Steven Oppenheimer, D.D.S
Dr. Oppenheimer is an Endodontist in Miami Beach, Florida
Journal of Halacha & Contemporary Society XLI; Spring 2001- From 5761
This article is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Oppenheimer's Father, Chaim Gershon Ben Meir, A"H.

Key words: Jewish newspapers, controversy, lashon hara.

Recently, a major expose appeared in a Jewish newspaper regarding a rabbinic figure working for a leading Jewish organization. Serious allegations were made regarding inappropriate behavior, and as a result, this person resigned his position. The newspaper articles spanned several weeks, and caused quite a stir nationally and even internationally in the Jewish world. The repercussions from these stories are still being felt, and people's lives have been affected by these newspaper reports far beyond the principal parties involved.

It is not the intention of this author to discuss the details of this particular case. I would, however, like to discuss whether there are halachic guidelines involved in newspaper reporting. How should a Jewish newspaper conduct its investigative reporting? For that matter, what is our obligation as readers? Does Halacha take a position on whether and how stories should be reported in the press? This article will explore these issues.

News Media: A Public Forum
One of the most important functions of a newspaper is to serve as a forum to examine social, political, and ideological issues important to public welfare and education. Often, the presentation of issues will take the form of a debate, with opposing sides presenting their views. Debate, however, should not be confused with controversy (machloket), which we are commanded to avoid. When Moshe Rabbeinu was challenged by Datan and Aviram, it was Moshe who went to them, attempting to avoid controversy.1 Reish Lakish says that we learn from Moshe Rabbeinu's actions "she'ain mach'zikin be'machloket," that one should not persist in machloket. Rav says whoever persists in machloket violates the Torah prohibition, "lo yi'hi'yeh cheKorach ve'cha'ahdato," he should not be like Korach and his assemmbly.2 It is forbidden to persist in machloket even if you are in the right and the other individual is behaving improperly.3 therefore, while newspapers serve as a forum for public debate and discussion, newspaper articles that encourage or promote machloket are contrary to halacha.

Machloket leads to hatred, lashon hara, and at times irrational behavior fueled by anger.4 Once the involved parties embark on the path of machloket, it becomes difficult to stem the discord. Rashi explains that when a river overflows its banks, it starts as a small stream of water. If this is not blocked immediately, it becomes impossible to stop. Similarly, if a dispute is not quelled in its early stages, it will escalate out of control.5 Therefore, it is vital that a newspaper will serve as a medium to clarify actual issues and not encourage and promote strife between people. Articles that are written to inflame people's emotions in the hope of creating an issue, or that pit two personalities against each other to create controversy are inappropriate. Moreover, interviews that selectively quote to create sensationalism have no place in the Jewish press.

The very process involved in preparing a newspaper article should, in theory, avoid the pitfalls of succumbing to unbridled passion. The journalist conceives of a story, investigates the issues and then commits the story to writing. He reviews the article so that the words and sentences are phrased just right. The editor reviews the piece so that the ideas are expressed correctly and any unnecessary provocation is removed. The final article is informative, coherent and designed to address the issues and not attack an individual or an institution. The journalist should not be politically motivated but should strive for the truth. By standing on the political sidelines, the journalist can often see things that are hidden from those who are too closely involved in the issues to properly evaluate them.

In actual practice, this is not always the case. Some newspapers and magazines serve as a forum to advance certain agendas and even vilify people and institutions in a manner not consistent with Jewish law. This is wrong, and we shall see why.

