Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rav Sternbuch: The nature of the prohibition of not accepting lashon harah

Guest Post: 1) The following is a teshuva from R Sternbuch, my translation, which  R Eidenhsohn  has graciously agreed to print. I was excited to find this Teshuva because it addresses a basic question I've had for a long time: How can we be told whether to believe a story -don't we do so automatically based on whether we think it makes sense?
2)I found this Teshuva particularly hard to translate as it seemed highly repetitive and I'm not completely certain of R Sternbuch's conclusion. (Where exactly do you draw the line between chazakah and reality?)
3)I have opted for a somewhat freer translation. Readers who can do so, are obviously advised to consult the original teshuva

Teshuvos v'Hanhagos 1:555):
A question regarding accepting Lashon Harah {Henceforth LH}

The holy Chafetz Chaim zt"l in Hilchos lashon hara (6:10) rules that it's forbidden to accept LH that one heard on his friend- rather he must assume that the guy  remains with his status of not having sinned. Nevertheless, one may take precautions and it's necessary to investigate and clarify, however he must not have even a doubt in his heart- as the guy retains his presumed innocence {Chazakah}

And his words are very difficult: are people angels that when he hears from someone he trusts and who does not hate the guy he's speaking about and therefore the listener suspects in his heart that it might be true how can we say that this is an issur of accepting LH?  Now, of course he may not harm the person spoken about at all based on hearsay, but in his heart he's going to have doubts that the report may be true! And it is hard to even imagine that he 'suspects' only in order to investigate but in truth he has no real doubt.- the law of chazakah itself leaves us unsure of the reality, just Halacha dictates to act as if the previous status remains! But it's never been ruled that even in one's heart it's prohibited to be in doubt of the true reality! But rather we have a doubt what the true reality is, and the presumption of innocence (chezkas kashrus) doesn't decide on this.

I likewise saw in the sefer Pe'as Sadcha (from RSD Munk zt"l) #29 that he reported that he asked the Chazon Ish zt"l about this and he replied "who can behave like that- this [the halacha regarding LH] is just lomdus". And he means as we said before that it's impossible to behave like this and the torah was not given to angels.

Therefore, it appears that that the Chafetz Chaim's intent was that since when one who hears LH,it's human nature to believe the reporter, especially if he's a reliable person, and it therefore becomes a full blown doubt by him that the LH may be true. And on this the opinion of the holy Chafetz Chaim is that he must know that the rules of the torah require that he presume everyone innocent-  just that the halachah is that he is permitted to suspect- and as a precaution against something that's likely to cause him harm if the report is true. But, beyond this, it is definitely prohibited to tell others or cause the person in question any pain or the like. And this doubt that is permitted here to act on,  is for himself to doubt the guy's innocence despite the general rule of chezkas kashrus,  and to act as if the rumor might be true; but in his heart he needs to know clearly that the guy keeps his chezkas kashrus and therefore the LH report is false {Sheker}- and the torah was not given to angels.

In any case, we are commanded to "judge everyone favorably" - to find a mitigating factor {be melamed zechus} as much as possible. And there is no limit to how many mitigating factors one can find- as well as to entertain that the teller did not see what happened exactly or all the details and therefore did not relate all that was involved etc

And the primary prohibition of LH is that after one has heard the gossip, he should not change the way he relates to guy he heard about at all, and  that as relates to the guy he does not  suspect him of anything, even if he cannot be an angel who it would be clear to, as we have said. 
תשובות והנהגות כרך א
  סימן תקנה
שאלה: באיסור קבלת לשון הרע וגדרה 

הקדוש בעל "חפץ חיים" זצ"ל בהלכות לשון הרע (כלל ו' סעיף י') פוסק שאסור לקבל לשה"ר ששמע רע על חבירו רק יש להעמידו על חזקתו שאין בו עולה, ומ"מ למיחש מיהת בעי לברר וליזהר, אבל אין לו עוד אפילו ספק בלבבו כל זמן שיש חזקה. 

ודבריו תמוהין מאד, אטו בני אדם מלאכי השרת הם, וכששומע מאדם מהימן שאינו שונאו וחושש בלבו, היאך נימא שזהו איסור קבלת לשון הרע, ונהי דאי אפשר לו לנגוע בחבירו כמלא נימא על סמך שמועה, מ"מ בלבו מסתפק שמא השמועה נכונה, וקשה אפילו לצייר שחושש רק כדי לברר אבל באמת אין אצלו אפילו חשש, והלוא מדין חזקה גופא נשאר ספק רק הלכה לנהוג כמקודם, ומעולם לא נפסק בחזקה שגם בלב אסור להסתפק כלל, ועכ"פ יש כאן ספק במציאות והחזקת כשרות לא מכרעת על זה. 

וכן ראיתי בספר "פאת שדך" (מהגר"ש מונק זצ"ל) סי' כ"ט מביא ששאל מהחזו"א זצ"ל והשיב "מי יכול לעמוד בזה אין זה אלא לומדות" וכוונתו כנ"ל שהרי אי אפשר לעמוד בזה ולא ניתנה תורה למלאכי השרת. ולכן נראה בכוונת הח"ח דכששומע לשה"ר הלוא טבע האדם הוא להאמין למספר ובפרט אם הוא אדם נאמן, ונעשה לו עכ"פ ספק גמור, ולזה דעת הקדוש החפץ חיים שצריך לידע שדין התורה הוא להעמיד כל אחד בחזקתו והרי הוא בחזקת כשרות, ורק הלכה היא שמותר לחשוש וכחששא לענין זהירות מדבר שעלול ליגרם לו נזק אם השמועה היתה נכונה, ומלבד זהירות זה האיסור בתורת ודאי לספר לאחרים או לצערו וכדומה, וחששא זו שהותר בזה היא שלעצמו חושש שלא כדין חזקת כשרות, אלא כאילו כן האמת, אבל בלבו צריך לידע ברור שחזקתו בכשרות, ולכן סיפור הלשה"ר הוא שקר, ולא ניתנה התורה למלאכי השרת. ובכל אופן מצווים אנו "בצדק תשפוט עמיתך" ללמד זכות כפי האפשר ואין גבול עד כמה אפשר ללמד זכות, וגם לצדד שההוא לא ראה בדקדוק או את כל הפרטים ולא סיפר או יודע כל הנסיבות וכו'. 

ועיקר איסור קבלת לשון הרע הוא לאחר השמיעה שלא ישתנה אצלו היחס לחבירו כלל, וליהוי כאילו לא שמע, שלגבי חבירו אינו חושש כלל, אף אם לעצמו אינו כמלאכי השרת שברור לו, וכמ"ש. 


  1. Having experienced first hand having loshan hara spread about me,with no one in the neighborhood speaking to me or even answering a greeting when I passed by, there was actually ONE person and maybe a couple others that were able to uphold this Din. Even people that believed in me were affected by the Loshan Hara in the way that they related to me. I asked this person how he managed continue to treat me as always and he pointed to a picture of the Chofetz Chaim and pointed to a Chumush.

  2. I don't see how the conclusion is different from what the Chofetz Chayim said.

  3. Recipients and PublicityMay 24, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    There are all kinds of abuse. Sexual abuse is just one kind. Wasting money at the expense of others is another kind of serious abuse. What is the Halacha is the following scenario? Are the Belzers right or wrong al pi din bazman hazeh? If there is "X" amount of tzibur (public) money and there is a need to make chasuna (wedding) but at the same time there are tens of thousands of aniyim (poor) who need help for basic food and living, what is the right thing to do?

    It is impossible to accept claims that Charedim are facing financial difficulties in Israel when in full public view the Belzers held a multi-million dollar chasuna (wedding) in the middle of Yerushalayim for a Rebbishe einikel [grandchild] (and far too many other copy-cat this), with tens of millions spent on airfares, accommodations, halls, food, catering, clothing, logistics, etc -- and a strict ban on talking to the media cleverly imposed (such as what if some journalist asks some leading questions like who is paying for this hoopla and extravaganza??) -- when all this wasted money (on an 18 year old pipsqueak) could have been earmarked for the genuinely downtrodden and poor Charedim who need it.

    Charedim cannot plead poverty and the need for economic help when they spend millions in such lavish displays of conspicuous consumption.

    That this is the Belzer Rebbe's son's simcha is all the more incongruous because he has been the one to united the various Ashkenazi Charedi factions in the face of threatened cuts of government funding.

