SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Laws of Loshon Hora 4:11
One of the beautiful aspects of shmiras haloshon is that it demonstrates how Torah is all encompassing. While the Torah prohibits most forms of negative speech, it provides for the release of necessary information without causing unnecessary damage.
In situations such as a prospective shidduch (marriage match), job possibility or business relationship, the Chofetz Chaim says it is perfectly correct to inquire about someone in order to prevent future harm or dispute.
As we study this topic, we will find 7 requirements that need to be fulfilled before we can request or supply information for a constructive purpose. The Chofetz Chaim offers two preliminary conditions. The first is that we must convey clearly the purpose of our inquiry before seeking information. If we do not tell the person that our inquiry is l’toeles, for a constructive purpose, then we place him in a situation where he will transgress the laws against loshon hora by providing the information. By not informing him of a constructive need for the information, we have caused him to sin by speaking loshon hora, and thus we transgress the commandment “You shall not place a stumbling block before the blind” (Vayikra 19:14).
The person who provides the information must do it solely for the constructive purpose of helping to protect us from future harm. He is not permitted to speak if his true purpose is to degrade the subject of the inquiry. If he does have this in mind, then he is guilty of speaking loshon hora.
The second condition which the Chofetz Chaim lists here is that the person providing the information must be exceedingly careful not to exaggerate. Unfortunately, human nature often causes people to exaggerate in order to sound convincing, and this can cause enormous damage.
The Chofetz Chaim alludes to a case where a person exaggerated someone’s negative points when asked for information concerning a shidduch. On that basis, the inquiring party chose not to pursue it any further. As in most cases of loshon hora, the speaker has committed a sin between man and Hashem and also between man and his fellow. He must engage in teshuvah (repentance) on both accounts, and must seek the forgiveness of the subject of his evil words.
As mentioned, there are five additional conditions that must be met which allow a person to release negative information for a constructive purpose. These will be discussed later.
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