Friday, January 8, 2010

Lashon Hara not in front of the person it is being spoken about

The possuk in this week’s sedra says:


וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו ה' מזה מַזֶּה בְיָדֶךָ וַיֹּאמֶר מַטֶּה.
Hashem said to Moshe – What is this in your hand?
And he said – A stick.

Rashi says:
"מזה בידך" - לכך נכתב תיבה אחת לדרוש מזה שבידך אתה חייב ללקות שחשדת בכשרים
“From this in your hand – מזה is written as one word to be doresh – it is appropriate for you to be hit from that which is in your hand because you suspected the innocent.”

The next possuk says:
וַיֹּאמֶר הַשְׁלִיכֵהוּ אַרְצָה וַיַּשְׁלִיכֵהוּ אַרְצָה וַיְהִי לְנָחָשׁ וַיָּנָס מֹשֶׁה מִפָּנָיו.
And he said – throw it to the ground.
And he threw it to the ground and it became a snake and Moshe ran from before it.

Rashi says -
"ויהי לנחש" - רמז לו שסיפר לשון הרע על ישראל ותפש אומנתו של נחש
Hashem hinted to him that he spoke loshon hara about Klal Yisrael and he seized the profession of the snake.

Why was Moshe liable to be hit for being choshed klal yisrael, surely this is not the punishment for being choshed bi’kesherim. This is a lav she’ain bo maaseh veain lokin alav?

The Maharal (נתיבות עולם נתיב הלש׀ן פרק ז') says that if someone speaks loshon hara in front of the person about whom the loshon hara is being spoken, then this is not loshon hara. The Maharal explains that by the same token the mesaper loshon hara could have hit the person he is speaking about, so this is not a chet halashon.

Additionally, the Maharal says that even if a person speaks loshon hara about someone else not in front of that person, if they would have spoken in front of the person this is still not loshon hara.

The Maharal says that loshon hara is only when the mesaper loshon hara is particular not to say the loshon hara in front of the person he is talking about.

The question here is - Moshe was not particular to say his criticism not in front of the benei Yisrael, so why does Rashi say this is loshon hara?

The Chafetz Chaim (חפץ חיים כלל ב׳ בההגהה השניה שעל הבאר מיים חיים) asks the same question on the Maharal from the story of Miriam.

The Torah says that Miriam spoke loshon hara, however according to Rabbi Nachman in the sifri, she spoke lashon hara about Moshe while he was standing there, according to the Maharal this is not loshon hara?

Rav Yitzchak Hutner z"l says that there are two ways of speaking loshon hara
  1. Where you publicise something that is obvious about the person, for example, that they have a limp
  2. The other way of talking loshon hara is that you are first don lekaf choiv an ambiguous action and then you are mefarsem your conclusion.
Rav Hutner explains that the difference between the two ways of talking loshon hara is that in the first way, the act of loshon hara is the speech. In the second case the main act of loshon hara is being don lekaf chov - deciding that the person has done something bad. Revealing this to others afterwards is only the makeh bepatish of the initial judgement.

Rav Hutner (פחד יצחק שבועות מאמר ג') explains that the halacha of the Maharal concerning speaking loshon hara in front of a person only applies to the first type of loshon hara where the mum is obvious and the speech is the main issur. In this case the loshon hara must be said not in front of the person about whom it is being said in order for it to be a chet halashon.

However in the second type of loshon hara, where the main issur is being don lekaf chov, even if the loshon hara is said in front of the person this is still loshon hara because the person talking loshon hara has been mechadesh the mum. They are not just insulting the person about whom they are talking loshon hara, so that you could say they may as well have hit them, but rather they are using their lashon to publicise their conclusion, which is the main issur.

Miriam was don Moshe lekaf choiv, therefore even although she spoke in front of him this is still loshon hara. Similarly in the case where Moshe spoke about the Benei Yisrael, Moshe was dan the benei Yisrael lekaf choiv. Therefore even although Moshe was not particular to say this in front of the benei Yisrael this was still the loshon hara.

Rav Hutner (שם מאמר מ״ג) explains that learning Torah is the opposite of speaking loshon hara, and that there are two ways to learn Torah.
  1. A person can learn something which is obvious and stated. 
  2. A person can gain their own insight into the Torah they are learning.
The second way of learning is a sign of the Benei Yisrael’s closeness to Hashem, so that that which they are mechadesh has the same importance as the Torah given explicitly by Hashem.

Hashem said to Moshe, the entire purpose of the mateh is to hit Phasroh and redeem klal yisrael so that they will be able to gain the gift of speaking torah. However if you are choshed klal yisrael bikesherim, then you will prevent the benei yisroel from reaching this madrega of speech so you deserve to be hit!

Moshe was the shliach to bring Torah to klal yisrael. In order to be able to give them the Torah he had to speak lashon hatov about them so that they could gain the gift of being able to say chidushei torah.

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