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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.

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    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
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    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
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    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? Aug 26 '20 at 17:56
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    @Salmononius2 why not worry in the third case about those who will assume Shammai is sinning?
    – robev
    Aug 26 '20 at 19:27
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    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
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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

https://www.sefaria.org/Menachot.35a.11?lang=bi

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.

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  • 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
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Perhaps the difference is in the topic. When it comes to yichus issues, even a small far fetched idea can take hold and people will avoid doing Shidduchim with them even on a far fetched suspicion. Whereas in all other areas we assume they'll be dan lkaf zechus.

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    Thank you for your hypothesis but I wrote in my question I'm seeking sources.
    – robev
    Jul 25 at 5:19
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I would argue that there may be a fundamental difference between the cases you cite. In the first two cases the entire issue is what people will think. We don't want people to think that children are mamzerim or that kohanim are invalid, so all that matters is whether people will think it or not. Thus, even if it seems somewhat farfetched for someone to think this, we still advise against the action, because we want to go to great lengths to avoid these misunderstandings.

Lo Sisgodedu, on the other hand, is a halachic category. The issue itself is not what people will think; rather the issue is whether your action falls into the halachic category. Therefore, what people will think of your action is relevant only insofar as it affects the definition of the halachic category. The definition of the halachic category doesn't have to care about what types of thoughts are more likely; it simply has to define what it means to "create factions". Thus, if your actions can be explained in some way other than that you are making factions, that may fit the definition of (not) creating factions, even if the majority of observers (or even all of them) would not interpret your actions that way.

Compare this to the Gemara's discussion a couple of pages earlier about working on Erev Pesach. There it is not a problem of Lo Sisgodedu to not work, because הרואה אומר מלאכה הוא דלית ליה – observers would say that he's not working merely because he has no work to do. Here, too, one could debate the believability of such a claim. What if I know that the person does have work to do? Again, I would argue that it doesn't matter. The point is not whether an individual or group of people will think that you are deliberately not working or not. The point is that you can't be said to making factions when you can provide an alternate explanation of your actions.

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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.

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  • 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
    – yogazefish
    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.
    – yogazefish
    Feb 23 at 17:20

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