The performance of institutions and individuals who serve the public is subject to examination and critical review. Even the kohanim in the Temple were examined. In order to maintain the upkeep of the Temple and provide for public sacrifices, machtzeet hashekel was collected from every Jew.6 The collection began on Rosh Chodesh Adar. The shekalim were kept in a special office called a lishka, from where the funds were disbursed to be used for public sacrifices. Chazal tell us that a Kohen who came to serve in the lishka had his clothing searched upon entering and departing the lishka. Furthermore, he was engaged in conversation the whole time he was working in the office to ensure that he had not concealed any money in his mouth. This was done in observance of the commandment, "Ve'he'yitem ne'kiyim mei'HaShem u'mi'Yisroel," and you shall be "clean" before G-d and (the people of) Israel.7 The intention was not to embarrass the individuals but to instill confidence in the people that those who served the public were above suspicion.8 In order to maintain public confidence and to comply with the dictum Ve'he'yitem ne'kiyim mei'HaShem u'mi"Yisroel, it is proper for charitable organizations to issue reports of their activities to the public.9

Mahari Weil, z"l, was asked about a community leader who had served the public for twenty years and now was being accused of inappropriate behavior. Was it appropriate to have a public investigation and give a detailed accounting to the public? He answered that an investigation should be conducted by a committee of trustworthy individuals appointed by the public. If this is not feasible, a dayan, a rabbinic judge, should appoint such a committee. The dayan should thoroughly investigate the matter so that the truth should emerge and justice prevail in this world. Unfortunately, he lamented; many communities are victimized by unscrupulous leaders who act more to serve their own interest rather than the interests of the community. These dishonorable leaders shirk their responsibility and further burden those who already suffer. The details of the investigation should not be discussed publicly, so as not to cause undue embarrassment to other involved parties.10

We see that it is incumbent upon the community to appoint representatives from within its midst to examine the behavior of those who serve the public lest the weak and the vulnerable in the community suffer the consequences. In fact, based upon the responsum of Mahari Weil, the Ramo states that in order to be innocent before G-d and Israel, all people who deal with the community must give an accounting of their actions.11 Any questionable behavior must be promptly investigated under the guidance of recognized poskim. While the details of the findings may not be revealed to the public, the public must be given assurance that the matter has been corrected properly and that the public interests have been protected.12 Detailed revelation of the investigation may only serve to cause additional, unwarranted pain and embarrassment and this serves no public need.13

Rabbi Ephraim Greenblatt, Shlit"a,14 tells of a meat plant that he visited. The Chalafim15 that were used for shechita were all unfit because the blades were nicked. Rabbi Greenblatt spoke to shochetim but they refused to listen to him. He contacted the supervising rabbi in Israel and, after he reported the problems to him, all the shochetim were fired. Had the supervising rabbi not agreed to take action, Rabbi Greenblatt said it would have been permitted to go to the newspaper and have them write the story.16

There are limits, however. This particular meat company had plants in other cities. The shochetim in the other locations were exemplary. Therefore, in order not to cast aspersions on the other company locations, only the city could be named in the article, but not the company name. This would ensure that the reputations of the shochetim would not be harmed. Had the company only had one location, then the company's name could have been used since there would be no need to protect the reputations of uninvolved parties.17

This instruction to be innocent before G-d and Israel is clarified by Rabbi Chaim Halberstam, z"l, the founder of the Zanz Chasidic dynasty, who testifies that he has seen with his own eyes travesties that have occurred, while the actions were proclaimed as being in the pursuit of noble causes. It is incumbent that a tribunal of judges investigate any questionable behavior, says Rabbi Halberstam, and not by swayed even by local rabbis who may be pursuing their own best interests. One may not attempt to bring proof from past generations, cautions the Zanzer Rav, when most community leaders were righteous and had a sense of shame. Today, however, the community leaders are not automatically considered righteous, laments Rabbi Halberstam, and shameful behavior abounds, especially in those areas that deal with the welfare of the community. Instead, declares Rabbi Halberstam, they have adopted the ways of Sodom while declaring the purity of their actions. It is therefore appropriate, insists the Zanzer Rav, to conduct thorough investigations into the behavior of community leaders.18

Whenever there is evidence of impropriety, it must by investigated. While local rabbis have an important role in their communities, the decision to publish an expos? about individuals or organizations must be made in consultation with recognized poskim.19

