Not to be Relied Upon

Not to be Relied Upon

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  • August 29, 2017

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Hilchos Lashon Hara 2:3-4

In the previous segment, the Chofetz Chaim dis­proved the misconception that it is permissible to speak lashon hara in the presence of three or more people. Now, the Chofetz Chaim deals with one who has listened to lashon hara that has been spoken in the presence of three or more people.

Under certain conditions, it might be permissible to repeat such lashon hara. The reason is that information that has already reached the ears of three or more people may no longer be “confidential.” It is likely, the reasoning goes, that among this group there is at least one person who does not live by the rule of shemiras halashon. This loose-tongued fellow is going to “spread the word” all around town. Therefore, anyone else in the group who repeats the information to others is not causing any damage. He is merely repeating that which is already known.

Can we rely on this reasoning in real life? Are we permitted to relate lashon hara that has already been said to a group of three or more? The Chofetz Chaim makes it quite clear that this leniency, if it can be relied upon at all, would only apply under certain very specific conditions. After discussing those conditions, the Chofetz Chaim concludes:

After all this discussion and these truths that we have clarified, realize, my brother, that one should stay far away from this leniency, for it almost never applies. And even in a situation where all the conditions [to rely upon it] are met, it is not clear that the halacha follows the opinion that this leniency is valid. According to some authorities, it has no basis at all in Shas. Therefore, one who seeks to protect his soul should stay away from it.

In Sefer Chofetz Chaim, the next three segments deal with the conditions that are needed for one to rely on the “apei tlasa” leniency. Since the Chofetz Chaim himself finds this leniency very problematic and advises that it should not be relied upon, we will skip any further discussion of it. Instead, we will devote the remainder of this segment and the next three segments to the parallel pieces in Sefer Shemiras HaLashon, also written by the Chofetz Chaim.

The Damage Caused by Lashon Hara
(Sefer Shemiras Halashon, Shaar HaZechirah ch. 7)

Take note of the damage that lashon hara can cause to the speaker:

When a person speaks lashon hara, some of his zechuyos (merits) are transferred in Heaven from his account to the account of the one about whom he spoke. As stated in Sefer Chovos HaLevavos:

Many people will come to the day of reckoning [in Heaven, after they leave this world] and when shown an accounting of all their actions, they will find good deeds that they did not do. “I did not do this,” one might say, only to be told, “This was done by the person who spoke shamefully of you.”

The guilty party will seek these zechuyos for himself and will be told, “They became lost to you when you spoke against So-and-so.”

A person can spend a lifetime devoting much of his day to Torah study, prayer, and good deeds — only to lose their merit because he was loose-tongued for all or much of his life. What a frightening thought!

Let us resolve to carefully live by the laws of shemiras halashon, for our own sake and the sake of the entire Jewish nation.


IN A NUTSHELL

We should not rely upon the “apei tlasa” leniency.
We must carefully guard our tongues if we wish to preserve our mer­its in our “Heavenly bank accounts.”

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