Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lashon harah against troublemakers and whistleblowers

It is important to remember that lashon harah is a two edged sword. On the one hand it has the ability to destroy the innocent and kill society. But on the other hand it is a legitimate weapon for society to use to destroy and delegitimitize those who are designated trouble makers or deviants or bad influences. The obvious problem is who decides that it is permitted to destroy another person's reputation for the well being of society? What safeguards and what recourse does a person  have who has been designated for destruction? Is a person who reports child abuse to the police a legitimate target for destruction by lashon harah? Are authorities who conceal child abuse legitimate targets?


  1. truly a breath of fresh air

  2. is a translation available?

  3. Mel Kaminsky said...

    is a translation available?
    I am working on one - hopefully sunday or monday.

  4. I do not regularly view the DAAS TORAH site.

    Hashgachah Protis that I did today and saw this posting by Rabbi Dr, Eidesohn.

    I would like attest to Rabbi Dr, Eidesohn's readers.
    my own viniet regarding this post.

    My Family A victim of vicous Loshon Hora was shown the most unbridled kind chesed,counseling and hope by Rabbi Dr. Eidesohn.

    Together with his Rebbetzin.
    A home of calm comforting voices of nechama, hope and optimisim in a time of trouble and despair for all of Klal Yisrael.

    This small posting by Rabbi Dr. Eidesohn is a reflection of "Deracheha darkchei noam” his Ahavas Yisroel and intervention for the sake of the klal from his heart.

    "Elokeem Yevakeish HaNirdof,

  5. Mizrachi Day School GradDecember 10, 2009 at 9:14 PM

    Rabbi Eliezer Kwass writes:

    The concept of l'toelet is developed, organized, and explained by the Chafetz Chaim, but, as he shows in the Beer Mayim Chaim (his footnotes on the Sefer Chafetz Chaim), its source is in the Talmud, as clarified by the Rishonim.

    The Chofetz Chaim (Beer Mayim Chaim, Rekhilut, beginning of Klal 9) maintains (based on the Gemara and Rishonim) that the Biblical prohibition of "Lo taamod al dam reiekha," (Vayikra 19:16 - Do not stand idly by while your friend's blood is spilled) applies not only to death but also to loss. In other words, it is prohibited to watch a potential financial loss coming upon another and not prevent it. Therefore, one may pass on information (even though it would otherwise be classified as lashon hara) to a potential victim in order to prevent loss.

    A classic example of this is reporting accurately - even negative information - to a potential employer about an job applicant to prevent the boss from getting stuck with a bad worker. The Chofetz Chaim cautions that this is only permissible if a number of other conditions are met (such as verifying the information, only altruistic intent, attempting other methods of stopping the loss, etc).

    The Talmudic source for this is Sanhedrin 73a: "How do we know that if a person is drowning in a river, an animal is dragging him, or robbers are approaching him that you are obligated to save him? For it says, 'Lo taamod al dam reiekha,' (Do not stand idly by while your friend's blood is spilled). And do not say, says the Chofetz Chaim, that, "robbers are approaching him," only refers to a death threat (if you do not give them the money). Another source, the Mechilta, establishes that if a witness refuses to testify on behalf of a litigant and he thereby loses money, he also transgresses 'Lo taamod al dam reiekha,' even though it only involves causing a monetary loss.

    The Rambam brings this down in Sefer Hamitzvot 297, and the Chofetz Chaim also brings proofs based on the Rashbam (Bava Batra 39b), Tosafot (same page), and the Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzva 237).

  6. Mizrachi Day School GradDecember 10, 2009 at 9:14 PM

    Also from the RCA:

    1. Arukh HaShulhan maintains that mesirah was prohibited because of the nature of autocratic governments under which Jews lived throughout much of our history. Such informing often led to dangerous persecution of the entire Jewish Community. He posits that this injunction no longer applies in those communities in which the government is generally fair and non-discriminatory. (Arukh HaShulhan, Hoshen Mishpat 388:7. This source is cited authoritatively by Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz in "The Abused Child: Halakhic Insights." Ten Da'at, Sivan 5748. p. 12). Accordingly, it is obligatory in the Western world today to inform the civil authorities about individuals who abuse others.
    2.The prohibition of mesirah applies only when testimony assists civil authorities in illegally obtaining the money of another Jew, not when it aids a non-Jewish government in fulfilling such rightful duties as collecting taxes and punishing criminals. When, however, the information concerns the criminal activities of a fellow Jew - as long as the Jewish criminal has also violated a Torah law, and even if the punishment will be more severe than the Torah prescribes (RaN to Sanhedrin 46a) - the ban of mesirah does not apply. (Rabbi Herschel Schachter, "Dina deMalchuso, Dina,"Journal of Halachah and Contemporary Society, I, p. 118.)
    3.Even should one hold that the prohibition of mesirah is relevant today, reporting child abusers to civil authorities is nevertheless mandatory. According to Rema, even when the prohibition of mesirah is in force, "a person who attacks others should be punished. If the Jewish authorities do not have the power to punish him, he must be punished by the civil authorities." (Hoshen Mishpat 338:7 and Shakh, no. 45. See also Gloss of Rema to Hoshen Mishpat 338:9.) Our Batei Din today have neither the power nor the authority to handle such matters.
    4.Shulhan Arukh rules that the prohibition of mesirah restricts an individual who is being harassed from making a report to the civil authorities. However, when there is a meitzar hatzibbur (public menace), mesirah is permissible. (Hoshen Mishpat 338:12, see Shakh, no. 59 and Gra no. 71.) Child abusers and molesters clearly endanger the welfare of many children with whom they have contact. (Rabbi Waldenberg quoted in Nishmat Avraham, Vol. IV, p. 209.)
    5.See Rabbi Michael Broyde, "Mesirat Meida al Avaryanim lidei ha-Shiltonot be-Artzot ha-Berit," Hadarom, vol. 72-73, Elul 5762, pp. 7-38; p. 37, note 90.