It is common for a newspaper to seek the advice of legal counsel before publishing an important story. They don't want to get sued because of improperly worded stories or unsupported facts. The newspaper may want to know how far it can go in reporting certain elements of the story. There are legal boundaries that the editor and the reporter know they cannot cross. The lawyer counsels them on the proper limits. Jewish newspapers need to consult with halachic authorities. The newspaper should choose a posek and consult with him regularly to ascertain the propriety of the stories they print. Do their stories exceed halachic guidelines? The rabbinic authority with whom they consult will help them avoid a chilul HaShem.20

The Mitzvah to Admonish
We are commanded to admonish our fellow Jew if he has acted inappropriately, as the Torah commands, "hochei'ach tochee'ach et ahmitecha velo tisah alav cheit," you shall admonish your fellow Jew and do not bear a sin because of him.21

The Talmud explains that should one see his fellow Jew behaving improperly, he must rebuke him privately, even multiple times.22 The rebuke must be done in a gentle manner, and one should inform the person that it is being done with his best interests at heart.23 Rambam contends that in matters bein adam laMakom (between man and G-d), after unsuccessful attempts at private coercion, one may publicize and embarrass the individuals until they change their behavior.24 Sefer haChinuch (mitzvah 240) concludes that one is required do this.

In matters bein adam la'chaveiro (between man and man), Minchat Chinuch asserts that one directly involved may not publicly embarrass someone. However, if you are aware that someone is sinning against someone else, you are permitted to publicize the offense and embarrass the individual if there is no other way to stop the offensive behavior. Minchat Chinuch explains that Rambam and Sefer HaChinuch are talking about a case where the individual is involved with the sinner. In this case, it is preferable that the aggrieved person forgive the sinner. However, if one is not directly involved, he may go public, as we see from numerous examples in the books of the prophets.25

There is even a requirement to rebuke a person who is greater than the one giving rebuke. Therefore, even a student is required to rebuke his teacher if the latter has acted inappropriately.26

The requirement to give rebuke applies to spiritual as well as mundane matters. Therefore, if you see someone mistreating, exploiting or stealing from another individual, you must, if you are able, rebuke the perpetrator and prevent him from committing this transgression.27

While it is now clear that some action must be taken, can a newspaper publicize the inappropriate actions of an individual or an organization? There are times when the Torah commands us to take public action to warn against and prevent certain behavior. If someone entices others to go astray and engage in idol worship, he is executed by Beit Din, led by the person he attempted to entice. If he is not able to do so, then all the people are charged with carrying out the execution. The nature of the offense is so grievous that the enticer's punishment must be as public as possible so as to serve as a deterrent to others.28

Rabbi Akiva holds that he is not killed immediately after the trial, as is normally the case, but is taken to Jerusalem and executed during the time of the next pilgrimage festival. According to Rabbi Yehuda, the sentence is carried out immediately, but the court sends messengers throughout the country to publicize the crime and the sentence received.29 Similarly, regarding eidim zomemim, conspiring witnesses, the punishment must be announced publicly, so that it will deter others from a similar conspiracy.30

Our prophets also engaged in public rebuke when necessary. For example, Yeshayahu scolded Achaz, the king of Judah, "Is it not enough that you scorn the prophets, you even scorn my G-d?"31 And Yirmiyahu sent a message to the elders in the Babylonian exile in which he publicized the transgressions of Achaz, Tzidkiyahu and Shemayahu.32 Therefore, regarding spiritual matters, says Rambam, if the person does not respond to private rebuke, we embarrass him publicly and publicize his transgression until he returns to proper behavior, as all the prophets of Israel have done.33

This public rebuke is not limited to spiritual matters but also involves matters bein adam le'chaveiro, between man and his fellow man. A person is required to provide for his children. Should he refuse, he is pressured, scolded and embarrassed. If this is not effective, a public announcement is made that this person is cruel and despicable.34 Similar action is taken against a son who refuses to take care of his parents,35 or a father who refuses to provide for his sickly daughter. If the father has means, he is forced to provide for his daughter. If he is not affluent, he is publicly embarrassed until he complies.36

