Shmiras Haloshon Yomi Day 90 Misconceptions

 

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi – Learning the Laws of Proper Speech – 3rd Elul, 5769

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

24 Av, 5769 / August 14, 2009

Day 90 – Misconceptions

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM – Laws of Rechilus 1:4-5

        Just as, by definition, loshon hora is derogatory or harmful information which is true, so, too, is rechilus true information which can cause ill will. If the information is false, the transgression is even more severe. The Chofetz Chaim cites a series of verses (Mishlei 6:16-19) which state that a person who causes bad feelings between friends through rechilus is deemed a rasha (wicked person) and is despicable in the eyes of Hashem.

        It is a serious mistake to think that speaking rechilus to someone who is already an enemy of the subject is not forbidden. It is. Though animosity was already present, it is forbidden to deliver a report which will deepen the rift.

        The Chofetz Chaim warns us concerning another misconception, that it is not a sin to reveal information when pressured to do so. Consider this scenario: Your friend the contractor has just finished renovating a kitchen for your friend the homeowner. The homeowner was not completely satisfied with the job and he told this to some friends. Now you meet the contractor, and he says, “Someone happened to mention that you were present when Levi talked about the work I did at his house. What did he have to say?” If you hesitate before responding, he might say, “What’s the matter? Is he unhappy about something?”

        At this point, you are in a difficult situation. If you say, “He’s not unhappy,” you’re implying that he isn’t particularly happy, either. If you refuse to discuss it, the implication is also negative. The best strategy, if you can anticipate this type of situation, is to prepare a quick, simple answer that will preempt further conversation about that topic. You should not relate what Levi actually said, despite the pressure to do so.

        The Chofetz Chaim concludes that even if one’s father or rebbi (Torah teacher) asks him, “What did so-and-so say about me?” it is forbidden to say anything negative. Responding negatively to, “Did they like my shiur (Torah lecture)?” also falls under the category of rechilus. Here, too, one must delicately and respectfully avoid an accurate response.

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi Day 89 Third-Party Support

 

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi – Learning the Laws of Proper Speech – 1st Elul, 5769

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

23 Av, 5769 / August 13, 2009

Day 89 – Third-Party Support

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM – Laws of Rechilus 1:3

        The Chofetz Chaim begins the laws of rechilus with some fundamental points. Good intentions do not remove a statement from the category of rechilus. If a statement can cause ill will it is forbidden, regardless of the speaker’s good intentions.

        The Chofetz Chaim focuses on a common tactic used in arguments between husband and wife, child and parent or employee and employer. Often, people name a third party as supporting their opinion.

        A wife tells her husband, “Even your sister agrees with me. She says I’m right.” A son tells his mother, “Even David’s mother says I’m right that boys my age should be allowed to drive.” An employee tells his boss, “You know, your friend Mr. Friedman told me that I’m worth a lot more than you’re paying me.”

        Using another person’s opinion to bolster your case does not win arguments. Often it serves to infuriate the person with whom you are arguing. The employer who is underpaying his employee will not suddenly be won over to his employee’s way of thinking because his friend thinks that the man deserves a raise. The more likely response is, “What right does he have to interfere? What does he know about my business?” The mother whose son wants to drive will not suddenly change her mind based on another mother’s opinion. Her response most likely will be, “How dare she meddle in matters between myself and my child?”

        Despite its ineffectiveness, people use this strategy for a simple reason. They feel that it strengthens their position by turning it into a majority opinion. The hope is that the opposing party will feel outnumbered and therefore capitulate.

        But Halachah looks past the strategies to the end result, and it identifies this strategy as one that is likely to create ill will. And that is why it is forbidden.

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi Day Day 88 – Rechilus

 

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi – Learning the Laws of Proper Speech – 30th Av, 5769

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

23 Av, 5769 / August 13, 2009

Day 88 – Rechilus

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM – Laws of Rechilus 1:1-2

        With this segment, we begin the second part of Sefer Chofetz Chaim, which is devoted to hilchos rechilus, the laws of gossipmongering. The Chofetz Chaim begins by citing the verse which explicitly prohibits rechilus: “Lo Seileich Rachil B’Amecha,” You shall not go as a peddler of gossip among your people (Vayikra 19:16). The Chofetz Chaim emphasizes the gravity of this sin: “It has destroyed many souls among the Jewish people.” He explains that in the Torah, this commandment is immediately followed by “You shall not stand aside while your fellow’s blood is shed.” Words of gossip, which cause ill will and hatred among Jews, have the power to destroy and defame families, friends and communities.

        As proof of the damage which rechilus can cause, the Chofetz Chaim cites the case of Doeg HaAdomi. Doeg informed King Shaul that Achimelech the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) had granted refuge to David, for whom Shaul was hunting. Shaul accepted this wicked report and ordered the Kohanim of Nov killed. Such is the power of rechilus.

        The Chofetz Chaim offers us a very clear picture of a rachil, a peddler of gossip. This is a person who goes from one person to the next saying, “Did you hear what Reuven said about you?” “Did you hear what Reuven did to you?” “Did you hear what Reuven wants to do to you?”

        The Chofetz Chaim goes further. Even if the reported information is not inherently negative and the subject himself would freely admit to it, it is still rechilus. It is rechilus, says the Chofetz Chaim, even if the person’s words or actions were absolutely justified.

