. It’s like criticizing “loopholes” in shemiras Shabbos without studying hilchos Shabbos.

  75. cw — I have not studied it, frankly, because it is not a major problem that I have in my own practice (of course we all have lapses and as others have noted in the past, I am among the small %age of commenters here who apologize when they have lapsed).

    My issue, again, is those claiming to be holier than thou, who act hypocritically. As for your comment at 10:51am, I think that demonstrates that you are selectively reading that which you wish to see. If you want to carve out loopholes in the same way, you are only fooling yourself. That being said, I am certain there are some specific, reasonable (and common sense) loopholes in the CC’s text as appropriate.

    Can you share with us an example of where the CC creates a loophole that is not consistent with what a reasonable person with common sense would also conclude?

    Do you think the example discussed above of Triangle-K is something the CC would consider to be Lashon ha’Ra (and please cite a reference if not)?

  76. I should add, what I am curious about which I will add to my study wishlist is to review the hooks in the classic halachic codes (Yad, Turm SA) upon which all the 19th century detail is based.

    Your Shabbat example is poor, but perhaps more akin to the issue of what one can wear or see when saying K’riyat Sh’ma becoming today’s “halacha” of tzniyut by ruler?

  77. Imho this ties in nicely with the most recent issue of klal perspectives – in some ways it seems we’ve swallowed the pits and spit out the juice.
    KT

  78. Joel – please explain your cryptic comment.

  79. IH is just annoyed because there are some times when decision-makers need to publicize an evaluation without the underlying rationale. He seems to think that this is more a problem of lashon ha-ra than if you publicize the rationale. And he so sure of it that he is willing to use phrases like “self-serving loopholes”.

    What he considers problematic, I consider praiseworthy.

  80. Special pleading is always a winning argument with me (not). Triangle-K, sadly, is just one of many examples. I’m still curious to see the textual support in the CC for what you consider “praiseworthy” about how Triangle-K has been treated.

  81. “As for your comment at 10:51am, I think that demonstrates that you are selectively reading that which you wish to see”.

    Oh well. I guess I’m discovering for myself what Gil and others have known for a while.

    “Can you share with us an example of where the CC creates a loophole that is not consistent with what a reasonable person with common sense would also conclude?”.

    Sorry, it’s an exercise in futility and I’m not taking the bait. If we can’t agree on the meaning of an explicit passage in the Chofetz Chaim, how do you expect us to agree on the definition of something as subjective as “common sense”?

    “Do you think the example discussed above of Triangle-K is something the CC would consider to be Lashon ha’Ra (and please cite a reference if not)”

    If you look in CC Hilchos Lashon Hara 10:2 you will see not only why it would be permitted to say that a particular hashgachah is “not recommended” (assuming, of course, its true), but also why it would NOT be permitted to go into details(although some here might consider it “common sense” that the “public’s right to know” permits it).

  82. Thanks for the mareh makom. Will look over Shabbat, time permitting.

    Why would the CC have to explicitly rationalize the use of Shaarei Teshuva as a normative halachic work if it was not controversial? Does he say anything similar to this about any other prooftext?

  83. Just to make sure I print out the right pages on the mareh makom, you mean:
    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=47570&st=&pgnum=292

    The part that starts with שֶׁיִּרְאֶה זֶה הַדָּבָר בְּעַצְמוֹ, וְלֹא עַל יְדֵי שְׁמִיעָה מֵאֲחֵרִים

  84. “Why would the CC have to explicitly rationalize the use of Shaarei Teshuva as a normative halachic work if it was not controversial?”
    Because, as the CC writes there, it is only obvious to those who study it in depth. The masses viewed it like you and chardal do.

    The part that starts with שֶׁיִּרְאֶה זֶה הַדָּבָר בְּעַצְמוֹ, וְלֹא עַל יְדֵי שְׁמִיעָה מֵאֲחֵרִים

    Yes, that whole paragraph.

  85. cw — I think we’re talking past each other. What I said to which you objected was that based on the Chafetz Chaim’s own apologetic words the claim that he did not view Shaarei Teshuva as a normative halachic work that could be quoted by itself as precedence, seems pretty clear cut.

    Clearly, he saw it differently — and that is exactly why he is calling out this chiddush. Since his own sefer is a halachic text — and he knows that Shaarei Teshuva would have been seen as מכלל ספרי מוסר, he explains why he feels justfied in using it; and, therefore ואל יפלא בעיני הקורא.

    It is further worth noting that even though he justifies it in this extraordinary paragraph, he still feels compelled to say ובכל זאת על פי הלב לא סמכתי עליו לבד.

    Does that get us any closer in mutual understanding?

  86. OCR error in the final quoted Hebrew. It should be: ובכל זאת על פי הרב לא סמכתי עליו לבד

  87. Perhaps you are assuming the CC’s הקורא and הרב are amhartzim (aka “the masses”). I don’t see anything to support that in the quoted paragraph. Do you?

