Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lashon Hara L'Toeles

A certain group of students were learning in a yeshiva in Israel that was known as an environment where false dei’os flourished. These students knew that the only way to convince their fellow students of the folly of such opinions was to speak against the rabbis who championed such opinions. But they wondered if this was halachically permitted. After all, talking against a talmid chacham is a very serious sin.
To their surprise, when they went to the Chazon Ish, zt”l, and asked him if this was permitted he refused to answer them. They decided to return a second time but the Chazon Ish was silent yet again.
On their third visit, he began to ask them numerous questions “What are your names? Where are you from? How long have you been learning?”
When he was finally satisfied with their answers he said, “In terms of the halachos of a talmid chacham... Although the rabanim you have named have a position, they do not learn every free moment. The Chofetz Chaim rules that only one who knows how to learn and whose Torah study is his exclusive occupation is a talmid chacham. These people are like tailors and shoemakers that work to earn a living.
“But that’s only regarding the question of whether disparaging these particular rabbis constitutes embarrassing a talmid chacham. If you spread negative opinions about them, you will still violate the prohibition of lashon hara. You wish to speak l’toleles? Let me tell you how to speak lashon hara l’toeleles. Rav Chaim Brisker only attended the first Agudah convention because, during the proceedings, someone spoke against a certain communal activist and claimed that something he had done had caused trouble. Rav Chaim immediately stood up and proclaimed, ‘It is prohibited to sit here since people speak lashon hara!’
“But why was this lashon hara?” asked the Chazon Ish. “The person speaking was addressing an important concern and every word he spoke was absolutely true. It was forbidden because the person spoke in a judgmental and self-righteous manner. If the speaker at the convention had said instead, ‘Rabbosai! This person’s error has brought about a terrible problem! Let us all work together to try and rectify it!’ this would have been lashon hara l’toeles.”


yehupitz said...

I enjoy your posts, which is why I have subscribed to them. You tell the stories that interest you. I don't mind that. My comments don't have to mean anything to you. I just want to let you know that I find the type of story you posted, and there have been a few others, unenlightening and slightly obnoxious because they are a backhanded smack-down of Mizrachi-Kookian thought. I know you did not invent the genre. And I am not a student or a proponent of the Rav Kook school of Eretz Yisroel hashkafa either. But these kinds of stories are a turn-off for me, especially from a site that chooses to name itself after Breslov ideals.

I apologize if I offended you with my feeback. I know I have not offered positive feedback in the past, even though I should have.

Have an easy fast.

Micha Golshevsky said...

Yehupitz: Thank you for your comment and your compliment.
I certainly understand where you are coming from. And I am sorry you have found a few posts "unenlightening and slightly obnoxious."
I certainly meant no "back handed smack down" of Mizrachi or Rav Kook, chalila.
Generally, the stories that you are talking about (and I probably remember each and every one) expressed a certain point of view, especially halachic which contradict contemporary psak of certain Mizrachi Rabanim.
I must admit that these stories were written to show the other side to these complex halachic issues. Very often the greatest Rabanim had already dealt with what is presented as a new issue and had clearly argued with these poskim.
But of course Chazal tell us that one should not learn halacha from a ma'aseh, so I don't believe there is anything wrong with explaining the "other" point of view. (Especially regarding psakim that are very strange and exceedingly hard to justify halachically.)
I don't believe I have ever even mentioned Mizrachi here. Never the less, when one sees or hears people who are absolutely uninformed in halacha quoting a very difficult psak as if it was the only true way to learn, I believe this calls for explaining the side of the vast majority of great poskim.
But perhaps you are right and I am wrong. Maybe I should avoid such issues so as not to anger others. Hm. Good point. I will certainly think about it and once again I thank you for your feedback.
But the purpose of the post you commented on had nothing to do with any specific group at all. How sad, if a post about lashon hara ended up being just that. Rachmana l'tzlan!
I personally was very inspired by this story since it taught me that even after thoroughly learning and and reviewing the halachos of Shmiras Halashon and many inspiring teachings about it, I had inadvertently violated this halacha countless times when I spoke to someone l'toeles. Did I speak as though it was a rachmanus on the party who had erred? Was it clear that I was saddened by the need to speak against a fellow Jew? I am sorry to say that the answer to both question is a resounding no. I spoke forcefully and definitely transgressed, even though I don't believe that I meant the "guilty parties" any harm. If asked I would certainly have justified myself that I meant l'toeles and not for personal reasons, but I would have been wrong, since the underlying principle of the prohibition against lashon hara is that it is a contradiction to ahavas Yisrael. After seeing this story I realized that although this clearly emerges from the halachos I had completely missed it and perhaps others had as well.
My entire intention in telling this story was to convey this very important message to others. I sure wish I had seen it earlier!
I also liked this story because the Chazon Ish did not immediately assume that these bochurim were sincere. He made them come back several times and questioned them first. How careful he was to avoid such issues!
I was also very inspired by the reminder that a talmid chacham is not someone who knows a lot or can learn. A talmid Chacham is someone who spends his available time learning. (This is actually from the Gra.)
A final lesson that is clear from this story is that even if a person definitely has bad hashkafos, this does not mean one can talk against them. Sadly many people do not understand this.
(By the way, who told you that the problem was Mizrachi? Perhaps the Rabanim in question were people who were convinced that the Zohar is false or some other serious hashkafic negative. Of course you may be right but only someone who has seen the story inside can really know.)
Hashem should protect us from lashon hara. Especially since this sin is why we have endured such a long exile.

yehupitz said...

You were very kind to offer such a lengthy response. Once again, I am a big fan of your site and appreciate your efforts. Of the hundreds of posts from your site, my complaint was about less than five. As I sent it, I felt bad that my critical words could not be balanced with dozens of prior comments in which I would have written "Great job!" Perhaps I should start doing that.

Regarding the story itself, I did appreciate the message of phrasing things in a non-Loshon Hara manner. It was the Us-vs.Them context or Foundation of the narrative that struck a nerve.

Perhaps I saw a "Mizrachi"-themed tone in the story because of other examples of this type of story in many other biographies, including the "official" biographies of the Chazon Ish, R Zonnenfeld, the Brisker Rav, R'Elchonon, the Chofetz Chaim etc. If I read too much into it, I apologize.

Anonymous said...

what's the source of this story???

Micha Golshevsky said...

Source for the story: מעשה איש, ח"ב, ע' ק"פ- קפ"א
Or in English: Maaseh Ish II:pg. 180-181