I've seen in halacha concerns for people making extremely far-fetched negative conclusions. The following are but two examples:

In Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 3:13 it says:

לא ישתין מעומד מפני ניצוצות הניתזין על רגליו

One should not urinate from a standing position lest it sprinkle down upon his legs

The Mishnah Berurah explains from the gemarra in Niddah 13a that if it sprinkles on his legs, people will think he has an injury, making him infertile. They will then conclude that his children aren't his, but rather his wife committed adultery, making the children mamzerim.

A second example is Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 128:5, which says:

לא יעלו הכהנים לדוכן במנעלים אבל בבתי שוקים שרי:

Kohanim may not ascend to the platform in shoes, but in socks it is permitted.

The Mishnah Berurah explains from the gemarra in Sotah 40a that if we allow them to wear shoes, maybe one of their shoes' laces will come undone, and it will be embarrassing for them to go up. They'll subsequently spend time tying them, missing the opportunity to bless the people. People will notice that he didn't go up, and suspect him of not being a kosher Kohen.

These are but two examples of concerns that people will make extremely far-fetched negative conclusions. On the other hand, I've encountered the opposite. The gemarra assumes people will make extremely far-fetched positive conclusions.

For example, Yevamos 15a is discussing the prohibition of lo sisgodedu, where you can't have splintered groups of Jews together following different rulings. The gemarra brings an example from Shammai, who followed his own opinion, when it would seemingly be an issue of lo sisgodedu.

מתיב מר זוטרא מעשה וילדה כלתו של שמאי הזקן ופיחת את המעזיבה וסיכך על גבי מטה בשביל קטן ש"מ עשו התם הרואה אומר לאפושי אויר קעביד

§ Mar Zutra raised an objection to this issue from a different source: There was an incident in which the daughter-in-law of Shammai the Elder gave birth to a son. In Shammai’s opinion this newborn baby is immediately obligated in the mitzva to sit in a sukka, and he therefore removed the mortar [ma’aziva] covering the ceiling and he placed sukka covering over the bed for the minor. Conclude from here that Beit Shammai did act in accordance with their opinions. The Gemara answers: There is no proof from there, as anyone watching would say that he did it merely to increase the air. Since people would not necessarily think that he removed the mortar as a ruling of halakha, this behavior is not considered the formation of a faction.

It is very far-fetched to assume that in the middle of Sukkos, Shammai removed the mortar and put up schach over a child, when we know his opinion is children that young need to be in the Sukkah, that he did so only to make the room "more breezy". We see that we go very far to avoid suspecting people of wrongdoing (lo sisgodedu), yet in the earlier examples people aren't assumed to judge so favorably.

Does anyone address this seeming contradiction? It doesn't have to be these specific examples. Just a source which addresses far-fetched positive and negative conclusions.

  • 1
    Maybe there's a difference between people thinking that someone's status is flawed (that he's a כרות שפכה or a חלל), and thinking that he did something wrong (violating לא תתגודדו). Although I guess then we'd have to see whether there are examples of positive judgment about someone's status, or negative ones about their actions. – Meir Aug 26 '20 at 17:02
  • 1
    Or, it is possible that one group felt that people assume negative conclusions about people while others assume they are more positive. In other words, its a matter of opinion or preference. – Turk Hill Aug 26 '20 at 17:09
  • 1
    Why not both? There are people who judge extremely positively, and people who judge extremely negatively for each situation. The question is which condition are you more worried about in each situation that you need to handle for it? – Salmononius2 Aug 26 '20 at 17:56
  • 2
    @Salmononius2 why not worry in the third case about those who will assume Shammai is sinning? – robev Aug 26 '20 at 19:27
  • 1
    In protecting a person's status, we need to worry about starting a rumor that will effect his children for generations, so we must be extremely careful. But with lo sisgodidu, as long as there is another plausible explanation, we don't assume that the person is trying to do a mitzvah, even if he actually is. – Mordechai Feb 21 at 21:30

It appears to me that the difference between the two cases that you quote are that

לא ישתין מעומד מפני ניצוצות הניתזין על רגליו

One should not urinate from a standing position lest it sprinkle down upon his legs

Fundamentally relates to a lowly function of the human body, and people will be drawn after that lowliness to draw lowly conclusions.

Whereas the other source that you quote wherein Shammai opened the roof over his grandson so that he could be in a Succah relates to something beautiful and pleasant - a mitzva.

Regarding something beautiful and pleasant, people are liable to come to pleasant and positive conclusions.

A kashye on the above explanation is from Menachos 35a


א"ר יצחק רצועות שחורות הלכה למשה מסיני מיתיבי תפילין אין קושרין אותן אלא במינן בין ירוקות בין שחורות בין לבנות אדומות לא יעשה מפני גנאי ודבר אחר

Rabbi Yitzḥak says: The requirement that the straps of the phylacteries be black is a halakha transmitted to Moses from Sinai. The Gemara raises an objection from a baraita: One may tie phylacteries only with straps of their same type, i.e., the straps must be made from hide, and it does not matter whether they are green, or black, or white. Nevertheless, one should not make red straps, because this is deprecatory to him, as it looks like he has wounds on his head, and also due to something else, i.e., lest people suspect him of engaging in sexual intercourse with a menstruating woman and getting blood on the straps.

So in this case, he is doing a mitzva and yet people may suspect him of something most repugnant.

I think the answer to that would be that since the retzuos hang in that (possibly) "lowly" part of the body, you can still have that lowly association.

  • My example from a Kohen seems to be a counterproof to your suggestion. – robev Feb 23 at 5:23
  • @robev Maybe I need to refine my peshat. So that since the kohen did not do a davar shebikedushah this creates a negative association. So we can have a negative association created either through a davar meguneh or through the he'edar of a davar she'bikedushah. – The GRAPKE Feb 23 at 5:33

I would think that there is a big difference between the two. In the third example, they are telling you about an action of a great Torah scholar. Therefore, people had the benefit of the doubt due to his great holiness. However, for the first 2, they speak about ordinary people. Therefore, people do not have the benefit of the doubt.

  • I'm not sure I follow. My first two examples are also from the gemarra (Niddah, as cited, and the second is from Sotah). It just so happens that the concerns of the gemarra were codified. – robev Feb 23 at 5:21
  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya! – robev Feb 23 at 5:22
  • @robev sorry, I edited it to make it morre clear – Yosef Zaghi Feb 23 at 5:29
  • Thanks for the edit. The last example isn't telling you what to think. It's saying that it was permitted for Shammai to do what he did because people wouldn't think badly of him. – robev Feb 23 at 6:25
  • @robev True. I edited it because you are right, my pshat was illogical. – Yosef Zaghi Feb 23 at 17:20

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .