Dcompanion – Ulterior Motives

Shmiras Haloshon Yomi

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM

Laws of Loshon Hora 10:11-12

Ulterior Motives

       We learned previously that one of the seven conditions of toeles is that our intentions be purely for a constructive purpose. In this segment, the Chofetz Chaim examines some of the difficulties in meeting this condition. Suppose that you were cheated in a business deal. You wish to publicize the matter, not so that you can reclaim your money, but to influence the cheater to mend his ways. In such a case, you would not be allowed to report this information l’toeles (for a constructive purpose), though to your mind, all seven conditions have been met. The reason for this, explains the Chofetz Chaim, is that when a person’s misdeed has affected you personally — whether through embarrassment, physical harm or financial loss — it is inconceivable that your intentions in relating the incident are entirely pure. You will undoubtedly derive satisfaction from having the misdeed publicized, so that the person will be shamed and scorned for what he has done to you. And this removes the report from the category of toeles and makes it forbidden.

       On the other hand, if you had seen someone else being cheated, and you knew that the cheater would not listen to rebuke, you would be permitted to publicize his misdeed to prevent others from being cheated or from following in the cheater’s ways.

       The Chofetz Chaim comments that given the above, it should be obvious that we must refrain from speaking against someone who indirectly hurt us by failing to fulfill his interpersonal obligations; for example, he has refused our request for a loan or charity contribution. Unfortunately, writes the Chofetz Chaim, this type of loshon hora is all too common. For example: A fundraiser travels to a city and is not given the reception he expected. Upon leaving the city, he may feel justified in criticizing the community’s leaders or the community in general for what he perceives as stinginess or lack of hospitality. To his mind, there was no excuse for the way he was treated, and he rationalizes that it is a “mitzvah” to publicize this. He is absolutely wrong. The fact that he was the one who was affected by the community’s behavior disqualifies him from speaking about what happened.

       We may add that in this example, the fundraiser failed to take into account the many factors which may play a role when one is faced with a tzedakah request. A person could be experiencing tough times. He may have just given to a similar cause. He may be very involved at the moment with a specific cause and is channeling most of his resources in that direction. Or, the fundraiser may simply have made a poor presentation. Instead of considering these possibilities, the fundraiser has condemned a community.

       The Chofetz Chaim writes: “If because of this, he disgraces an entire community, he has committed a dreadful sin. Loshon hora is forbidden even when the information is true, as we have already written, and even when one speaks against a specific individual. Certainly it is forbidden to speak against an entire community of Jews, who are steadfast in their belief in Hashem — surely this is a great sin.”

Taken from my Dcompanion Email Subscription
Rabbi Chofetz Chaim
Chofetz Chaim
Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation
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