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Weekly Halacha

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. (Rashi)

Lashon Ha-ra Scenarios


QUESTION: 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 ideas", etc.?

ANSWER: 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 lashon ha-ra.

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 speaker, etc.

QUESTION: Reuven is being angrily accused by Shimon of causing him harm. May Reuven exonerate himself by pointing at the guilty party?

ANSWER: 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 do it.

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).

QUESTION: 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 completely?

ANSWER: 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 Hashem (6).

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 embarrassment (10).


FOOTNOTES

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 beneficial purpose.

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.

The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L'zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben Hinda. Weekly sponsorships are available--please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross jgross@torah.org.

The series is distributed by the Harbotzas Torah Division of Congregation Shomre Shabbos, 1801 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118--HaRav Yisroel Grumer, Marah D'Asra


 






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