web analytics
December 21, 2014 / 29 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



Home » Judaism » Parsha »

If You’re Wrong, It’s Lashon Hara

The-Shmuz

“And Miriam and Aaron spoke about Moshe regarding the Kushis woman he took, for he took a Kushis woman.” – Bamidbar 12:1

Miriam spoke disparagingly about Moshe Rabbeinu. Because of this, she contracted tzaras, and for seven days she was sent outside the camp of Israel.

Rashi explains how these events unfolded. Miriam had been standing next to Moshe’s wife, Tziporah, when they heard that two men were prophesying in the camp. Tziporah exclaimed, “Woe to the wives of these men! Now their husbands will separate from them, as my husband did from me.” When Miriam heard this, she went to Aaron and said, “We are also prophets. We don’t separate from our spouses. Why should our brother Moshe be different?”

For this statement, Miriam was punished. Rashi concludes from this incident that if Miriam, who didn’t intend any harm to Moshe, was so severely rebuked, surely one who intends to disparage his friend will be punished.

This Rashi is difficult to understand. What was Miriam’s transgression? She witnessed her brother doing something that in her estimation was wrong. She didn’t go blabbing the news all over town. She went directly to spiritual giant, the Kohen Gadol, Moshe’s brother Aaron, to ask for his advice. If she was correct and Moshe was acting improperly, then Aaron would validate her assessment. If she was wrong, he would correct her. Her intentions were pure. Her actions were discreet. Where was her wrongdoing?

The answer to this question is based on understanding what the Torah considers slander. The Rambam explains that the definition of lashon hara is “Words that hurt, words that damage.” Whether damaging a man’s reputation, harming his career, or spoiling his standing in the community – they are words that cause harm.

There are, however, times when lashon hara is permitted. If someone speaks for a constructive purpose and that speech meets exact Torah guidelines, then it is a mitzvah. In that case, the report isn’t considered disparaging. Quite the opposite, since we are obligated to protect our fellow Jews from harm, sometimes we must inform others of what we know. But that is the point: Torah law defines what constitutes slander and what is a mitzvah. The line between the two is often very thin.

The Chofetz Chaim writes that for the telling of disparaging information to be permissible, a person must have first-hand knowledge of the facts, and there can be no room for misinterpretation or for error. If there is another possible explanation that shows the act in a different light, then he is forbidden to speak.

Miriam’s Transgression

This seems to be the answer to Rashi. Hashem rebuked Miriam and Aaron both, saying, “Why did you suspect my servant, Moshe? Moshe was on such a lofty level that you should have realized what he did was justified and proper. You should have judged him favorably. Because you judged him incorrectly, you mistook his intentions and determined his actions to be improper. He is my servant, loyal and obedient, pure and untainted. You should have realized that he is in a different league than any other man, and you should have judged him favorably.”

That was Miriam’s transgression. She miscalculated. Everything she did after that was correct, but it was all based on her error. Her mistake was in her initial assessment, which then led to her to slander her brother unintentionally. But unintentional slander is slander nevertheless.

This Rashi teaches us a vital concept. How many times do we hear people say, “This isn’t lashon hara; it’s l’toeles [for a constructive purpose],” or, “About a person like him, it’s a mitzvah to talk.” And they are correct. If according to the halacha this is “a constructive purpose,” or if by Torah standards this man is a rasha, then it is a mitzvah to repeat what happened. But if not, it’s a sin. And that’s the question – is it or isn’t it?

And so we have to ask ourselves how certain we are that what we’re saying meets the Torah’s definition of a “constructive purpose.” Do we know what the Torah’s requirements are to consider a person a rasha? And even more, how many times is our conclusion deeply colored by our own hurt feelings, or by a grudge that we bear, or some other bias blinding us to the truth?

About the Author: Rabbi Shafier is the founder of the Shmuz.com – The Shmuz is an engaging, motivating shiur that deals with real life issues. All of the Shmuzin are available free of charge at the www.theShmuz.com or on the Shmuz App for iphone or Android.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “If You’re Wrong, It’s Lashon Hara

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Tekuma MKs Uri Ariel, Orit Strook and Zevulun Kalfa at a meeting Saturday night.
Jewish Home Unity Overcomes the ’Yesha Faction’
Latest Judaism Stories
Parsha-Perspective-Logo-NEW

To many of our brethren Chanukah has lost its meaning.

Parsha-Perspective-Logo-NEW

This ability to remain calm under pressure and continue to see the situation clearly is a hallmark of Yehuda’s leadership.

Torah-Hakehillah-121914

It would have been understandable for these great warriors to become dispirited.

Torah-Hakehillah-121914

The travail of Yosef was undoubtedly the greatest trauma of Yaakov’s life, which certainly knew its share of hardships.

Yosef, in interpreting the first set of dreams, performed in a manner that was clearly miraculous to all.

Chazal teach us that we need to be “sur may’rah v’asei tov,”avoid bad and do good.

When we celebrate the completion of learning a section of Torah, we recite the Hadran.

Fetal Immersion?
‘The Fetus Is A Limb Of Its Mother’
(Yevamos 78a)

Yosef proves he is a true leader; He is continually and fully engaged in the task of running Egypt

When the inability cannot be clearly attributed to either spouse, the halacha is the subject of debate among the Rishonim.

Those who reject our beliefs know in their souls Jewish power stems from our faith and our prayers.

He stepped outside, and, to his dismay, the menorah was missing. It had been stolen.

Though we Jews have deep obligations to all people our obligation to our fellow Jew is unique.

In a way that decision was the first in a series of miracles with which Hashem blessed us.

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

Exploring the connection between Pharaoh’s dreams and the story of Joseph being sold into slavery.

More Articles from Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier
The-Shmuz

Our right to exist and our form of self-government were decided by the ruling parties.

The-Shmuz

If Hashem is watching tzaddikim, why couldn’t He just save Yosef from all the suffering he was about to endure?

If a man owns a successful small business, he might do a million dollars a year in sales. But that is the gross revenue, not the amount he takes home.

It almost sounds as if Hashem is saying, “I have to keep Yaakov from getting too comfortable; otherwise he will forget Me. I can’t promise him sustenance because then he won’t need Me. He won’t write. He won’t call. He won’t love Me anymore.”

Why does Lavan’s speaking before his father show that he was wicked? Disrespectful, yes. Rude, certainly. But a rasha?

What happened was that Frank Jr. stopped being the little babe looking with love into his father’s eyes, and the relationship took on a very different nature.

Is it possible a man could be standing in a burning building, knowing this life is in danger, and be too lazy to move?

Avram’s father was not impressed with the cleverness of his son. In fact, he was so unimpressed that he took him to Nimrod the king, who pronounced him an enemy of the state and attempted to execute him.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/if-youre-wrong-its-lashon-hara/2013/05/22/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: