SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Laws of Loshon Hora 2:5 – 6
The Chofetz Chaim continues to outline the limitations to the Rambam’s heter (license) called “Api Tlasa” (in the presence of three).
If the three listeners were sincerely devout Jews who totally refrain from any form of loshon hora, it is almost certain that the information will not spread further. Therefore, api tlasa would not apply. Furthermore, the Chofetz Chaim rules that even if only one of the three is known to avoid any form of loshon hora, there is no longer a group of three poised to circulate the information. We then view the situation as if the information were disclosed to only two people, in which case the license of api tlasa does not apply.
The same applies if one of the three is a relative or close friend of the subject of the loshon hora. Given his loyalty to that person, it is unlikely that he will spread derogatory information about him. In this case, too, there is no basis to allow the others to repeat the information.
The leniency of api tlasa is also limited geographically. Information about someone in a community is likely to spread within his community; it is not likely to be of interest elsewhere. Therefore, only within that community can we assume that the information will become publicized and only there does the license of api tlasa apply. In a case of unusually shocking information, which is of interest even outside the immediate community, the license would extend as far as the information could be expected to circulate.
Given all of these limitations, it is clear that the license of api tlasa is rarely applicable. In addition, it is subject to dispute: many poskim (authorities of Jewish law) disagree with the Rambam’s interpretation. Therefore, the Chofetz Chaim concludes that we should avoid making use of this license altogether.
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