In previous times, when people lived in small towns and newspapers were not as accessible, the public embarrassment might have taken the form of an announcement from the pulpit. Today, newspapers are readily accessible and can serve as a means of coercion should private attempts fail. In consultation with appropriate halachic authority, the publishing of articles may be quite effective in convincing the recalcitrant miscreant to change his behavior. However, there are significant restrictions in this matter, and it cannot be done without strict halachic supervision.

Halachic Guidelines
In order to avoid unnecessary embarrassment to any person or family, a person (or a newspaper) may only reveal this information if the following guidelines, established by the Chafetz Chaim are followed:37

  1. One must be sure that the information is accurate.
  2. One must first confront the individual privately, attempting to gently persuade him to make amends.
  3. The nature of the offense should not be exaggerated.
  4. The motivation in writing a story should be to pursue the truth and to assist those in need of help. The intention should never be to harm anyone.
  5. Should it be possible to correct a situation without publicity, it is prohibited to publicize the matter.
  6. Should the subject of the investigative story suffer harm greater than he deserves, it is forbidden to publish the story in such a way that the damage would not be reversible.
  7. Even if all the above requirements have been met, prior to publicizing the information, the reporter must carefully review his motives and intentions since peoples' lives and reputations are at stake.

If these criteria are met and publication of the information will result in a service to the community, rabbinic authority may decide that the reporter is permitted and indeed obligated to publish the information.38

What constitutes improper behavior that would warrant an investigation? If an officer in a Jewish organization, for example, is accused of stealing funds, is an investigation warranted? How about if he beats his wife, mistreats his children, doesn't pay his bills or cheats in business? All of the above, declares Rabbi Greenblatt.39 If the allegations are substantiated and yet the individual refuses to submit to private pressure, the story should be printed in the newspaper, affirms Rabbi Greenblatt, as long as this is done in consultation with a posek.40

Incidents involving theft, robbery, damage, infliction of pain, shaming, and slander may be revealed to others if he refuses to respond to private rebuke.41 Even a solitary observer should reveal what he has seen in order to assist the aggrieved party and protect the truth.42 If you see an individual commit a sin against someone else, you are allowed to publicly embarrass him if he does not correct his actions. We learn this from the books of the prophets that are replete with examples of our prophets who publicly rebuked individuals guilty of transgressions bein adam le'chaveiro.43

Those directly involved in the dispute are prohibited from embarrassing the individual. However, if this individual has also sinned against others, the involved parties may publicly embarrass him, should private efforts prove fruitless.44

If a journalist has a personal agenda or ulterior motive in reporting a story, Rabbi Greenblatt maintains that the story cannot be written by that individual.45

Public Enlightenment
The public revelation of an impropriety can result in a lesson for others in the greater community, even if the transgressor refuses to mend his ways. The Talmud tells us that we should expose the hypocrites, i.e. those people who pretend to be righteous. Otherwise, people might emulate such an individual, believing his flawed behavior to be proper. Moreover, when he is published, people would incorrectly surmise that his "righteousness" didn't protect him. This would result in a chilul HaShem, a desecration of G-d's name.46 For this reason, Rabbi David ben Chaim HaCohen (Radach) wrote a public criticism of a rabbi who acted inappropriately in the bestowal of a Get and refused to concede his wrongdoing.47

The prohibition of lashon hara does not apply where the information is needed for a reason. It also does not apply when the subject of the information is a wicked person.48 The Chafetz Chaim writes that if there are persistent rumors about an individual's transgressions, and if the general public opinion is that this person is suspected of being guilty of these transgressions, he may be considered a wicked person and it is permitted to shame him.49 Similarly, the Talmud tells us that it is permitted to embarrass someone who is reputed to be an adulterer.50 It is even permitted to embarrass his parents.51 Since the purpose of the embarrassment is to effect a change in the wrongdoer's behavior embarrassing the person's parents has the effect of bringing additional pressure to effect this change. This ruling applies only when a person repeatedly transgresses and deservedly has a reputation for this behavior.52

