web analytics
September 19, 2014 / 24 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Apartment 758x530 Africa-Israel at the Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York

Africa Israel Residences, part of the Africa Israel Investments Group led by international businessman Lev Leviev, will present 7 leading projects on the The Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York on Sep 14-15, 2014.



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?

Rashi is teaching us is that if we misjudge a situation and reach a conclusion that is unfounded, we may think that we are doing a mitzvah but in fact we will be held liable for slander. While our intentions might be pure, because of our lack of caution we could needlessly spoil a man’s reputation or damage his business or stop a shidduch, and we will then be liable for the harm. What we thought was a mitzvah was in fact an egregious sin. We wronged an innocent man, and that is something that we may never be able to repair.

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
Gidon Saar (L) and Gilad Erdan (R) walking together in the Knesset.
Gilad Erdan May Replace Gidon Saar
Latest Judaism Stories
Teller-Rabbi-Hanoch-NEW

“he’s my rabbi” the Black painter said with pride, pulling out a photo of the Rebbe from his wallet

Rabbi Avi Weiss, head of theYeshivat Chovevei Torah. Rabbi Asher Lopatin will be replacing him as head of the school.

The Torah notes that even when we are dispersed God will return us to Him.

Rabbi Sacks

Simply, for Rambam the number 14 (2×7) was his favored organizing principle.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

One of the cornerstones of our Jewish life is chesed, kindness. Chesed can only be taught by example

Our understanding of what is and what is not possible creates imagined ceilings of opportunity for us.

This young, innocent child gave me a powerful, warm surge of energy and strength.

The Chafetz Chaim answered that there are two forms of teshuvah; teshuvah m’ahava and teshuvah m’yirah.

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

A Role Reversal
‘Return, O Wayward Sons…’
(Chagigah 15a)

When the Kleins returned, however, they were dismayed to see that the renters did a poor job cleaning up after themselves.

In Parshas Re’eh the Torah tells us about the bechira to adhere to the commandments of Hashem and refrain from sin. In Parshas Nitzavim, the Torah tells us that we have the choice to repent after we have sinned.

As Moshe is about to die, why does God tell him about how the Israelites will ruin everything?

Jonah objected to God accepting repentance based on ulterior motives and likely for short duration.

This week’s parsha offers a new covenant; a covenant that speaks to national life unlike any other

All Jews are inherently righteous and that is why we all have a portion in the World to Come.

More Articles from Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier
The-Shmuz

Our understanding of what is and what is not possible creates imagined ceilings of opportunity for us.

The-Shmuz

How can the Torah expect me today, thousands of years after the mitzvahs were given, to view each mitzvah as if I’m fulfilling it for the first time?

A replica reminds a person of the original. Granted it is in miniature, and granted no one would mistake it for the original, but it carries, almost in caricature form, some semblance of the original.

When a person feels he can control the destiny of other people, he runs the risk of feeling self-important, significant, and mighty.

If a man sins and follows his inclinations, he will find comfort in this world – but when he dies, he will go to a place that is all thorns.

While it’s clear to you and to me that a 14,000-pound creature can easily break away from the light ropes holding it, the reality is that it cannot.

One of the manifestations of the immature person is a sense of entitlement.

When Hashem first thought (if it could be) about creating the world, the middah of din was in operation.

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: