Monday, March 18, 2013

Charity given with wife's assistance - still considered giving secretly/ Heter of Chazon Ish to speak lashon harah to wife

Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein (Avoda Zara 39a): Question: It is well known that tzedaka (charity) given secretly is considerably superior to that given publicly...This is discussed in Bava Basra (9). The question arises what is the status of charity given by a man when his wife writes the check and helps distribute the money to the poor? Does this assistance cause the loss of the status of charity given secretly since his wife knows about it? Similarly what is the status of money if his son helps him?
Answer: It says in Kesubos (67b) "Mar ‘Ukba had a poor man in his neighbourhood into whose door-socket he used to throw four zuz every day. Once [the poor man] thought: ‘I will go and see who does me this kindness’. On that day [it happened] that Mar ‘Ukba was late at the house of study and his wife was coming home with him. As soon as [the poor man] saw them moving the door he went out after them, but they fled from him and ran into a furnace from which the fire had just been swept. Mar Ukba's feet were burning and his wife said to him: Raise your feet and put them on mine. As he was upset, she said to him, ‘I am usually at home and my benefactions are direct. And what [was the reason for] all that?— Because Mar Zutra b. Tobiah said in the name of Rab (others state: R. Huna b. Bizna said in the name of R. Simeon the Pious; and others again state: R. Johanan said in the name of R. Simeon b. Yohai): Better had a man thrown himself into a fiery furnace than publicly put his neighbour to shame. Whence do we derive this? From [the action of] Tamar; for it is written in Scripture, When she was brought forth, [she sent to her father-in-law]. "

The Meiri writes that there are different levels some of which are mentioned her and some that are mentioned in other places... That which is mentioned here is when the donor knows who the recipient is but the recipient doesn’t know who the donor is. This is the case where Mar Ukva was accustomed to give every day a sela in the door of the a poor man who was his neighbor. Once he was late leaving the beis medrash and he didn’t want to go alone at night so his wife went with him. Because  a wife is considered to be part of her husband (ishto k’gufo) her knowledge of the tzedaka did not take away from it being giving secretly. One when he realized that the poor man was trying to discover who the donor was, Mar Ukva ran away so as to not embarrass him. About this it is said that it is better for a man to throw himself into a furnace and not publicly embarrass another.

The Meiri explains that the fact that Mar Ukva’s wife knew about the tzedaka did not take it out of the category of giving secretly because a man’s wife is like himself (ishto k’gufo). We can apply this to our question and say that there is no lowering of the status of the tzedaka by the fact that the wife writes the checks. However it be a lowering of the status of the tzedaka wrote the checks. That is because only the wife is considered to be like the husband himself and no one else. Consequently if the son wrote the checks it would lower its status to some degree of being tzedaka given in private.

Concerning the prohibition of lashon harah, the Chofetz Chaim (Lashon Harah 8:10) writes, “You should know that there is no halachic distinction concerning speaking lashon harah whether he says it to other people ... or to his wife... Many people err by telling the lashon harah to their wives regarding all that happened to them concerning so and so in the beis medrash or street. Not only is he violating the prohibition of lashon harah but he is increasing disputes and fights because of the lashon harah... “ In Be’er Mayim Chaim he proves that it is still considered lashon harah even when he tells it to his wife – from Avos D’Rabbi Nosson (Chapter 7), “Do not speak a lot with the wife. For example when a man comes from the beis medrash when they didn’t treat him with proper respect or he had a problem with his study partner – he should not go and tell his wife the details because he degrades himself and his study partner.”

However it is mentioned in the name of the Chazon Ish that there are times when a man can tell lashon harah to his wife – because a wife is like himself (ishto k’gufo). That is when his intent in saying the lashon harah is not to increase hatred but simply to remove that which is in his heart – and it is clear to him that his wife will not tell anyone else what he said. [See Chofetz Chachim (Hilchos Lashon Harah  clall 10 Mekor Mayim Chaim 14)].


  1. >>> and it is clear to him that his wife will not tell anyone else<<<

    In other words the Chozon Ish said it was assur. Have you ever heard of a woman not being m'kayem the Gemarah of 'tishaa Kaabim'????

  2. To regular husband,
    I think that someone has a major problem here. 9 kabim or 99, a woman does have the ability not to divulge confidential information.
    If the husband is trying to get something off of his chest so that he can cope with it better, why is telling his wife any worse than speaking to a therapist?
    Of course his wife is not allowed to believe anything the husband says that would fall into the category of lashon hara.

  3. actually, many disagree with the chofetz chaim on various aspects of lashon harah, esp when it could affect another person (CC's rules on "toelet" is too limited / problematic)

    however,it is the chofetz chaim, so ...


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