Friday, November 25, 2016

What is the justification for the Torah saying lashon harah about our deceased ancestors: Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky

The issue of speaking lashon harah about the deceased comes up over and over again. Recently I was challenged why I publicized the fact that Shlomo Carlebach sexually abused women. After all he was a great tzadik and even though he did disgusting things - why should his name be disgraced by telling people the bad things that he did. Why should people have their enjoyment of his music be interfered with by the disturbing reality of what he did?

There are a number of reasons for being concerned with the Truth. Of course if he were still alive - it would allow people to protect themselves so he would not molest them. But there is also a benefit for the victims - even after his passing. According to those who insist that rose colored glasses must always be worn and that we should not think bad thoughts about rabbis and tzadikim. According to those who insistent we should suppress all information about disgusting deeds so that rabbis and tzadikim are always perceived in a good light there is definitely a problem. But that suppression of the truth means that the victims need to suppress their humiliation and shame. They can not mention the outrage that was done to them. In fact if they say anything they would be told that they should shut their mouths - how dare they say anything about the Great Man. Therefore by telling the truth, it helps these victims to be able to talk about what happened and hopefully help them recover.

It also is important that the reality of the nature of abusers be publicized. People need to know that an abuser is not only the twisted sick monster of nightmares - but that they might not only be normal people but even tzadikim.  That a distinguished rav or talmid chachom can be a molester. That a friend of the family, a neighbor or uncle or brother or even a father. By mentioning the names of those who have done disgusting things - even if they are deceased - it protects people from becoming additional victims. There is much to talk about the importance of knowing reality - but that will be for another time.

Here is a relevant comment made by Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky in Emes L'Yaakov (Bereishis 34:37): 

 I was asked by a student  how to explain the fact that the Torah includes descriptions of what happened with Yosef and his brothers. Isn't this a violation of the prohibition of the laws of lashon harah? Initially I answered that in truth the prohibition of lashon harah only applies when mentioning the living. Talking lashon harah about the dead is permitted according to Torah law and is prohibited only by an ancient cherem [see Orech Chaim 606:3]. However the prohibition of the cherem is only against saying false slander  (motzi shem rah) and doesn't apply to negative true statements (lashon harah). However in truth this question of lashon harah in the Torah simply isn't a question. That is because Yosef's brothers in fact judged Yosef and sentenced him to death following the correct legal procedure. They paskened this way because they thought that that in fact was the law of the Torah and not because they were perverting the law...
The cherem is mentioned here:
Berachos(19a): R. Joshua b. Levi said: Whoever makes derogatory remarks about scholars after their death is cast into Gehinnom, as it says, But as for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord will lead them away with the workers of iniquity. Peace be upon Israel: even at a time when there is peace upon Israel, the Lord will lead them away with the workers of iniquity. It was taught in the school of R. Ishmael: If you see a scholar who has committed an offence by night, do not cavil at him by day, for perhaps he has done penance. ‘Perhaps’, say you? — Nay, rather, he has certainly done penance. This applies only to bodily [sexual] offences, but if he has misappropriated money, [he may be criticised] until he restores it to its owner.
שו"ע אורח חיים סימן תרו:ג
 תקנת קדמונינו וחרם, שלא להוציא שם רע על המתים

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