    Resolution Regarding Members Accused of Improprieties

    Adopted by the Rabbinical Council of America

    May 28, 2003

  7. Mizrachi Day School GradDecember 10, 2009 at 9:16 PM

    More from Rabbi Kwass:

    The Chafetz Chaim lists seven necessary conditions one must fulfill to permit speech l'toelet (for a constructive purpose):

    1. The speaker relies only on verified first-hand information, rather than hearsay or speculation.

    2. The subject’s activity must be properly and deeply analyzed, giving him the benefit of the doubt.

    3. The subject must be approached personally and influenced to change (according to the mitzvah of tochacha - rebuke), if at all possible.

    4. It is forbidden to exaggerate what was actually done; it must be reported precisely.

    5. The speaker’s intention is exclusively for productive purposes, not motivated by spite, revenge, or any other ulterior motives.

    6. If there is any way of dealing with the problem other than speaking about the person, the alternative must be tried first.

    7. The speech must not bring about excessive damage to the subject.

  8. Mizrachi Day School GradDecember 10, 2009 at 9:20 PM


    If one has witnessed with first hand evidence that one person or persons is attempting or actually has harmed another, the Chofetz Chaim teaches that ''the need for accuracy does not require an attempt at justifying the perpetrator's motives. Even if the act is out of character, it must be rectified, and one may, therefore, inform the appropriate parties.''

  9. Why is child abuse even a question if pedophiles have a din of rodfim?

  10. It shouldn't be a question, except that it is commonplace for those who report child molesters to then become the subject of smear campaigns.

    I was at a synagogue where a molestation happened, and board members and the Rabbi wanted very much to keep the situation out of the public eye and "take care of things ourselves." Well, they didn't. I reported. The detective told me to expect that people, including the Rabbi, would dig into my entire life story to try to bring up dirt on me, and it's exactly what happened.

    I was told that it's a Chilul Hashem to report negative things about a religious worker, even if they are true.

  11. The post isn't just about reporting child abusers, although that seems to the example of the day.

    DT also says "it is a legitimate weapon for society to use to destroy and delegitimitize those who are designated trouble makers or deviants or bad influences. The obvious problem is who decides that it is permitted to destroy another person's reputation for the well being of society? What safeguards and what recourse does a person have who has been designated for destruction?"

    What happens if the deviant is a member of the “establishment?” Not just deviance in sexual matters.

    Suppose you find out that a well known Dayyan who is an Av Beis Din is giving Kohain honors to a Kohain who is married to a gentile, and he doesn’t stop after he’s been informed, and his local colleagues don’t want to get involved because they have a gentleman’s agreement to not interfere with each other’s shul operations?

    If you then make the Dayyan’s behavior publicly known, is it a Mitzvah or an Avera ?

    Who is the victim and who is the crime?

    Is it in the public interest to reveal a Rabbinical Judge who is corrupt ? Or is the public interest harmed by it and the informer is the guilty party?

  12. In Reply to:Iturbi

    I beleive Rabbi Dr, Eidesohn elequently addressed your concern.

    "The obvious problem is who decides that it is permitted to destroy another person's reputation for the well being of society?
    Are we in a society of self appointed vigilates where Torah law sucums to thuggery?

    What safeguards and what recourse does a person have who has been designated for destruction'

    A lay mans opinion only: there is nothing you can do to stop a person that has designated another for destruction by Loshon Hora. A Bal or Balas Loshon Hora is a wild gorrila with a loaded machine gun.

    "Elokeem Yevakeish HaNirdof
    says the Medrash that even a Tzadik that pusues a Rasha. Hashem has his mercy turned to the Rasha and not with the Tzadik, Kal V Chomer a stam person that pursues another it would seem in my opinion the pursued has the Rachamim of Shomayim.

    Related to this subject I heard very recently from a very close Talmud Muvak Of M'Horav Moshe Feinstien whos name is mentioned aproximaly 40 times in Igoros Moshe.
    That there was a person who printed a libel and slander against the Great Godol Hador Harav Moshe Feinstien. His talmidim were outraged and urged thier Rebbe to rebutt and rebuk. Horav Moshe ZTL said no I will ignore it "Elokeem Yevakeish HaNirdof,
    The Man Died Six Months Later.

    Hrav Moshe Feinstien ZTL was in another parsha then just a stam Yid ..but never the less the story hit home and I beleive is one to live by.

    "Elokeem Yevakeish HaNirdof,

  13. My mother said something like that.

    "Don't ever seek revenge on a person you believe has wronged you. Let Hashem be the True Judge. The justice of Hashem, is more potent than anything you could ever come up with."


please use either your real name or a pseudonym.