  88. “cryptic comment” was concerning the klal perspectives issue which deals with people who live Judaism by rote without soul/experiential component. Trying to memorize every subdetail of hilchpt lashon hara is a poor substitute for parents who taught you by modeling it.
    KT

  89. Charlie Hall: The only person I trust on kashrut is my own rav. And if he has a problem with a particular hechsher, he tells me *exactly* what the problem is. None of this “not recommended” stuff.

    So do you eat Triangle-K, and if not, what exactly is the problem with it?

  90. I am among the small %age of commenters here who apologize when they have lapsed

    Yet another lapse? 🙂

  91. Trying to memorize every subdetail of hilchpt lashon hara is a poor substitute for parents who taught you by modeling it.

    Not everyone has [had] such parents. And anyway, you could argue that the whole Torah is a poor substitute for people like Avraham Avinu who intuitively knew how to behave morally. Yet in practice, the Torah is still necessary.

  92. R’ Shlomo,
    I agree, I am not sure (and I think that was the point of many of the articles) how one takes something that is essentially a “retail” item (transmitting a lifestyle) and make it into a “wholesale” item (read the book and then you’ll know what to do)
    KT

  93. cw,

    The very fact that he felt the need to rationalize the use of ST shows that it was not a normative halachic work. Heck, the very fact that no other compiler of halachic code ever thought to write something as extensive as Sefer CC shows that it was not related to as a legislative framework such as the CC is attempting to establish. Further, the matter is not black and white. Something can be primarily a principle while at the same time having some definitive parameters to define it. It is the turning the principle of Lashon Harah into an halachic framework similar to shabbat or nidda that undermines the very priniple of lashon hara.

  94. “The very fact that he felt the need to rationalize the use of ST shows that it was not a normative halachic work.”
    It shows that people didn’t *view* it as as a normative halachic work, but he argues that it *could* be used as one because it was based on solid halachic foundations. You haven’t proven that it isn’t.
    But all that is besides the point. As the CC says, where he cites ST as a stringency, he brings other sources as well. So that is not a “flaw” in methodology.” What are the other “flaws” you alluded to?
    Shaarei Teshuvah aside, the sources he brings ARE from Gemara, Rishonim and Acharonim. Just look at the Be’er Mayim Chaim. Are you suggesting those sources simply reflect the “common sense” of their times? Certainly, it is not “common sense” to refrain from praising someone in public, or from publicizing a favor someone did for you, and other forms of “avak lashon hara.” Was the Gemara guilty of “halachcizing” by forbidding such speech?

  95. >It shows that people didn’t *view* it as as a normative halachic work

    But that is what we are talking about.

    Before the CC, people didn’t view it as an halachic work, he halachicized it.
    Before the CC, people didn’t approach lashon haRa as a siman/seif halacha, until he halachizied it.

    Its not about assur/mutar. there is such a thing as forbidden speach – no one is saying otherwise. The question is simply is it forbidden based primarly on an abstract ethical principles (with perhaps some basic particular guidlines) or is it a complete legislated system. I would argue that the CC transformed it from the former to the latter – and the sources he uses are dissperate, motley and uncoheseve, IS the proof that he was constructing the kind of framework that did not previously exist. People, before the CC simply did not look to a halachic code for the application of lashon haRa, that does not mean that it did not exist!

  96. >that does not mean that it did not exist!

    the mitzva of lashon hara, not the halachic code of it.

  97. This thread is illustrative of what R Joel Rich commented on his summary of how some of us view issues in Kashrus as R”L reflecting merely politics,and women’s hair covering-which reduce the level of discussion to a Shabbos morning Kiddush, or a discussion on the slide to the right.

    We previously discussed Dr Brown’s essay on the CC, and IMO, what was a flawed view of both Sefer CC, as well as Rambam’s Hilcos Deos, as primarlity, if not, purely aspirational in nature. Other posters have noted why and when the CC quotes Shaarei Teshuvah, but one IMO does not show a great degree of familiarity with the Sefer CC to dismiss it as a Musar Sefer when as others have noted its contents, which are based on references to the Talmud and Rishonim. FWIW, the CC stated explicitly at the beginning of the sefer why he was citing it in what was a sefer of Halacha.It is IMO somewhat remarkable that noone so far has mentioned the prominent role of Lashon Hara in Parshas Metzorah, and how the Metzorah was to be viewed by the community.

    We also discussed this issue and although I have no objective historical proof, IMO, one cannot ignore the fact that the CC, in a similar manner as the Netziv, was fascinated by the revival of settlement in EY. The CC wrote Sefer Likuetei Halachos as a Rif on Sefer Kodshim, and other Sugyos dealing with Inyannei Kodshim so that these sugyos would be transformed into daily halacha upon the Binyan Bayis shlishi. The CC’s Hakdamah to MB can be seen as addressing the unique importance of Shemiras Shabbos for Klal Yisrael on an individual and communal level. In a similar manner, Sefer CC can be seen as a response to the often voiced view in the Talmud that Lashon Hara and Sinas Chinam were the causes of Churban Bayis Sheni.