The Talmud53 relates that there was once a young rabbi who developed a distasteful reputation. Ritva writes that it involved his meeting privately with unmarried women.54 Even though the community needed this young rabbi's Torah instruction, Rabbi Yehuda concluded that it would be a chilul HaShem to allow a reputed sinner to teach Torah to those who are aware of his alleged transgressions. Furthermore, suggests Ritva, covering up the transgression and allowing him to continue to teach would also constitute a desecration. Rabbi Yehuda, therefore, excommunicated him, even though the community would be deprived of the young rabbi's talents.55 We see from here that even if a person performs an important community function if his behavior is offensive, he may not continue in his community position.

Rabbi Greenblatt told this writer that there was a Yeshiva Day School principal who was abusive to children in his school. The incidents were investigated and found out to be true. The principal had a year to go in his contract and agreed to go quietly after the year would be up. An assistant principal was hired for the specific purpose of supervising the behavior of the principal. This solution was recommended by the posek to whom the problem was referred. What would have happened had the principal refused to go along with this solution? Rabbi Greenblatt said it would then have been appropriate to go to the newspaper and write an article saying there was a principal who was accused of mistreating children. The name of the principal should not be mentioned so that there should not be further embarrassment to him. If he still refuses to accept the posek's decision, then his name and more details can be written because the rights of the community supersede the rights of the individual who is threatening the welfare of the community, according to Rabbi Greenblatt. Once the principal agrees to the plans for his departure, no other articles specifically referring to him may be written since that would cause needless embarrassment.

Rabbeinu Yonah writes that it is a mitzvah to publicize the misconduct of habitual offenders so that people will be revolted when they hear of the miscreants' misconduct.56 The laws of ona'at devarim, verbal wrongdoing, and embarrassing someone publicly do not apply to dishonest and unscrupulous people whose actions are the antithesis of Torah prescribed behavior. The Nimukei Yosef writes that the Torah only prohibited ona'at devarim regarding yir'ei shamayim, G-d fearing people.57 Ramo codifies this as the halacha, and adds that someone who, by his actions demeans himself, is allowed to be disparaged by others.58 The Sm"a explains that the term yir'ei shamayim refers to people who conform to community standards of behavior, klal benai hayishuv behaderech eretz.59 Therefore, if a miscreant refuses to mend his ways after being approached privately, a newspaper, in consultation with its halachic advisor, may publish an article to pressure him to change.

It is obvious that there is inherent danger in an approach that could find fault with anyone who does not belong to a particular group. The end result could be catastrophic. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that any investigation and publication be done according to halachic guidelines. The Netziv blamed the destruction of the Second Temple on excessive "righteousness" in the vigorous investigation of imperfections in righteous and G-d fearing Jews. There were righteous individuals, says the Netziv, who were not always straight in their everyday dealings and, because of sin'at chinam, suspected individuals who did not conform to their ideas of correct behavior, as being apikorism. This erroneous persecution of these individuals led to the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, because G-d does not tolerate this kind of "righteous" person, asserts the Netziv. Righteousness, says the Netziv, means conducting oneself in a straightforward manner in everyday behavior.60

The proper Torah approach is to refrain from personal attacks in attempting to redress a situation. It is the negative behavior or the inappropriate actions that should be criticized. One should not needlessly denigrate another individual, for G-d protects the honor even of the guilty, admonishes the Zohar.61 The Chatam Sofer wrote that he was always exceedingly careful never to quarrel with any individual. When disagreeing with someone or criticizing a certain position, he would never mention an individual by name. He would rather let veracity combat mendacity.62 Personal attacks provoke needless suffering and do nothing to strengthen one's position. As in the case of the school principal and also in the case of the shochetim cited above, a newspaper should not mention names unless absolutely necessary.

