Exchange With David Klinghoffer – Part 2

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5 Responses

  1. sarah elias says:

    I am about as far from a talmid chacham as one can get; also, being on my lunch break at the office, I don’t have my sefer Chofetz Chaim handy for consultation. However, I seem to recall that the Chofetz Chaim limits the heter of repeating information that is well-known to people living in the same city even, he says, nowadays (or thenadays) when there are “shayarot” travelling from city to city. For what it’s worth, I live in Europe and the first I heard of the Abramoff affair was when I read about it here, in Cross-Currents.

    In addition, I am not so sure about the heter to repeat things that one hears about from the media, which are not known for their accuracy and honesty. By repeating the information, you’re implying that you have accepted the story as true: Is that permissible when your source is the none-too-honest media?

  2. Bob Miller says:

    I can think of three positive motivations that could make a Jew want to denounce another Jew in public:
    (this is not to say that denunciation for any of these reasons is OK in a specific situation)
    1. To improve the denounced Jew’s future behavior
    2. To deter other Jews from engaging in the denounced behavior
    3. To make it clear to non-Jews that Jews in general reject bad behavior (assuming that their opinion of us has serious implications)
    I wonder, though, if it is necessary for the denouncer to have confidence that the denunciation will achieve its goal.
    I also wonder if a person who stands to gain personally from denouncing another (e.g., by looking “good” in front of TV cameras, enhancing his/her own public image) is thereby barred from speaking out.

  3. Joel Rich says:

    Hoisted on (by?) his own petard. As a community engaged in constant shmirat halashon campaigns which have left most people with the feeling that there almost all social conversations contain lashon hara (even if we don’t all live up to that standard),your average Yosselle is hard pressed to understand why it’s OK for them(journalists) but not him.
    KT

  4. ben meir says:

    I don’t find it hard to imagine a scenario where Mr. Abramoff can no longer find refuge or a sense of belonging even in a shul. How that would jive with #3 – one would definitely heaping scorn in a new sense. I want to say this as delicately as possible, but being villified in Time magazine is not the same as hearing your own Rabbi call you a disgrace.

  5. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    Sara –
    I don’t think that the “caravans” of the Chofetz Chaim are any match for electronic media today. I believe that this is pretty much accepted by contemporary decisors. Your first learning about it through C-C does not really impact the heter. The basis of the halacha is not that everyone will have already heard by the time you speak. Rather, the permit is based on the fact that the Torah does not put a lid on information that can be predicted to reach the listener anyway, even if a ban would be in place. Once something is known to three parties who are not constrained by the laws of lashon hora, halacha treats it as heading for a wider audience. It is hard to believe that you would not have heard about the Abramoff story even had you not read C-C; the fact that you first heard on C-C doesn’t matter.

    You are right about accepting the truth of media reports. The heter allows the speaker to tell the tale; it is still forbidden to accept it as completely true, until the veracity of the story becomes clarified. Without paskening, I suspect that there are enough multiple confirmations of the basic elements of the story here, including by Mr. Abramoff, to conclude that some violation of the laws governing lobbyists was involved.

    Bob –
    “I also wonder if a person who stands to gain personally from denouncing another (e.g., by looking “good” in front of TV cameras, enhancing his/her own public image) is thereby barred from speaking out..”

    I think he/she is barred, at least according to the Chofetz Chaim. It is a conjecture built on a parallel case. One is allowed to related what otherwise would be lashon hora if there is a clear productive purpose in it (subject to many limitations). OTOH, there is an additional prohibition of speaking lashon hora when the speech serves some baser motive, like revenge, or satisfying a dislike for the object of the conversation. What happens when the two conflict, when one law prevents me from acting on my base motivation, but the listener really ought to know the information? The Chofetz Chaim rules that I may not relate the information, since I would be violating another prohibition! I suspect that he would see the same conflict here – the need to denounce, when appropriate, against the prohibition of glorifying oneself through the disparaging of another – and come to a similar conclusion.

    Ben –
    When I get around to writing that final piece, I am not going to argue that anyone should call anyone a disgrace. The behavior has to be denounced, not the person. It should also ordinarily be possible to have other people do the denouncing, not the Rav of the perpetrator, which might indeed add unnecessary pain and discomfort. More on that in the next post.

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