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Hilchot Lashon Hara Review, Part 3:
When Speaking Lashon Hara is Permitted

Thank you to David Solomon for this review material, which was part of his class for BMT students in Jerusalem in 1993.
  1. Circumstances Under Which Speaking Lashon Hara is Permitted
  2. The Seven Conditions
  3. Additional Guidelines for Speaking Lashon Hara

This is the third of three review classes on Hilchot Lashon Hara, followed by three on Hilchot Rechilut.

Hilchot Lashon Hara Review: Part 3

I. Circumstances Under Which Speaking Lashon Hara is Permitted

In "Chafetz Chaim: A Lesson a Day" p. 132, Rabbi Yitzchak Berkowitz lists the major categories of constructive purposes for which Lashon Hara may be spoken:

  1. To influence the subject to improve by discussing his faults with someone who can help him.
  2. To prevent someone from being harmed by the subject, or help someone who was already harmed by the subject.
  3. To help end a dispute between individuals which could escalate to the community level.
  4. To help others learn from the subject's mistakes.


II. The Seven Conditions

Before speaking Lashon Hara for a constructive purpose, the following seven conditions must be met:
  1. The information spoken must be completely true and witnessed or verified by the speaker. If it is impossible to verify the information yet necessary that it be passed on, the speaker must preface his remarks with a warning that the information is only hearsay and not definitely true.

  2. The issue must be a problem (e.g. transgression, relevant character flaw or bad behavior) from an objective viewpoint, not merely a preference or sensitivity. (For example, if a store openly encourages shoppers to sample the new grape shipment, and someone takes a few grapes rather than exactly one, it would be incorrect to consider him "greedy" or "a thief.")

  3. The speaker must first rebuke the subject directly, in a kind and gentle way which is likely to have an influence. (If the subject will not listen to any rebuke, or if trying to rebuke him can make the Lashon Hara ineffective, refer to ch. 10 in Hilchot Lashon Hara and ch. 9 in Hilchot Rechilut for the Chafetz Chaim's treatment of the subject.)

  4. The information cannot be exaggerated or embellished, even if it's the only way to get the listener to heed the information.

  5. The intention of the speaker must be purely to help in the situation, not to degrade the subject or cause him shame.

  6. If the constructive purpose intended by the speaker can be achieved in a way other than speaking Lashon Hara, the speaker should resort to that other method.

  7. Any damage that is caused to the subject as a result of the Lashon Hara should not exceed that which would be decreed by a Beit Din (Jewish court) if the case were reviewed there. This is difficult to evaluate, so that situations that impact the livelihood or other areas of the subject should be referred to a Beit Din.
When someone either speaks or requests Lashon Hara for constructive purposes, they should state the constructive purpose. Otherwise, the other party in the conversation will think they are speaking Lashon Hara without any halachic justification.

Also, it would be foolish to include the subject's enemies in a constructive discussion. Not only would they be unlikely to have truly constructive intentions in handling the information, but hey might also add false or exaggerated information to the con versation due to their strong feelings against the subject.

Finally, it is important to think about the listener of the Lashon Hara. It is forbidden for the listener to believe or accept the information as true; they can only suspect the information in order to take proper precautions or to bring the issue to a Beit Din for resolution. Also, it would be forbidden for the listener to carelessly circulate the Lashon Hara out of anger or disgust, since that would violate condition (5) above. When possible, the speaker should preface his remarks with instructions reflecting these concerns; if the listener would not heed such instructions, the speaker should consult his Rabbinic authority before relating the Lashon Hara.

III. Additional Guidelines for Speaking Lashon Hara

When someone either speaks or requests Lashon Hara for constructive purposes, they should state the constructive purpose. Otherwise, the other party in the conversation will think they are speaking Lashon Hara without any halachic justification.

Also, it would be foolish to include the subject's enemies in a constructive discussion. Not only would they be unlikely to have truly constructive intentions in handling the information, but hey might also add false or exaggerated information to the con versation due to their strong feelings against the subject.

Finally, it is important to think about the listener of the Lashon Hara. It is forbidden for the listener to believe or accept the information as true; they can only suspect the information in order to take proper precautions or to bring the issue to a Beit Din for resolution. Also, it would be forbidden for the listener to carelessly circulate the Lashon Hara out of anger or disgust, since that would violate condition 5, to have purely constructive intent. When possible, the speaker should preface his remarks with instructions reflecting these concerns; if the listener would not heed such instructions, the speaker should consult a Rabbi.

BackHilchot Lashon Hara Review
Part 2
     
Table of Contents

HaLashon, Copyright (c) 1996, 2002 by Ellen Solomon and Project Genesis, Inc.


 






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