Newspapers serve a vital function in society, informing and guiding the public during economic, social, and political crises. The public relies upon the newspapers for fair and accurate information. Journalists can wield tremendous power, since so many people rely upon this information in their everyday lives.

However, the journalist is also in the "business" of journalism. He needs to sell newspapers. This can pressure him to look for excuses to allow breach of confidence, humiliation of individuals and lashon hara. The proliferation of newspapers that contain lashon hara, gossip, slander, divisiveness, impiety and apostasy exists only because the readership is only too willing to accept this fare, chastises the Chafetz Chaim. There is such a powerful desire to read this sensationalism, that for many, a day cannot go by without reading this type of "news". They, the journalists and the readership, warns the Chafetz Chaim, do not appreciate that they will be held accountable before G-d.63

We see from the words of the Chafetz Chaim that it is not only forbidden for newspapers to write lashon hara and promote divisiveness,64 it is forbidden to read such newspapers. If we, the readers, write to the newspaper editors and object to unsuitable reporting, changes will be made. If changes are not made, we must ask ourselves why we are reading these newspapers.

We know that lashon hara is prohibited, both to the speaker (writer) and the listener (reader). There is a story of a man who approached a group of people with a fresh bit of juicy gossip. "You know that it is assur to repeat lashon hara," said the man, "so pay attention, I'm only going to say this once." Newspapers that continue to run a story and, as a result, continue to inflame a volatile situation do a disservice to the community and can cause great harm to individuals, families, and institutions.

There are times when the needs of the community outweigh the individual's right to privacy. For example, a person must reveal to the court information given in confidence, even if he promised not to reveal the information.65 Once a person tells another individual, it is no longer a secret, contends Rabbi Greenblatt. 66 If a person has information that would be helpful to a beit din conducting an investigation, he must come forward.67

Revelation of privileged information, publication of potentially embarrassing reports or public discussion of the actions of an individual can cause repercussions not only to the individual directly involved but also to families and other associates. When reporting on the actions of an individual, do we take into account the effect that this report will have on that person's spouse? How will it affect his or her children? Will it prevent them from getting shidduchim?

Even assuming that it is appropriate to write about the individual, the article will likely have an effect upon that person's family. The article should, therefore, attempts to limit itself to the goal of correcting the situation. The initial coercion should be done privately. If all subtle attempts fail, the bottom line is, with the consent of the halachic authority, the article may be published. The harm that may befall the family, friends, and associates comments Rabbi Greenblatt, is the responsibility of the wrongdoer, and it is he who will have to answer to the Ribono Shel Olam. However, continuing to publish embarrassing stories after the resignation of an individual is wrong, because it causes needless punishment. 68 A newspaper that continues to prominently display a story on its web site weeks and months after resolution of a problem causes needless harm to the individual, his family, associates and friends.

In situations where lashon hara and rechilut (gossip) are permitted, and even when it is a mitzvah to speak and write of these matters, discretion should be exercised so that only that which is absolutely necessary is divulged. Subtlety is to be preferred. When Shaul HaMelech decided to kill David HaMelech (who would later succeed him as king), it was Shaul's son Yehonatan who warned David of the plot against him. Instead of telling David directly that Shaul wanted to kill him, Yehonatan devised an elaborate message using arrows to inform David or the danger to him.69 Why, asks the Vilna Gaon, didn't Yehonatan just tell his friend David that Shaul wants to kill you? After all, there is no greater justification than to help same David's life. We see from here, explains the Vilna Gaon, that if subtlety is sufficient, it is preferred.70 Divrei Chachamim benachat nishmaim, the gentle words of the wise are heard above the shouts of a king over fools. 71

