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Inspired by Shmeryl's frequenting of McDonalds, I have a similar question about lashon hara.

Let's say Shmeryl is coming to visit you from out-of-town on shabbat, and has no problem with doing so quite publicly. Beryl asks you on Shabbat afternoon, "Oh, did Shmeryl come in yesterday?" (i.e., before Shabbat)

Should you lie and say "yes" or tell the truth and risk lashon hara?

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3 Answers 3

With respect to the actual question, one is permitted to lie to protect another person from harm, which would include embarrassment. See Bava Metzia (23b) third item, where one may lie to protect a person from being taken advantage of.

See also Sanhedrin (11a) another story where a lie was employed to save another from an uncomfortable situation. See Sukkah (34b) where Shmuel lied to protect local shoppers from price gouging, see Ritva there.

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+1 because of citations –  Adam Mosheh Feb 12 '12 at 14:19

If Shmeryl made an active decision to throw Judaism out the window, the Chofetz Chaim says that the prohibition of lashon hara would no longer apply to him.

Otherwise, given today's usual circumstances and usual listeners, to say "Shmeryl wasn't raised keeping Shabbat and doesn't (yet) observe it" will neither upset Shmeryl nor harm him (unless he's trying to keep this a secret or something).

Need to get the source on this, but from what I recall reading in Chafetz Chaim, I believe a good definition of lashon hara is:

A.) Telling something about Mr X if Mr X would be upset if it was said in his presence. OR: B.) Telling something about Mr X that would prove harmful to him.
UNLESS: It's done specifically as-needed for a productive purpose.

But there are situations where one may fib to avoid lashon hara; e.g. "did Shmeryl say anything bad about me?"

(Need to provide citations from Sefer Chafetz Chaim about all this.)

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I think Rabenu Yona specifies that in situations where the information could benefit the person, the only way to know whether it is permissible is to examine the speaker's intent: If the speaker had the best interests of the subject of potential slander in mind, it is permissible. If he had less noble intentions it is prohibited. [Citation needed.]

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