I am having a hard time finding sources for Hilchos Lashon Hora from the Rishonim and Achronim (or further back).

Does anyone know of good sources for Hilchos Lashon Hora from before the Chofetz Chaim? What are the sources for the Sefer Chofetz Chaim? Did the Chofetz Chaim innovate!?

To follow on can anyone comment on why there is so little source information for something considered a very chomur aveira.

Note: This question is regarding the halacha side of things not mussar.

To Clarify better: In the Gemorrah/Medrash we see statements, stories and darshanus of pesukim re. Lashon Hora. Then we have a (relatively) modern sefer of Hilchos Lashon Hora. The Rabeinu Yonah is somewhat of a bridge between the Mussar side and Halacha but he is primarily a mussar sefer ( the CC admits this). I understand the CC sources his material but his sources are mainly from the mussar side. Is this an innovation or are there others sources rooted in Halacha? If (as it seems; looking at classical halacha sources such as Tur, Shulchan Orach etc..) that there isn't, why?

  • 5
    The Chafetz Chaim in the intro to his book writes where he got his sources from (Gemara, Rambam, Rabeinu Yonah were big ones). He also says he gives the sources for each Halacha in the footnotes of reach section. See here and the next few paragraphs: sefaria.org/Chofetz_Chaim%2C_Preface.22?lang=bi Mar 19, 2021 at 2:02
  • 2
    Really, the entire introduction address all of your questions and then some. Mar 19, 2021 at 2:08
  • 2
    Loshon Horah is mentioned repeatedly in the Gemorah .The CC gives his source for everything he writes.
    – Schmerel
    Mar 19, 2021 at 2:33
  • I imagine, though, that some mussar enthusiasts would categorize mussar as halacha..........
    – Dr. Shmuel
    Mar 19, 2021 at 2:42
  • 1
    @Dr.Shmuel true ;)
    – ylitc
    Mar 19, 2021 at 3:06

2 Answers 2


The Chafetz Chaim in his preface seems to address all your questions (and then some!). While the entire preface (and book) is well written (not that it needs my approbation!), I will try to quote some of the relevant bits that more directly address your questions.

Does anyone know of good sources for Hilchos Lashon Hora from before the Chofetz Chaim?

Other than a chapter in the Mishnah Torah and a section in Sha'arei Teshuva, it seems like there was never an organized collection of Halachos dealing with Hilchos Lashon Hara. There were earlier authorities (the Chafetz Chaim also mentions the Smag and Teshuvos Maharik) that mentioned Lashon Hara related Halachos, but they were never organized in an easy to find manner.


וְכָל אֵלּוּ הַסִבּוֹת עִקָּרָם הוּא מִצַּד שֶׁלֹּא נִתְקַבֵּץ בְּמָקוֹם אֶחָד עִנְיַן לָשׁוֹן הָרָע וּרְכִילוּת, שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר בּוֹ אֵיכוּתָם וְעִנְיָנָם בִּכְלָלֵיהֶם וּפְרָטֵיהֶם, אֲבָל הֵם מְפֻזָּרִים בַּשַּׁ"ס וְרִאשׁוֹנִים. וַאֲפִלּוּ הָרַמְבַּ"ם בְּפֶרֶק ז' מֵהִלְכוֹת דֵּעוֹת וְרַבֵּנוּ יוֹנָה בְּשַׁעֲרֵי תְּשׁוּבָה, שֶׁהֵם עָשׂוּ לָנוּ דֶּרֶךְ סְלוּלָה בַּהֲלָכָה זוֹ אַף עַל פִּי כֵן קִצְּרוּ מְאֹד, כְּדַרְכָּן שֶׁל רִאשׁוֹנִים

And all this proceeds — for the most part — from the laws of lashon hara and rechiluth not having been gathered into one spot, where there could be elucidated their nature and application, in principle and in practice. Instead, they are scattered in the Talmud and in the Rishonim (the early authorities). And even the Rambam in the seventh chapter of Hilchoth Deoth and Rabbeinu Yonah in the Sha'arei Teshuvah, who have paved the way for us in this area, have, nonetheless, been very terse, as is the way of the Rishonim.

What are the sources for the Sefer Chofetz Chaim?

The Chafetz Chaim writes that he added footnotes for every Halacha he wrote, and he called that section the Be'er Mayim Chaim. While I have seen a printed version of the book that does not include that part, almost all versions I've seen have it printed on the page (either below the main text, or surrounding it. Sefaria has it under the 'Commentary' tab in their sidebar).


וּבֵאוּר סָבִיב לוֹ יִקָּרֵא בְּשֵׁם בְּאֵר מַיִם חַיִּים, כִּי הוּא הַבְּאֵר שֶׁדָּלִיתִי מִמֶּנּוּ אֶת מְקוֹר הַחַיִּים הַפְּנִימִי.

[My translation] And the explanation surrounding [the main text] is called the Be'er Mayim Chayim, since it is the 'well' from from which I drew the sources for the main text.

Did the Chofetz Chaim innovate!?

He says he did not.


וְיֵדַע אָחִי הַקּוֹרֵא, שֶׁאֲפִלּוּ כָּל דָּבָר פָּשׁוּט שֶׁנִּמְצָא בִּפְנִים, הֶרְאֵיתִי אֶת מְקוֹרוֹ בִּבְאֵר מַיִם חַיִּים. לְמַעַן יְבֹרַר לְעֵינֵי הַכֹּל, שֶׁסֵפֶר זֶה לֹא חִבַּרְתִּי עַל פִּי מִדַּת חֲסִידוּת, רַק עַל צַּד הַדִּין.

And let the reader, my brother, know that for even the simplest thing found therein, I have indicated its source in the Be'er Mayim Chayim, so that it be clear before the eyes of all that I have not written this book according to the parameters of chasiduth [saintliness], but according to the parameters of din [Law].

The Rabeinu Yonah is somewhat of a bridge between the Mussar side and Halacha but he is primarily a mussar sefer ( the CC admits this).

The Chafetz Chaim does address this, as you mention, but he doesn't conclude the same way you do. He writes that some may ask why he relies so heavily on Sha'arei Teshuvah which many consider a 'Mussar' sefer instead of a 'Halachah' sefer, but he disagrees with the premise of the question and says that the Sha'arei Teshuva is written in quite an exacting language and does not go beyond the parameters of Halacha.

The Chafetz Chaim does concede that the Sha'arei Teshuva does not write the sources in his book (which is not unusual for works of that era), but he writes that all the sources are based on the Gemara, and in addition to that, when the Chafetz Chaim quotes the Sha'arei Teshuva as a source, he will usually bring an additional source for the law, to not solely rely on what some would call an unsourced Mussar sefer.


למה אני מביא בכמה מקומות ראיות מספר שערי תשובה לרבנו יונה, שהוא מכלל ספרי מוסר, כי באמת נראה לעינים להמתבונן היטב במאמריו הקדושים בכמה מקומות, ששמר ודקדק את דבריו שלא יצא מגדר הדין, ובפרט בדיני לשון הרע שלו, בכל ענין וענין שכתב יש על זה מקור מן הש"ס, וכאשר נבאר, אם ירצה השם, בפנים הספר

[My translation] Why am I bringing proofs in many places from the book Sha'arei Teshuva from Rabeinu Yonah, which is a work of Mussar? In truth, if one would delve into his holy words, you would se that he was careful to be exact in his wording to not go beyond the parameters of the law, and in particular in the section on the laws of Lashon Hara, every topic has a source in the Gemara, as I will, G-d willing, elaborate within this book.

Hopefully this helps clarify some of your questions. They are all valid questions and deserve full answers, which is why the Chafetz Chaim mentioned them himself and gives answers that he feels are sufficient.


The Rabeinu Yonah is somewhat of a bridge between the Mussar side and Halacha but he is primarily a mussar sefer ( the CC admits this). I understand the CC sources his material but his sources are mainly from the mussar side.

The CC goes further than that. The CC does say that Rabeinu Yonah is primarily a mussar sefer but he continues that (1)it is the exception to musser seforim in that it is primarily based on Gemorah (2)he does not quote it without independent proof that the halacha follows it (3)he tried not to quote it all if there was no source in the Rishonim on Halacha who also say what Rabeinu Yonah said.

See the Sdei Chemed on Kol Milsa Dmisamrey Bapey Tlosha (anything that was said in front of three people). Although he uses a totally different approach and quotes completely different seforim he comes to the same conclusion as the CC about it. He then says "if you want to see how this is correct by going through the Gemorah and Rishonim see the sefer Shmiras Haloson by the Av Beis Din of Radin"

(note this is all from memory so some of the above may be inaccurate)

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