Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sin of not saying lashon harah /Rav Yosef, shlita

Rav Ovadiah Yosef(Yechava Daas 4:60):
Question: A person trying to get a driver’s license has a medical condition that makes his driving dangerous. But the condition is not revealed by the normal medical tests. Is it permitted for the doctor himself or someone who definitely knows about his illness - to notify the licensing bureau to prevent him from getting a license? Is it permitted to reveal this information so that he won’t cause accidents and tragedies with his driving or perhaps the doctor is prevented because of the prohibition of rechilus and lashon harah? Answer: There is a Torah prohibition of not speaking lashon harah (bad things even though they are true)…. However it seems that the prohibition is only when the intent in saying it is to besmirch the person and to degrade him. However if he does it because of a specific benefit or to prevent damage it is permitted. Proof for this is found in the Rambam (Hilchos Rotzeach 1:14): Whoever has the ability to save someone and yet doesn’t - transgresses Vayikra (19:16): Do not stand idly by the blood of your fellow man. … Or he heard that non‑Jews or informers were plotting to cause someone harm and yet didn’t warn the intended victim. Or he knows that a non‑Jew or influential person is upset with a fellow Jew and he has the ability to placate them and to eliminate their complaints and doesn’t placate them. And all similar situations which a person doesn’t save his fellowman when he had the ability to do so – has transgressed the prohibition of “don’t stand idly by the blood of your fellow man.” This is also the view of the Tur and Shulchan Aruch (C.M. 426:1). Therefore in our case where he has a hidden medical condition such as epilepsy and he conceals this from the license bureau in order to obtain a license and it is possible that he will suffer an attack while he is driving and this might cause a dangerous accident – G‑d forbid! – it is certain that the person who knows about this condition has an obligation and mitzva to notify the license bureau about this illness to prevent damage and danger to society. Even though the doctor has an obligation of confidentiality, but in these circumstances it is a mitzva for him to notify the license bureau. There is not the slightest concern that this is prohibited. In fact this is the way to understand the verse regarding lashon harah. “Do not speak lashon harah but don’t stand idly by concerning the blood of your fellow.” Even though there is a prohibition of lashon harah, nevertheless the second clause of the verse tells you that it is conditional on this not causing harm. Therefore you are obligated to inform others regarding certain matters in order to them to guard against loss and danger. This is expressed in Nidah (61a) that even though it is prohibited to listen to lashon harah but you should protect yourself from the potential danger you hear about. The Rambam (Mitzva 297) says that protecting another’s money is also included in “don’t stand idly by concerning the blood of your fellow.” … Therefore even if there is only a financial loss, one should inform your fellow man in order that he can protect himself from those who want to harm him. And surely when there is a possible danger to an individual or a group. [See Rashba (Shabbos 44a)]. We find a similar view expressed by the Pischei Teshuva (O.C. 156): “The Magen Avraham and all the mussar book go into great detail about how serious the sin of lashon harah. However I want to describe the opposite issue. There is a greater sin than lashon harah and it is more common. It is refrain from revealing information from others in situations that they need to know to protect their property or themselves from harm – all because of the concern not to say lashon harah… These matters are given over to the heart. If the motivation of the speaker of lashon harah is to cause another harm – then that is prohibited. But if his intent is for the good to warn another person and save him – then it is a great mitzva and he will receive beracha for telling it.” We find this view also expressed by the Chofetz Chaim (Hilchos Issurei Rechilus #9):”If you know about a business deal that will definitely cause someone a loss – you have an obligation to inform that person. Similarly if you know about a person with a serious disease who is interested in getting engaged to a particular woman – it is important to reveal this information to her parents. Of course it is important not to say more than what he actually knows and that his motivation is purely for the benefit of those concerned so that they will not be harmed. He should not have the intent to besmirch another because of jealously or hatred he has in his heart.”… Therefore in our case regarding the man with an undetectable medical condtion trying to get a driver’s license such as epilepsy – there is an obligation to notify the license bureau concerning what he knows in order to prevent damage to life and property. [See previous posts]


  1. hmm....if you know ploni a has a grudge against ploni b and ploni a reports a matter to the police, are you allowed after the report has come to light to tell the police about the grudge, or do you just let the police do their investigation and hope the person is found innocent?

  2. oops, ploni a has not only made a report, but gone and recruited others to their cause...so as to go and file as well. ploni a also didn't tell the people close to them that they were filing a report against ploni b, because all these people know ploni a has a grudge.


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