The power of the written word is awesome. Unlike the spoken word, which is formidable in its own right, the written word lingers before our eyes, and continues to irritate and provoke. One might subsequently claim, "I didn't say that." It is much harder to protest, "I didn't really write that!" Rabbi Yisroel Salanter once observed that not every thought need be verbalized, not every utterance need be written down, and not everything written need be published, for it is quite easy to write but far more difficult to erase.72

Agendas, rather than truth, at times motivate the publication of a story. The journalist must play the role of the impartial observer, attempting to draw attention to those conditions that need reform. This is very difficult to accomplish when one is directly involved. It is for this reason that the Belzer Rebbe, z"l, did not join Agudath Yisrael. He felt that it was important for someone to be outside the organization and be perceived as impartial. In this way he might be more effective in his attempts to improve social and community standards.

All the news that's fit to print? Hardly. Not all the news is fit to print. Halacha demands discretion and responsibility. Limitation is an essential part of journalism. Media that seek truth and justice while promoting peace and harmony will strengthen the community and serve as an invaluable and precious resource.


1. Bamidbar 16:25.
2. T.B. Sanhedrin 110a.
3. Chamra Ve'Chayei, Sanhedrin 110b, cited in Ohr Yechezkel, Israel, 1993, page 346.
4. See T.B. Shabbat 105b. A person who in anger tears his clothes, smashes his utensils or scatters his money should be viewed as an idol worshiper.
5. See Rashi, Sanhedrin 7a, d.h. le'tzinora d'bidka. See also d.h. le'guda d'gamla.
6. Shemot 30:12.
7. Bamidbar 32:22.
8. Tosefta Shekalim 2:3 with the commentary of Minchat Bikurim.
9. Tur, Y.D. 257 with explanation of the Bach.
10. Responsa Mahari Weil, siman 173. See also Darchei Moshe, Y.D., 257:1.
11. Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 257:2.
12. Responsa Mahari Weil, op. cit. and Darchei Moshe, op. cit.
13. Responsa Mahari Weil, loc. cit.
14. Rabbi Ephraim Greenblatt is the author of Responsa Rivevot Ephraim. His rulings, as recorded in this article, are personal communications to this author.
15. Knives used for slaughtering.
16. This is based on Rambam, Hilchot De'ot, 6:8. See further in the text (the Mitzvah to Admonish).
17. One is clearly not allowed to damage the reputation of an innocent person. In this case, Rabbi Greenblatt felt effective pressure could be brought upon the guilty parties in a manner that would not harm the innocent.
18. Responsa Divrei Chaim, Choshen Mishpat, Siman 25.
19. See footnote 16. Mahari Weil required one dayan, and the Zanzer Rav wrote of the need for a tribunal of judges. Rabbeinu Yonah (Sha'arei Teshuva, sha'ar shlishi, 221) wrote that incidents bein adam le'chaveiro such as theft, robbery, damage, the causing of pain, shaming and wrongdoing with words, may be revealed to others.
20. Ibid. See also Sha'arei Teshuva, 218, 219.
21. Vayikra 19:17.
22. T.B. Bava Metzia 31a and Arachin 16b.
23. Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot De'ot, 6:7.
24. Ibid, 6:8.
25. The example of the prophets is brought by Rambam, Sefer HaChinuch and Minchat Chinuch.
26. T.B. Bava Metzia, 31a. Ritva observes that although a student must rebuke his teacher, he must do so with respect.