        For example: Reuven has a habit of double-parking his car in congested areas. One day his doubleparking causes a major traffic jam. Shimon passes by and comments that parking in such a way is inexcusable. Someone approaches Reuven and says, “Do you know what Shimon said…?” Though Shimon’s comment may have been justified, the person who quoted Shimon in Reuven’s presence was guilty of rechilus.

        The animosity which rechilus creates is what matters; the fact that the subject was correct does not erase the ill will which the report caused. Such ill will is the product of feeling attacked. It comes from finding out that someone has been talking about you. Think of your own reaction — the instant anger — that is aroused from hearing that someone has criticized your performance in some area

        The Torah recognizes the terrible destruction which strife causes within Klal Yisrael (the Jewish people). Disunity disqualifies us from receiving Hashem’s blessings. Rechilus fosters strife and creates rifts among Jews which sometimes are irreparable. The laws of shmiras haloshon are a gift from Hashem designed to preserve love and unity. Follow them and you will be a source of blessing for yourself, your loved ones and all the Jewish people.

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi Day 87 Who’s to Blame?

 

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi – Learning the Laws of Proper Speech – 29th Av, 5769

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

22 Av, 5769 / August 12, 2009

Day 87 – Who’s to Blame?

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM – Laws of Loshon Hora 10:17

        In this segment, the Chofetz Chaim examines a case in which you are wrongly accused of something, and it is obvious that the real wrongdoer had to be either you or someone else within your circle.

        Obviously, it would be forbidden to inform on the real culprit. The Chofetz Chaim tells us that the halachah does allow you to say, “I didn’t do it.” However, in cases where there are only two possible culprits and saying “I didn’t do it” automatically places the blame on the other person, other factors need to be considered in deciding the halachah (see Be’er Mayim Chaim §43).

        Even where you are allowed to say, “I didn’t do it,” this response would be considered acting according to the strict letter of the law. However, it is considered praiseworthy to go beyond the letter of the law and actually accept the blame to protect the guilty party.

        Obviously, the Chofetz Chaim is recommending this only for someone with the emotional strength to absorb the consequences. He is certainly not recommending that one do something which would cause him great distress or involve him in a feud. On the other hand, there are situations in which there is much to be gained by accepting the blame for someone else.

        For example, suppose someone feels slighted because he was not invited to an important shul (synagogue) function which you helped organize. If you have an established, close relationship with the person, he is more likely to be forgiving of your wrongdoing than he would be toward someone else. If you accept the blame for this oversight, your friend will understand that no harm was intended, and the tension will be defused.

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi Day 86 Be Prepared

 

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi – Learning the Laws of Proper Speech – 28th Av, 5769

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

28th Av, 5769

Day 86 – Be Prepared

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM – Laws of Loshon Hora 10:15_16

      A successful public speaker knows that proper preparation is the key to delivering a good speech. A lecturer cannot come unprepared to deliver an address and expect his thoughts to be organized and his words eloquent.

      The Chofetz Chaim tells us, “Come see, my brother, how carefully one has to weigh each word [before speaking negatively l’toeles] when someone has wronged him, because when he speaks he stands in great danger of transgressing the sin of loshon hora. Clearly, it is regarding this that we can say, ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue’ (Mishlei 18:21). If one will not consider carefully before he speaks exactly how he is going to present the matter, he will surely stumble, G-d forbid. For at that moment, his anger will get the better of him and it will be impossible to exercise proper caution.”

      When someone, without proper forethought, tells others how someone has hurt him or is planning to hurt him, his emotions quickly override his intentions to speak only l’toeles.

      Once one has decided exactly what he wants to say, he should carefully examine his presentation in the light of the seven requirements of constructive speech. He should analyze each thought. Does it contain anything inflammatory? Are there any exaggerations? One should consider possible questions which the listener might ask and how to respond. One should be prepared to respond quickly, without stumbling, for once the speaker begins to stumble, it will be hard for him to regain control of the conversation—and that is when loshon hora can begin. Furthermore, if the speaker will not prepare himself well, the listener may elicit information that should not be offered.

      If these precautions seem excessive, imagine the precautions a person would take if he were working in a lab where deadly viruses are studied. That is how situations involving potential loshon hora should be treated, for as Shlomo HaMelech declared: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi Day 85 A Necessary Review

 

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi – Learning the Laws of Proper Speech – 27th Av, 5769

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

27th Av, 5769

Day 85 – A Necessary Review

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM – Laws of Loshon Hora 10:14

      We have learned in the previous segment that if someone has been hurt by another party and he can reclaim his loss or prevent further hurt by telling others of the incident, he is permitted to do so. The Chofetz Chaim begins this segment by stating:

      “However, one must be extremely careful with this license, that none of the seven conditions mentioned above be omitted. For if he will not be extremely careful, he will easily be trapped in the snare of the yetzer hara and through this license, he will be counted among those whom the Torah considers baalei loshon hora. Because of this [danger], I will review all seven conditions with a bit of additional comment.”

      The Chofetz Chaim then reviews the seven conditions

      1.  One must have firsthand knowledge of the negative incident. Otherwise, says the Chofetz Chaim, one cannot be certain that the alleged perpetrator is really the guilty party! If one has second_ hand negative information to relate l’toeles, he must make it clear that his words are based on hearsay.