    Chardal-take a look at Hilcos Deos, especially where Rambam specifies which Mitzvos Aseh and Mitzvos Lo Saaseh are included thererin. The notion that the CC solely created an area of Halacha cannot be seriously maintained. I reiterate wnat I said previously about the Brown article-the underlying thesis was that the Halachos of Lashon Hara are inimicable to the participation by a person in “contemporary society”. Unfortunately, one could raise that same highly questionable premise to many other areas of Halacha which have the same ramifications.

  98. The Talmud in MK tells us that someone who is Tame must announce himself to the community so that we are aware of his status. So, too, when a prominent Israeli writer appears at a forum in the US that is funded by a prominent supporter of BDS, it is hardly a violation of Lashon Hara to note the same. http://www.timesofisrael.com/amos-oz-slams-aipac-at-j-street-opening/

  99. For more on how Israel views J Street, see the annexed link.http://israelmatzav.blogspot.com/2012/04/full-text-israels-deputy-ambassador.html

  100. Steve b. – You realize that the fact that the Netanyahu government sent the number 2 diplomat in the us to the j street annual dinner – first time ever of any recognition – says a lot about their growing influence in American politics as wells Jewry.

  101. Steve b – ” So, too, when a prominent Israeli writer appears at a forum in the US that is funded by a prominent supporter of BDS, it is hardly a violation of Lashon Hara to note the same. http://www.timesofisrael.com/amos-oz-slams-aipac-at-j-street-opening/

    you should also note that Ehud Olmert was the guest of honor/speaker. I think you are wrong that they – j street – are a supporter of the bds movement – they have renounced that ( so I believe).

  102. Ruvie-The Israeli government could have sent the procverbial man in the moon-the message remains the same- J Street is a BDS front which is largely funded and bankrolled by Soros.

  103. Ruvie-honoring Olmert-for being a corrupt PM or sending the IDf into Lebanon who had no idea of their mission?

  104. In the discussion re Sefer CC, I am surprised that no one mentions Hilocos Tumaas Tzaras 16:9, where Rambam describes the progression of Tumas Tzaaras as reflecting an inappropriate set of attitudes which can lead to Kfirah. Obviously, Rambam uses similar styles at the end of Hilcos Shemitah VYovel and Meilah to drive home hashkafic values from very difficult but binding halachos, but the above stated Rambam IMO is remarkably similar to Rashi’s comment in Parshas Bchuksosai ( Vayikra 26:16). I would suggest that citing Dr Brown’s essay as a means of suggesting that there is no halachic content to the Mitzvah of refraining from Lashon Hara or that the same is purely or primariy aspirational in nature cannot be sustained by a reading of the above view of Rambam in Hilcos Tumaas Tzaras as well as Rambam’s views in Hilcos Deos.

  105. steve b. – i dont think you understand my comment….

  106. Ruvie-don’t be fooled by J Street-it remains a purveyor of and haven for BDS types and views.

  107. Steve b – not looking to be fooled….. Just one should be accurate when accusing in public….publicly they disavow the buds folks. Please do not misread this as a supporter. My point is they have critical mass and an organozed voice in the Jewish community ( and no longer – if they were before – a proponent of bds. They are moving more to the center than 2 yrs ago.

  108. Ruvie-re J Street-all J Street has illustrated in anything written about or under its approval is that talk is cheap except especially when you are funded by Soros.

  109. As if the right isn’t significantly funded by another rich American Jew — Irving Moskowitz.

  110. Steve b – whatever… You take one or two half truths and make up your own narrative to fit your viewpoint…btw, all Israeli politicians are corrupt because of their system and wouldn’t be in the American system. Netanyahu included although he seems to have an American sponsor these days.

  111. IH-So only the Left is entitled to its Gvirim?

  112. Ruvie-Olmert’s incompetence and lack of ethical fortitude were noticeable even by Israeli standards.

  113. Steve — you’re the one who raised the issue. I see no difference in an organization’s legitimacy based on funding from Soros or Moskowitz or Adelson or any other galut Jew. Stick to the issue rather than throwing mud.

  114. And back to my original example, it is perfectly legitimate to disagree with Amos Oz; but to defame him as a “BDS Supporter” is akin to Lashon ha’Ra (in spirit if not in tecbnical codification).

  115. IH-your 9:52 PM post -believe it or not, we agree that who an organization is funded by as exremely important-but only as to where and how one directs one’s intellectual and financial support, and whether one views the same as worthy of the same . That being the case, noone has ever claimed that Adelson or Moskovitz either fund the right in its entirety or that either has bankrolled a group that aids and abets BDS and its advocates.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: