Selected Halachos Related to Parshas Tazria-Metzorah
By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt
The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
The person being purified shall take two live, clean birds (14:4)
Because the affliction comes in punishment for the chatter of gossip and slander, his purification is effected by means of chirping twittering birds.
Lashon Ha-ra Scenarios
Reuven, whose time is precious, asks Shimon for his
opinion about a speaker whose lecture Reuven is thinking of
attending. Is it permitted for Shimon, who has a negative
opinion of the speaker's abilities, to advise Reuven that, in
his opinion, he should not attend the lecture? If Reuven presses
Shimon for a reason, may Shimon make specific remarks about the
speaker, e.g., "he is boring", "he doesn't present any new
The Chafetz Chayim (1) rules that it is prohibited to
ridicule a Torah lecture even it is true that the delivery was
poor or that the content was lacking depth. By ridiculing the
lecture, serious harm can result to the reputation and
effectiveness of the speaker. Sometimes a monetary loss can
result. This action, therefore, is prohibited and is considered
The Chafetz Chayim does not, however, discuss a situation such
as the one described above. Reuven honestly needs to know if it
is worth his time to attend the lecture. The information he is
seeking from Shimon is pertinent to a decision he must make.
Generally, the halachah is that one may, and should, speak the
truth about another when beneficial information is requested.
Since Reuven deems this information to be beneficial to him, it
seems that it is permitted for Shimon to tell Reuven that, in
his opinion, there is no good reason for Reuven to attend the
lecture. Although Shimon would not be allowed to ridicule or
belittle the speaker himself, he would be permitted to advise
Reuven that it may not be beneficial for him to attend. We must,
however, stress several points:
Although Shimon may be permitted to divulge this information,
Reuven should not accept the information as the absolute truth.
Reuven may only be suspicious enough to guard himself.
Shimon should remember that what may seem boring to him, may
very well be interesting and enlightening to Reuven, etc.
Shimon should voice his opinion only if he has no ulterior
motive, e.g., a grudge against the speaker, jealousy of the
Reuven is being angrily accused by Shimon of causing him harm. May Reuven exonerate himself by pointing at the guilty party?
It is clearly forbidden for Reuven to divulge to
Shimon the identity of the person who did him harm. Even if
Shimon clearly asks, "If not you, then who did it?" still Reuven
may only declare his own innocence. He may only say: I did not
In a situation where there is only one other person who is a
suspect and Reuven's declaration of innocence will directly
implicate the other person, it is still permitted for Reuven to
say that he is not the guilty party. But this is clearly
permitted only in a situation where the alleged harmful action
was actually improper. If the harmful action was not improper,
e.g., it was done by accident, then it is questionable if Reuven
may shift the blame by declaring his innocence (2).
A child should not be asked by his rebbe, teacher, or parents
to point a finger at a wrongdoer. This lessens the severity of
the prohibition of lashon ha-ra in the eyes of the child (3). A
child who is instructed by a teacher or a parent to speak lashon
ha-ra, is not required to listen to them (4). If, however, the
information is needed for a beneficial and constructive purpose,
it is permitted for the child to divulge that information (5).
Reuven, who in the past spoke lashon ha-ra about
Shimon, now seeks his forgiveness. If Shimon is unaware of what
exactly was said about him, is Reuven required to repeat to
Shimon what he said about him in order for Shimon to forgive him
If the lashon ha-ra that was said was not accepted
by the listeners and no harm was done to Shimon, Reuven does not
need to ask for Shimon's forgiveness at all. He needs, however,
to repent for his sin and ask for forgiveness directly from
If the lashon ha-ra did cause harm to Shimon, and Shimon is
aware of the lashon ha-ra that was said about him, Reuven must
seek forgiveness directly from Shimon. If Shimon is unaware of
what was said about him, Reuven must tell him (7). If the
information will cause Shimon embarrassment or pain, then Reuven
need not elaborate upon the lashon ha-ra that was said (8). In
that case, a general request for forgiveness will suffice.
Harav E.E. Dessler is quoted (9) as repeating in the name of Reb
Yisrael Salanter that there is no need to hurt Shimon by letting
him know that lashon ha-ra was spoken about him or what that
lashon ha-ra was about, since this information will needlessly
pain Shimon. He adds that for this reason it has become
customary for everyone to ask for general forgiveness on erev
Yom Kippur, thus sparing both parties unnecessary
1 Chafetz Chayim, Lashon ha-Ra, 2:12.
2 Chafetz Chayim, Lashon ha-Ra 10:17 and Be'er Mayim Chayim 43.
3 Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:103; Y.D. 4:30.
4 Chofetz Chayim, Lashon ha-Ra 1:5.
5 Like any lashon ha-ra which is permitted when it said for a
6 Rabbeinu Yonah in Sha'arei Teshuvah 207, quoted by Chafetz
Chayim, Lashon ha-Ra, 4:12
7 Chafetz Chayim, ibid.
8 Mishnah Berurah 606:3
9 Mo'adim u'Zemanim 1:54.
10 See Az Nidberu 7:66, who rules in accordance with this view.
In his opinion, as long as Shimon is unaware that lashon ha-ra
was said about him, there is absolutely no requirement to notify
him of what was said.
Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 1999 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and
Project Genesis, Inc.
Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne
Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily
Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.
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