      2.  One must be certain that he is interpreting the facts correctly. The Chofetz Chaim states that this is probably the most difficult condition of all (where one has been hurt personally) because people’s perceptions are usually subjective. He warns, “One never sees himself as guilty; each man thinks that his way is correct. If he stumbles in this [and speaks against someone who is, in fact, innocent], then he is guilty of hotzaas shem ra (slander), which is worse than loshon hora.”

      3.  If there is a chance that the culprit will heed rebuke, and it is likely that rebuke will not make matters worse, then one must first speak to the subject privately and attempt to convince him to right the wrong on his own.

      4.  There can be no exaggerations and no detail may be omitted if it casts the culprit in a somewhat better light. Sometimes leaving out a small positive point of the story makes the culprit appear worse than he actually is.

      5.  One’s intentions must be purely l’toeles, for a constructive purpose. In cases where one has a personal interest but the negative information is necessary to protect others, he should speak to a rav for guidance in how to proceed.

      6.  6.  If one can effect a solution without resorting to loshon hora, he must choose that route. The Chofetz Chaim adds here that if it is possible to omit certain negative details and still accomplish the constructive purpose, then those details should be omitted.

      7.  One must be certain that the report will not cause the culprit any damage which is not sanctioned by halachah.

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi Day 84 The Art of Self-Defense

 

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi – Learning the Laws of Proper Speech – 26th Av, 5769

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

26th Av, 5769

Day 84 – The Art of Self-Defense

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM – Laws of Loshon Hora 10:13

      The tongue is an awesome weapon. It can destroy people’s lives and reputations. It can create divisions between people and tear apart entire communities.

      But there are times when even gentle, respectful people have to resort to words as a weapon: in self defense

      People sometimes inflict real harm on others — sometimes financial, sometimes physical or emotional. There are many situations where the desired course is to forego our presumed rights in a dispute or to overlook the hurt which we have suffered — for the sake of peace, and so that we may rise to the lofty levels which the Torah seeks of us. But this is by no means a blanket principle, because the Torah does not want us to become victims of exploitation or abuse.

      When a strong self-defense is called for, the Torah places the weapon of words at our disposal, with careful instructions on how to use them.

      The Chofetz Chaim explains:

      We have learned in the previous segment that if someone has wronged me, I am forbidden to tell others of his misdeed for the constructive purpose of influencing him to correct his behavior. This is because we must assume that my true intention, at least partially, is simply to derive satisfaction from having others know of the wrong which was committed. However, says the Chofetz Chaim, I would be permitted to tell others what happened if this will help to have the wrong corrected. For example, if someone steals from me, and I can influence him to return the money by speaking to his parents or rav (rabbi) and convincing them of my case, then in most instances, the Torah will allow me to pursue that course of action.

      Another example would be in the case of verbal abuse or physical harm. If someone has hurt me in such ways, and is likely to continue doing so, I can tell my story to those people who are in a position to convince the abuser to stop.

      The same would apply if I were to learn that someone is planning to harm me and I can thwart his plans by speaking to the appropriate party. The words spoken in an effort to enlist help in these situations are permissible, though they denigrate the abuser. Halachah permits them in the guise of self-defense, as a shield and not a sword

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi Day 83 Ulterior Motives

 

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi – Learning the Laws of Proper Speech – 24th Av, 5769

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

24th Av, 5769

Day 83 – Ulterior Motives

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM – Laws of Loshon Hora 10:11-12

      We learned previously that one of the seven conditions of toeles is that our intentions be purely for a constructive purpose. In this segment, the Chofetz Chaim examines some of the difficulties in meeting this condition. Suppose that you were cheated in a business deal. You wish to publicize the matter, not so that you can reclaim your money, but to influence the cheater to mend his ways. In such a case, you would not be allowed to report this information l’toeles (for a constructive purpose), though to your mind, all seven conditions have been met. The reason for this, explains the Chofetz Chaim, is that when a person’s misdeed has affected you personally — whether through embarrassment, physical harm or financial loss — it is inconceivable that your intentions in relating the incident are entirely pure. You will undoubtedly derive satisfaction from having the misdeed publicized, so that the person will be shamed and scorned for what he has done to you. And this removes the report from the category of toeles and makes it forbidden.

      On the other hand, if you had seen someone else being cheated, and you knew that the cheater would not listen to rebuke, you would be permitted to publicize his misdeed to prevent others from being cheated or from following in the cheater’s ways.

      The Chofetz Chaim comments that given the above, it should be obvious that we must refrain from speaking against someone who indirectly hurt us by failing to fulfill his interpersonal obligations; for example, he has refused our request for a loan or charity contribution. Unfortunately, writes the Chofetz Chaim, this type of loshon hora is all too common. For example: A fundraiser travels to a city and is not given the reception he expected. Upon leaving the city, he may feel justified in criticizing the community’s leaders or the community in general for what he perceives as stinginess or lack of hospitality. To his mind, there was no excuse for the way he was treated, and he rationalizes that it is a “mitzvah” to publicize this. He is absolutely wrong. The fact that he was the one who was affected by the community’s behavior disqualifies him from speaking about what happened

       We may add that in this example, the fundraiser failed to take into account the many factors which may play a role when one is faced with a tzedakah request. A person could be experiencing tough times. He may have just given to a similar cause. He may be very involved at the moment with a specific cause and is channeling most of his resources in that direction. Or, the fundraiser may simply have made a poor presentation. Instead of considering these possibilities, the fundraiser has condemned a community

      The Chofetz Chaim writes: “If because of this, he disgraces an entire community, he has committed a dreadful sin. Loshon hora is forbidden even when the information is true, as we have already written, and even when one speaks against a specific individual. Certainly it is forbidden to speak against an entire community of Jews, who are steadfast in their belief in Hashem — surely this is a great sin.”

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Since 1989, the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation has successfully launched innovative methods of promoting the Torah’s wisdom on human relations and personal development. The foundation utilizes a vast array of effective communication tools including books, tapes, video seminars, telephone classes and a newsletter, designed to heighten one’s awareness of such essential values as judging others favorably, speaking with restraint and integrity, and acting with sensitivity and respect. The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s programs reassert the Torah’s timeless recipe for building a world of compassion and harmony. The following opportunities for learning and personal growth are available through their offices.

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi Day 82 Beyond Reproach

 

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi – Learning the Laws of Proper Speech – 23rd Av, 5769

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

23rd Av, 5769

Day 82 – Beyond Reproach

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM – Laws of Loshon Hora 10:9-10

      In the previous segment, we learned that when negative information needs to be related l’toeles (for a constructive purpose) and rebuke is not possible, then the report must be said in the presence of at least three people.

      In this segment, the Chofetz Chaim tells us that there is an exception to this rule: When the speaker is respected as a man of truth and a straightforward individual who would not say anything behind someone’s back that he would not say in his presence, then he can relate the information privately and does not need to speak in front of three people.

      As explained in the previous segment, three people are needed when there is a possibility that the speaker will be suspected of lying or trying to speak badly of someone without that person finding out. As a public forum, the group of three gives credibility to both the speaker and his report. However, when the speaker is respected as being a man of absolute integrity, he will not be suspected of lying or of improper motives. Therefore, there is no need for a group of three.

      The Chofetz Chaim concludes this segment by pointing out a difference between a report involving a sin between man and his fellow and one involving a sin between man and Hashem. In the latter case, such information can be related l’toeles only if the person has intentionally committed this sin numerous times, and only if it is something which we would expect the average religious Jew to recognize as a sin

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi Day 81 Bypassing Rebuke

 

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi – Learning the Laws of Proper Speech – 22nd Av, 5769

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

22nd Av, 5769

Day 81 – Bypassing Rebuke

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM – Laws of Loshon Hora 10:7-8

      We have learned that one of the seven conditions for speaking loshon hora l’toeles (for a constructive purpose) is that the speaker first rebuke the guilty person privately in the hope that he will correct whatever it is that he has done wrong.

      What if it is clear that this person will ignore any rebuke? The Chofetz Chaim informs us that in such a case, one may bypass this condition and go directly to those who he feels should know this information.

      However, if this is the situation, then a new condition needs to be fulfilled. The negative information must be related in the presence of at least three people. The Chofetz Chaim explains why:

      If the speaker does not rebuke the perpetrator and relates the information (l’toeles) to only one or two people, he will be defeating his purpose. He appears to be revealing the information in a secretive way so that the subject will never know of his report and will remain his friend. His listeners, therefore, will suspect him of lying, of fabricating the report to make that person look bad while keeping it a secret from him.

      This is not the case when he reveals it before three people. We have already learned (Days 29- 31) that a group of three or more is considered a public forum, and whatever is said in such a setting is virtually certain to become publicized. Therefore, by speaking in front of three, the person is making it clear that his intentions are pure. He knows that eventually his report will reach the ears of the subject. Nevertheless, he is relating the information for the constructive purpose which he has explained to his listeners.

      The Chofetz Chaim notes that though the listeners may act upon the information, they are permitted only to consider that it might be true; they may not conclude that it is true. They must allow for the possibility that the speaker may have overlooked a critical point which would change the nature of the report significantly

      Therefore, says the Chofetz Chaim, it is forbidden for the listeners to lower their opinion of the subject without verifying the report. Once again, this may seem like a difficult approach to take, but if Hashem requires it of us, we can be sure that it is within our power to accomplish.

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi Day 80 A Preemptive Strike

 

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi – Learning the Laws of Proper Speech – 21st Av, 5769

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

21st Av, 5769

Day 80 – A Preemptive Strike

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM – Laws of Loshon Hora 10:5-6

      The Chofetz Chaim has been discussing the rules of toeles, loshon hora spoken for a constructive purpose. In this segment, he tells us of a case where such speech is forbidden.

      Reuven has spoken loshon hora about Shimon for no constructive reason. You approach Reuven and gently rebuke him, but he is not interested in your “pious lecturing.” As far as he’s concerned, there is no sin called “loshon hora.” Now you wish to tell others of Reuven’s sin, in the hope that this will induce him to mend his ways. But there is one problem: Shimon has no idea that Reuven has spoken about him. If you tell others about it, Shimon is likely to find out. This would cause Shimon to have ill feelings toward Reuven. In such a case, you would be guilty of speaking rechilus. The fact that your intentions were l’toeles would not make this permissible.

      However, the Chofetz Chaim says, there is an exception to the rule in the scenario which we have presented. If you happen to know that Reuven is the type of person who once he has a grievance against someone, is likely to repeat it to everyone he meets, then you are allowed to do what is necessary to preempt his “loshon hora attack.”

      In his explanation of this halachah, the Chofetz Chaim offers us some psychological insight. People generally believe the first thing they hear. If one hears that someone did something wrong, and then is told that the report was false, it is difficult to erase the first impression. On the other hand, if that report had been preceded by, “Reuven is so bitter, he’s spreading loshon hora about Shimon; but don’t believe a word of it,” then it would have been easy for the listener to dismiss the report as false. Furthermore, having been forewarned to expect this wicked report, the listener might rebuke Reuven for attempting to degrade a fellow Jew. When Reuven sees that people are not accepting his loshon hora, and that they perceive him as a sinful, bitter person, he may decide to cease speaking loshon hora.

      The Chofetz Chaim says that use of loshon hora as a “preemptive strike” is certainly in the category of toeles. Obviously, here too, all seven conditions of toeles must be met.

      The preemptive strike, though a delicate maneuver, can reap great benefits. The subject of the loshon hora will be saved the embarrassment which the loshon hora would have caused him. The listeners will be saved from the sin of accepting loshon hora. The speaker of the loshon hora might be saved from speaking loshon hora in the future. And the obligation to rebuke our fellow Jew will have been fulfilled.

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi Day 79 Subjective Listening

 

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi – Learning the Laws of Proper Speech – 20 Av, 5769

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

20 Av, 5769

Day 79 – Subjective Listening

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM – Laws of Loshon Hora 10:4

      In the previous segment, we learned that it is forbidden for a person to expose someone’s faults if he himself is guilty of the same. In this segment, we learn that it is forbidden to expose a sin, even for a constructive purpose, to people who often commit the same sin and do not see anything wrong with it. The reason for this is obvious. Their sympathy will most likely rest with the wrongdoer, and in fact, they may report what was said to the subject of the criticism and thereby be guilty of rechilus (gossipmongering). This could lead to a full-scale feud and even to one Jew informing on another, if the people are of low morals.

      The Chofetz Chaim also focuses on a situation where someone rushes to the aid of a close relative. For example: Your brother tells you that someone wronged him in business and he wants your help in getting back his money. The fact that he is your brother does not change the laws of shmiras haloshon. If the seven requirements of toeles (constructive speech) have been fulfilled, then you can speak on behalf of anyone. If the seven requirements are not fulfilled, then even if your father asks you to enter the fray, you are forbidden to get involved.

      And this, the Chofetz Chaim says, is where many people stumble. If they hear that a family member is involved in a dispute, they rush to his defense without verifying the truth of the claims or the situation. They immediately “declare war,” thinking that this is a mitzvah.

      In giving us these guidelines, the Chofetz Chaim identifies the origin of many disputes:

      1.   Someone takes a side in an argument without questioning it, usually out of loyalty to a close friend or family member.

      2.   His anger is fueled by indignation that the friend or family member was wronged.

      3.   He fails to fulfill the conditions of loshon hora l’toeles.

      Following the laws of toeles faithfully will eliminate unnecessary disputes and the baseless hatred which is their natural byproduct.

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi Day 78 Impure Intentions

 

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi – Learning the Laws of Proper Speech – 17 Av, 5769

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

19 Av, 5769

Day 78 – Impure Intentions

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM – Laws of Loshon Hora 10:3

      In this halachah, we see how crucial a role one’s intentions play in determining whether our actions or statements are praiseworthy. The Chofetz Chaim informs us that derogatory information may be spoken for a constructive purpose only if the speaker is not guilty of the very sin that he is exposing. One who does suffer from the same fault he wishes to expose must remain silent on this matter.

      The source for this halachah is the episode in Scripture where King Yeihu was held accountable by Hashem for murdering King Achav’s household, though he was fulfilling a Divine prophecy that Achav’s family would be destroyed because of its idol worship. Because Yeihu, too, was guilty of a degree of idol worship, he had no right to punish those who were guilty of this sin. Therefore Hashem decreed, “And I shall bring to account the blood of [Achav who was killed in] Yizrael upon the house of Yeihu” (Hoshea 1:4)

      Why should this factor be significant? If one witnesses a misdeed and can have it rectified by reporting it, why should his own lapses matter? The Chofetz Chaim answers, “This person’s intention in revealing this hidden matter is not for the good, out of fear of Hashem. Rather, he wants to shame his fellow and rejoice over his misfortune.” In other words, it is inconceivable that such a person would reveal this information with pure intentions

      For example, if someone cheats in business, it is impossible that his motivation would be pure in talking about someone else’s business lapses. His true motivation, says the Chofetz Chaim, is a desire to ridicule the wrongdoer. (If the businessman sincerely wishes to save others from this person’s lapses, he should discuss the matter with a rav.)