27. Ohr Yechezkel, loc. cit., page 337, based upon Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot De'ot, 6:7 and Yerei'im, Vilna, siman 223(37), chelek aleph, page 98.
28. Devarim 13:10, 12.
29. Sifrei, Devarim, Re'eh, #70, on Devarim13:12.
30. Devarim 19:19, 20.
31. Yeshayahu, 7:13.
32. Yirmiyahu, 29:24:32.
33. Hilchot De'ot 6:8. See also Responsa Rashba, Chelek aleph, #414 and Aruch HaShulchan, Even HaEzer 22:3.
34. Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer, 71:1.
35. T.J. Pe'ah 1:1. See also Responsa Rashba, chelek dalet, #56.
36. Mordechai, Kiddushin, Simanim 556-557.
37. Ohr Yechezkel, loc. cit., pp. 357-8, based upon Chafetz Chaim, Hilchot Lashon Ha'Ra, klal 10:2 and Hilchot Rechilut, klal 9:12.
38. Ohr Yechezkel, loc. cit., page 358.
39. See Sha'arei Teshuva, loc. cit., 221.
40. See Mahari Weil, Responsum Divrei Chaim, Minchat Chinuch, and Sha'arei Teshuva all cited above.
41. Sha'arei Teshuva,sha'ar 3, oht 221
42. Ibid.
43. Minchat Chinuch, mitzvah 240.
44. Ibid.
45. See Sha'arei Teshuva, loc. cit., 219, d.h. ki af al pi.
46. Yoma 86b.
47. Responsa Radach, siman 7. Rabbi David ben Chaim HaCohen (Radach) was an early Acharon and a disciple of Mahari Mintz. He lived in the sixteenth century, studied in Padua, Italy, and served as rabbi of the Jewish communities of Corfu and Partras. Radach wrote a book of responsa, and corresponded on halachic matters with other great rabbis of his generation. He died in 1530.
48. Sha'arei Teshuva, loc. cit., 218, 219. Chafetz Chaim 4:7, 8:5-7, with Be'er Mayim Chaim.
49. Hilchot Lashon HaRa, Be'er Mayim Chaim, 7:8, d.h. d'nireh pashut.
50. Megillah 25b. The Talmud brings the example of an adulterer, but the Chafetz Chaim's explanation (ibid.) does not limit the halacha to this example.
51. Rashi, ibid. Character flaws in parents can manifest themselves in children, and consequently the behavior of children can be to some extent attributed to the parents. Accordingly, parents bear some responsibility for the actions of their children. See, for example, the story of Miriam bat Bilgah (Sukkah 56b), Targum Yonatan ben Uziel on Shemot 20:13 and Michtav Mei'Eliyahu, Vol. 4, page 197. Rashi (Megillah 25b) also presents an alternative approach.
52. Chafetz Chaim, kelal 7, Be'er Mayim Chaim, 8.
53. Mo'ed Katan 17a.
54. Rashi (Megillah 25b) writes that he was reputed to be an adulterer.
55. Mo'ed Katan, loc. cit.
56. Sha'arei Teshuva, loc. cit., 218.
57. Nimukei Yosef, Bava Metziah, Perek HaZahav, Dapei HaRif, 32b (toward the end of the page).
58. Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, 228:1.
59. Sma, ibid., 228:4.
60. Ha'amek Davar, Bereishit, amud aleph, introduction to Sefer Bereishit.
61. Zohar, Bereishit, 164:1; Zohar, Vayikra, 86:1.
62. Responsa Chatam Sofer, Likutim, chelek 6, no. 85.
63. Sefer Chafetz Chaim, Jerusalem, 5734 at the end of michtavim ve'takanot, michtav bet, cited in Ohr Yechezkel, loc. cit., page 344.
64. Information that serves a constructive purpose for the previously mentioned reasons is not lashon hara.
65.\ Responsa Mahari Weil, siman 42.
66. See Sha'arei Teshuva, loc. cit., 228. See also Chafetz Chaim, Hilchot Lashon Ha'Ra, 2:3 with Be'er Mayim Chayim.
67. See Sha'arei Teshuva, loc.cit., 221.
68. See the halachic guidelines of the Chafetz Chaim cited above.
69. I Shmuel, 20:18.
70. Ta'am Va'Da'at, Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, parshat Kedoshim, page 111. Also see Tuvcha Yabiu, chelek rishon, page 474.
71. Kohelet 9:17.

back to home page