SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Hilchos Lashon Hara 4:11
Mr. Shulman’s daughter, Rivkah, is of marriageable age. Someone suggested Yonah Hertzman as a possible shidduch for her. For certain reasons, Mr. Shulman does not want it known that he is seeking a shidduch for his daughter.
Mr. Shulman knows that his neighbor’s son, Daniel, studies in the same yeshivah as Yonah. One day after Shacharis, Mr. Shulman nonchalantly says to Daniel, “I hear there’s a nice group of boys in your yeshivah. I met a fellow named Yonah Hertzman from there. He impressed me as a good bachur, no?”
Daniel responds by telling him all about Yonah — exactly what Mr. Shulman hoped would happen. After listening to a few of Yonah’s qualities, Mr. Shulman says, “Well, no one’s perfect. You don’t mean to say that Yonah Hertzman has no faults?”
“Well, he really is a wonderful guy,” replies Daniel, “though he does come late to Shacharis once in a while. But, of course, he’s not the only one.”
Mr. Shulman had every right to inquire about Yonah. A shidduch is a serious matter and parents should inquire about the young man or woman who has been suggested as a marriage partner for their child. The same would apply to a potential business partnership. Each prospective partner has the right to ask about the personality and past history of the other party to determine whether or not he should enter into the partnership.
However, Mr. Shulman made a serious mistake in leading Daniel to believe that he was asking about Yonah only out of curiosity. If that would have been the case, then he would have been soliciting lashon hara; in other words, he gave the impression that he is a sinner who disregards the most basic rules of proper speech.
Even worse, when Daniel spoke of Yonah’s coming late to Shacharis, he was guilty of speaking lashon hara, since he had no idea that Mr. Shulman had a valid reason for seeking this information. By causing Daniel to sin, Mr. Shulman was guilty of “And before a blind person do not place a stumbling block.”
If Mr. Shulman needs shidduch information, he should be straightforward. “Daniel, I need to ask you some questions about a boy who was suggested for my daughter … ” The same rule applies to someone who needs information about a potential business partner.
There is a situation, says the Chofetz Chaim, where even straightforwardness will not permit seeking information.
Naftali has received an offer from Dov to open a Judaica store in partnership. Naftali’s friend, Pinchas, has been in the Judaica business for years and surely knows Dov, whose previous Judaica store was only three blocks away from Pinchas’. Naftali sees Pinchas as the perfect source of information about Dov.
One should never seek information from someone’s enemy, for he is more than likely to speak negatively about him. The Chofetz Chaim adds that we should not seek information from someone’s business competitor, even when there is no known hatred between them. Unfortunately, competitors often have a dislike for one another, and seeking such information from them could possibly cause them to speak lashon hara. Even if such information would be l’to’eles (constructive), since their motivation for speaking is often hatred of their competitor, their words are forbidden.
IN A NUTSHELL
When seeking necessary information about someone, be clear as to the reason for your inquiries; do not seek such information from the subject’s competitor.
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