      There is a message here. Our Sages tell us (Kiddushin 70a) that one who degrades another person often does so regarding the very fault which he himself possesses. Sometimes, we notice faults in others because we have them within ourselves. The Torah, in the laws of loshon hora, recognizes this principle and tells us that before we speak against others, we must first correct ourselves

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi Day 77 The Seven Rules of Toeles

 

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi – Learning the Laws of Proper Speech – 17 Av, 5769

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

17 Av, 5769

Day 77 – The Seven Rules of Toeles

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM – Laws of Loshon Hora 10:1-2

      Earlier in this volume, we referred to 7 conditions which must be fulfilled before one is permitted to relate loshon hora l’toeles, for a constructive purpose. These are

      1.  One must be absolutely certain that the information is accurate. Either one had to have witnessed the incident himself, or he investigated the report and found it to be accurate. If one has second-hand negative information which he wishes to relate for a constructive purpose, he must make it clear that his words are based on hearsay

      2.  One must think the matter through and be sure that a wrong has actually been committed. Sometimes, what one may think is a misdeed may in fact be permitted by halachah. One must be certain that his information and his interpretation of the information are correct before the information can be related.

      3.  One must first approach the wrongdoer and attempt to persuade him to rectify his behavior. For example: A storekeeper was seen cheating a customer. The first step would be to speak to the storekeeper and try to persuade him to return the money. Only after this fails should one consider informing the customer that he was cheated

      4.  One is not permitted to exaggerate in any way. This can be especially difficult in a situation where one is relating information regarding an emotional issue.

      5.  One’s intention must be solely to help the person who is being victimized. If one harbors any ill will toward the subject of the report, then he is not permitted to relate it for a constructive reason. (Of course, one should make every effort to rid oneself of such ill will.) For example, for a storekeeper to tell a potential customer about his competitor’s wrongdoing would have the likely effect of drawing this customer into his own store. In that case, the discussion would be forbidden. In a case where one has constructive negative information to relate but feels that he has a personal interest in the matter, it would be advisable for him to consult a rav (rabbi).

      6.  If one can effect the same result without speaking loshon hora, then he must use that option. If one wants to warn a friend not to shop in a certain store because of the proprietor’s dishonesty, and there is a way to convince him to shop elsewhere without speaking badly of the proprietor, then that option must be used.

      7.  One is not allowed to convey the information if this will result in the subject suffering a greater loss than the halachah allows.

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi Day 76 Basic Training

 

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi – Learning the Laws of Proper Speech – 16 Av, 5769

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

14 Av, 5769

Day 76 – Basic Training

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM – Laws of Loshon Hora 9:5-6

      We have learned that a person is required to exercise his influence on members of his household so that they will avoid the sin of loshon hora. In this segment, the Chofetz Chaim explains why it is especially important to train children to guard their tongues.

      He quotes the Vilna Gaon, who says that proper speech and good character are acquired through practice — lots of practice. If a child is trained to avoid speaking negatively of others, then he will carry this training into adulthood. He will have the necessary control to choose his words carefully.

      The Chofetz Chaim maintains that the reason why loshon hora was so widespread in his generation, was that people had been accustomed from their youth to speaking whatever they pleased, without anyone ever telling them that there exists a concept called shmiras haloshon. Thus, people did not even consider the possibility that their words involved any sort of transgression.

      The situation, says the Chofetz Chaim, would be different if children were trained from their early youth to watch their words. If children were taught to consider the impact of their words before they speak, they would have the “basic training” they needed to avoid loshon hora, ona’as devarim (hurtful words), and other forbidden speech. And shmiras haloshon would be considered as integral to Jewish life as kashrus or tefillin.

      The Chofetz Chaim provides us with all the motivation we need to educate our children in this way. He assures us that our efforts to help our children observe shmiras haloshon will make it easy for them to “safeguard themselves with regard to this sacred quality.” And he assures us that through this, they will merit a beautiful portion in the World to Come and all the blessings of life in this world as well.

      

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi Day 75 A Time to be Silent, A Time to Rebuke

 

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi – Learning the Laws of Proper Speech – 15 Av, 5769

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

14 Av, 5769

Day 75 – A Time to be Silent, A Time to Rebuke

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM – Laws of Loshon Hora 9:3-4

      In this segment, the Chofetz Chaim cites another example of praise which should be avoided. That is when someone publicizes the fact that a person has done an outstanding act of kindness on his behalf, or has presented him with a generous donation or loan. For example, a person announces, “Mr. Rosen welcomed me into his home and treated me like a king!” or, “Mr. Rosen lent me $10,000 just when I needed it desperately!” The result may be a great disservice to Mr. Rosen because he may become swamped with requests, from honest people and from other types, who want to benefit from his generosity.

      The Chofetz Chaim also informs us that it is forbidden to live among people who habitually speak loshon hora. He adds that it is certainly forbidden to sit among such people, even if one does not intend to listen to their conversations. He goes so far as to advise Torah teachers that if one of their students is a baal loshon hora, someone who habitually speaks loshon hora, and the teacher feels that he cannot influence this student to change, then he is required to cease teaching that student. (The Chofetz Chaim bases this law on an incident in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 31b) where the student was an adult.)

      If by chance one finds himself in the company of baalei loshon hora, he is required to rebuke them for speaking loshon hora and ask them to stop. However, one should first give some thought to whom he is rebuking; if they are likely to respond by increasing their loshon hora, then rebuke should not be given.

