Saturday, January 22, 2022

Legislating Morality: The Prohibition of Lashon Hara

Rav Yisrael Salanter was asked by the Chofetz Chaim for an approbation (haskamah) to his Sefer Chofetz Chaim but Rav Salanter did not give it.23 He explained the reason to him. He said, you write that if one speaks lashon hara about another, he must relate what he had done and ask the person for forgiveness (mechilah).24 Thus, if one has talked badly about his dearest and most beloved friend and in a moment of weakness he relates something negative about him to another, he must do teshuvah by revealing the transgression to the friend. The Chofetz Chaim responded that this is in fact the halachah, and indeed this is implied by the words of Rabbenu Yonah,25 and though not mentioned it would follow from Hilchos Teshuvah of Mishneh Torah as well. Rav Salanter responded that one is not permitted to fulfill a mitzvah and gain teshuvah, at the expense of another’s pain.26 To reveal his transgression to his life-long friend who felt loved like as a brother is an act of cruelty.

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