    If Belzers (following orders and without questioning why) can afford to make such lavish weddings in the midst of financially torturous times as the world is in right now, befitting the royal courts of old-time Europe, they cannot also at the same time plead "poverty" and demand that they receive all the benefits from the Israeli welfare state designed by Ben Gurion to help the poor, like the boy who murders his parents and then complains that he is an "orphan" and therefore "needs help"?

    People see through the hypocrisy and unfortunately it only helps the arguments against the Charedim.

    If Charedim like the Belzers have so much money to burn, they have no right to ask secular Israelis to give them free handouts.

    Such powerful Chasidim by the tens of thousands must take their destiny into their own hands and stop asking for handouts and begging for charity when they obviously know how to have a grand old time all by themselves without inviting anyone else to their private/public simchas befitting the heirs of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and definitely not acting like the yorshim of that poor wagon-drive known as Reb Yisroel Ben Eliezer aka as the Baal Shem Tov founder of genuine Chasidism!

    Gut Shabbos and happy Sheva Brochas (wonder how much that will costs and exactly who pays for it all and why the money couldn't go to genuine aniyim instead?!)

  4. @Recpients and Publicity

    There is a some logic to your argument. Also note the large annual pilgrimage to Uman.

    As for the Belzer wedding, the wedding in the 'royal' family happens once every decade. It is very infrequent.

  5. Recipients and PublicityMay 27, 2013 at 10:28 AM

    David said...@Recpients and Publicity There is a some logic to your argument. Also note the large annual pilgrimage to Uman. As for the Belzer wedding, the wedding in the 'royal' family happens once every decade. It is very infrequent."

    Obviously the point is not just "one" wedding, but it is symbolic about the way, especially among Chasidim in particular, there is a clear dichotomy between what they plead (mostly "poverty" and need for governmental/socialistic "help") on the one hand and on the other hand they will spend limitless amounts of money to do what they imagine is the "bidding" of their Rebbes. Thus Belzers, Gerrers and others, do not only splurge on "royal weddings" and other events they deem important but they make several trips a year to spend Yom Tov and other simchas with their Rebbes (dead or alive) regardless of how many tens of millions it costs to get there. Then they have to pay their Rebbes a "pidyon" when they get the "yehidus" and it's huge amounts of funds that get sucked in to the Rebbe's accounts where there is no accountability and zero transparency. No one dares to question the Rebbes where they get the funds and how much they spend of themselves, their families, their own living and travel expenses. After all if they are all "malchus" so then how dare simple "peasants" and plebeians question one as holy as a Rebbe who is speaking for the Eibishter Himself.

    Before this Belzer wedding, there were trips abroad by the Belzer Rebbe's son to raise money for the upcoming wedding, trips to ancestral graveyards in the Ukraine, and trips to graves from the Galil to Chevron with retinues of hundreds if not thousands at each event. There are plenty of other events such as lavish Bar Mitvas, Yohr Tzeits, and days celebrating various "liberations" and "salvations" not to mention all the regular Yomim Tovim that tens of thousands spend tens of millions each year -- all for what??? But in the meantime, millions of frum PEOPLE in Israel are living in below the poverty line. Chasidic and Charedi kids are crammed into one bedroom homes, families don't get the proper health care and nutrition, as well as dressing in shmattes, all while the "elite" runs around worshiping dead and living Rebbes and spending heavy tens of millions on DELUSIONS and CHALOMES.

    Is this not a perversion of Chesed? Is it not a display of cruelty? Is this not in defiance of the Torah that warns against such things and asks that the poor and orphaned and the widowed be cared for first? Look into the Tanach and see what happened to all those fancy kings in the end!!!

    It is actually crazy, but in the very same frum publications that publicize this partying (all the leshem Shomayim of course) by Chasidim there are also simultaneously ads pleading for Tzedaka and help even with pictures of the Belzer Rebbes on it. Then in Israel, they want the secular Jews to take their needs seriously when the Belzer Rebbe throws a bash worthy of HOLLYWOOD, everyone wearing expensive clothing and shtreimels, with cameras rolling from multiple angles and everything stage-managed and stage-crafted to the T. What a bizayon it all is! Yiddishkeit it aint!


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