      If it appears that rebuke might fail to stop the loshon hora but it will not cause it to increase, then one is required to rebuke.

      Rebuking is not easy. Often, it seems like an embarrassing, self-righteous thing to do. But the Chofetz Chaim says that we must do it when required, because otherwise we become accomplices in the crime. The Chofetz Chaim offers us an option in cases where rebuke seems doomed to failure—we should change the topic. In many cases that is much easier than one would think. And it accomplishes the goal of moving the person or group away from loshon hora.

      Another option is to strongly defend the person being maligned. If one takes control of the conversation and points out that the speaker cannot possibly know the whole story, that his comments are based on hearsay, then even without direct rebuke, one will make his point and raise a reasonable doubt in the listeners’ minds.

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi Day 74 The Perils of Praise

 

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi – Learning the Laws of Proper Speech – 14 Av, 5769

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

14 Av, 5769

Day 74 – The Perils of Praise

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM – Laws of Loshon Hora 9:1-2

      In this segment, the Chofetz Chaim begins addressing the subject of avak loshon hora (lit. the dust of loshon hora), statements which are not actual loshon hora but which are nonetheless forbidden.

      The mere concept of avak loshon hora underscores the severity of loshon hora. This sin is so dangerous that an entire chapter of Sefer Chofetz Chaim is devoted to statements which are forbidden because they hint at loshon hora or because they can lead to loshon hora.

      A particle of dust is so miniscule that one has to look very carefully to see it at all. It is often the same with avak loshon hora. One may be dealing with words which seem quite innocuous. In the Chofetz Chaim’s first example, someone comments about a certain person, “It’s amazing how far he’s come.” On the surface, it appears that the speaker has not spoken derogatorily about his subject, nor caused him any harm. But if we probe a bit further, we can expand the statement to mean, “It’s amazing how far he’s come, considering the fact that he has an unsavory past,” or “… considering the fact that he’s not that bright.” In all probability, the speaker’s intention was entirely complimentary. Nevertheless, people may lose respect for the person, no matter what his current status, if they find out that he had a troubled past or if they perceive him as lacking in intelligence.

      Perhaps the most famous case of avak loshon hora is when the statement is pure praise of an individual. On the surface, this would seem to pose no problem. What could be wrong with praising someone? To understand the problem we need to examine the dynamics of a conversation. In conversation, each person builds on what the other person has just said. The halachah identifies certain conversations as being likely to lead to loshon hora and declares them forbidden.

      In certain situations, praising an individual can lead listeners to focus on the flaws of the person being praised. One is not allowed to praise someone in front of his enemies. The temptation is overwhelming to rebut praise of one’s enemy with criticism.

      We should never praise someone excessively, even to his friends. When the spotlight is directed onto someone and his praises are sung, it is quite possible that someone will say, “Yes, he has many fine qualities — except for the fact that…”

      We have been discussing praising someone in front of one person or a few people. One should not praise someone in public, says the Chofetz Chaim. This is because the law of averages dictates that there will be at least one person who either is jealous of the person or has something against him—in which case the praise is sure to set off a negative reaction. The only situation where public praise is allowed is when the subject is renowned as a learned, righteous person. In such a case it is reasonable to assume that even if he has critics, they will be reluctant to speak out publicly against him, because by doing so they would lose their own credibility.

      Yet in Be’er Mayim Chaim the Chofetz Chaim says that we should avoid sitting among people who are discussing a renowned Torah personality, because there are some people who simply cannot resist offering criticism no matter who the subject is. As we discussed, negative talk about such an individual is a most serious sin, as is listening to and accepting it.

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi Day 73 Safeguarding One’s Surroundings

 

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi – Learning the Laws of Proper Speech – 13 Av, 5769

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

13 Av, 5769

Day 73 – Safeguarding One’s Surroundings

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM – Laws of Loshon Hora 8:13-14

      Our sages teach that all Jews are responsible for one another (Shevuos 39b). That responsibility has an impact on the laws of shmiras haloshon as well. The Chofetz Chaim teaches us that to the extent that we can influence others to observe these all-important laws, we are responsible to do so.

      He uses the example of a man who stands at the head of his household. His responsibility in the area of shmiras haloshon extends to his wife and children. Certainly a mother, too, must actively educate and correct her family members regarding shmiras haloshon. The Chofetz Chaim cites a Talmudic teaching that one who has the ability to chastise the members of his household, but refrains from doing so, will be held responsible for their deeds (Shabbos 54b). A parent’s responsibility is awesome.

      Let no one think, however, that this is the charge of parents alone. Every Jew must seek to eradicate the sin of loshon hora from his surroundings. The Chofetz Chaim states that children should not allow loshon hora spoken by their parents to go unnoticed. Of course, parents must be addressed with sensitivity and great respect. Often, a rav (rabbi) should be consulted regarding the proper approach to use. The Chofetz Chaim stresses that children who choose to turn a blind eye to their parents’ loshon hora will be held responsible, as will their parents.

      There is one overriding rule to bear in mind whenever rebuke is in order. Speak gently, says the Chofetz Chaim. To turn our homes into battlefields will only be counterproductive. Gentle reproof is the only formula for achieving positive results.

