SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Hilchos Lashon Hara 8:1-2
In Day 18, the Chofetz Chaim discussed the mitzvah to remember how Miriam was stricken with tzara’as for speaking lashon hara about her brother, Moshe Rabbeinu. Miriam had only the best intentions and spoke in private to her brother Aharon. Yet, she was punished.
Above, we cited Ramban’s comment to that mitzvah.
She spoke only between herself and her holy brother [Aharon] in private, yet all her good deeds did not help her [to escape punishment for speaking lashon hara]. So too, you will not escape punishment if you speak to your brother against your fellow Jew.
In today’s segment, the Chofetz Chaim teaches:
There are people who mistakenly think that there is nothing wrong with speaking badly about a brother or sister. They reason, “I’m not trying to make fun of him [or her]. I’m just upset about what he did.” Miriam, too, was not trying to “put down” her brother, whom she loved so much, as Ramban said. She was merely expressing privately to her brother Aharon that she thought Moshe’s conduct was incorrect. Miriam should have inquired of Moshe and asked him to explain his behavior. He would have told her, as the Torah states that Hashem approved of what he did. We see that even relatives who are very close and mean no harm cannot speak lashon hara about one another.
There is another important lesson to learn from this episode. Sometimes, people speak lashon hara about their brothers or sisters and reason, “He (She) doesn’t care what I say about him (her)!” Here, the Torah testifies, “And the man Moshe was the most humble of any person on the face of the earth.” This means that Moshe was not upset about what Miriam had said about him. Yet, even this did not make it permissible for Miriam to speak lashon hara about him.
It is wrong to say things about others that are negative and cast the person in an unfavorable light. The fact that the person doesn’t care does not give us the right to say it.
We must also bear in mind that very often, people are not expressing their true feelings when they say, “I don’t care if people say that about me.” It is quite possible that they care very much, but are too embarrassed to admit it.
The following incident is true:
When Yossi was a high-school student, someone pulled a practical joke on him, causing him to fall. He was embarrassed, and the fall hurt. Yossi stood up, smiled, and said, “That’s okay.” Years later when he spoke of the incident, Yossi admitted that it was not “okay,” but he had been too proud to admit it.
Of course, a person can speak lashon hara when he knows that the person has actually done something wrong and there is a to’eles (constructive purpose) in telling it to others. For example, parents may discuss their child’s misbehavior with others in order to find a way to correct the problem. At all times, the rules of to’eles, which will be discussed in a later chapter, must be followed.
IN A NUTSHELL
One may not speak lashon hara about family members, unless the rules of to’eles (constructive speech) are met.
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