      The Chofetz Chaim has one final piece of advice. As the saying goes, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Children learn most from observing their parents’ behavior. It is crucial that parents set a good example by avoiding all forms of forbidden speech in conversation. Then, their children will see shmiras haloshon as a way of life.

      Our children’s Torah education is our national treasure. Parents make great personal sacrifices to pay for Torah education, driven by the yearning that their children should grow to be Jews who are devoted to Hashem and His Torah. To a great extent, the education of our children takes place within the confines of our homes. If we live according to the Torah’s teachings in all areas of life, then we can expect that our children will follow in our footsteps, in their relationship with Hashem and with their fellow man.

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi Day 72 To a Non-Jew

 

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi – 12 Av, 5769

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

12 Av, 5769

Day 72 – To a Non-Jew

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM – Laws of Loshon Hora 8:12

   At one time or another, we hear derogatory remarks about Jews. It is tragic enough when such remarks are made by Jews to Jewish listeners. Even more tragic is when they are told by Jews to co-workers, business associates, or others who are not Jewish. The subject of these remarks might be an individual Jew, a specific group of Jews, or Jews in general

   The Chofetz Chaim declares that to speak loshon hora about a Jew when the listener is a gentile is a much greater sin than when the listener is a Jew. One who is guilty of this sin “disgraces the honor of Israel and desecrates the Name of Heaven.”

   There is yet another reason for the particular severity of this sin. When one speaks loshon hora to a fellow Jew, there is a possibility that the listener will not be quick to accept the report as fact—especially if he is someone familiar with the laws of loshon hora. Gentiles, on the other hand, certainly do not have a predisposition towards judging Jews favorably. Upon hearing the derogatory report, the gentile will be quick to believe it and pass the information on to others.

   When a Jew denigrates other Jews in the presence of gentiles, he is, in essence, contradicting the purpose of his own existence. Our mission in this world as a people is to spread the honor of Hashem by serving as His representatives before the rest of the world. We say in Shema each day: “V’Ahavta es Hashem ElokechaAnd you shall love Hashem, your G-d (Devarim 6:4). Our Sages teach (Yoma 86a) that we demonstrate our love of Hashem by making His Name beloved in the eyes of others. When a Jew studies Torah, speaks pleasantly to people and deals honestly in business, then people say, “Praiseworthy is the father who taught him Torah; praiseworthy is the teacher who taught him Torah. See how beautiful and correct are his ways and deeds.”

   Thus the damage caused by relating loshon hora to gentiles goes far beyond loshon hora, which is devastating in itself. Instead of using his abilities to increase Hashem’s honor, the speaker has been guilty of chillul Hashem (desecration of Hashem’s Name).

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi Between Husband and Wife

 

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi – 10 Av, 5769 / July 29, 2009

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Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

10 Av, 5769 / July 29, 2009

Day 71 – Between Husband and Wife

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM – Laws of Loshon Hora 8:10-11

The Chofetz Chaim now turns his focus in a different direction — to whom am I forbidden to relate loshon hora? He answers, “There is no difference regarding this prohibition, whether the listener is one’s relative or someone distant, or even one’s own wife — unless it is something of which he must inform her for a constructive purpose.”

The Chofetz Chaim focuses on a very typical situation. A husband comes home and his wife asks, “How was your day?” or, “What’s new in shul (synagogue)?” The Chofetz Chaim cautions us strongly against using such questions as a forum for telling one’s wife of any arguments or other unpleasant encounters which he had during the course of the day. Not only is this loshon hora, but it does further damage, since the wife, out of loyalty to her husband, is likely to harbor animosity towards the person whom the husband feels has wronged him. This may lead to her finding the opportunity to castigate the man or his family members, so that a situation which could have been resolved, will instead become a full-scale feud between families.

The Chofetz Chaim adds a bit of marital advice. He says that if a husband habitually complains to his wife about the slights and indignities which he perceives have been heaped upon him, then he actually lowers himself in her eyes. She begins to believe that others do not respect him, and that perhaps he is not really worthy of respect. The Chofetz Chaim quotes Avos D’Rabbi Nassan (7:3) which explains the words of the Mishnah, “Do not speak excessively with a woman,” as making exactly this point; excessive complaining to his wife lowers a man’s esteem in her eyes.

The Chofetz Chaim points out that there are clearly cases of toeles (constructive purpose) where spouses are allowed to, and ought to, share information. This applies to business partnerships, as well. Certainly one partner can warn the other about problems with a potential vendor or customer. However, one must be careful to release only that negative information which is absolutely essential.

If it is possible to solve the problem without saying anything negative, then that is the strategy required. For example, your wife says, “Mrs. Klein invited us to dinner next week.” But you have reason to believe that the kashrus level in the Klein’s house does not meet your standards. To avoid speaking loshon hora you should think of some benign reason for declining the invitation. If your wife finds your excuse unreasonable and is upset, then you may tell her your real reason.

In truth, there are many ways to protect a spouse, business associate or oneself from harmful from her aunt and cousins people or situations without resorting to loshon hora. Although it might take a little effort or ingenuity, our Sages assure us that the dividends will surely be well worth our while.

A daily lesson from the Chofetz Chaim: A Daily Companion/Mesorah Publications.
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