Suppose someone falsely publishes false information about you, for example, writing on a public forum that you are not a trustworthy businessman because you once stole money from Reuven Israeli (no evidence offered)

Can you sue the author for defamation? What are the rules?

2 Answers 2


The Gemara in Kiddushin 28A says that the affected person can go after the slanderer outside the court system and hurt his livelihood:

דְּתַנְיָא הַקּוֹרֵא לַחֲבֵירוֹ עֶבֶד יְהֵא בְּנִידּוּי מַמְזֵר סוֹפֵג אֶת הָאַרְבָּעִים רָשָׁע יוֹרֵד עִמּוֹ לְחַיָּיו

as it is taught in a baraita: One who calls another a slave shall be ostracized. One who calls another a mamzer incurs the punishment of forty lashes. If one calls another a wicked person then the insulted person may harass him in all aspects of his life.

Rashi explains that the court will not get involved:

רשע יורד עמו לחייו - כלומר לזו אין ב"ד נזקקים אבל הוא מותר לשנאתו ואף למעט פרנסתו ולירד לאומנתו

The Tosfos Ri Hazaken explains it even clearer that it is referring to a case similar to yours and even though someone who embarrassed someone else isn’t liable to pay (only a grama) the insulted party is able to cause harm to his livelihood since that was what this slanderer was trying to do to him:

וקורא לו רשע שאינו אסור כלל בבת ישראל אין ב"ד נזקקין לו אלא הואיל ומוציא עליו שם שהוא רשע וגורם לו שהוא רשע ממנו ולא יתנו לו שום דבר להרויח ויצערוהו בכל יכולתם שיש לבני אדם הכשרים להבדל מן הרשעים בשום עסק ולצער אותם כפי היכולת. מ"ה יורד עמו עד לחייו. והא דאמרי' זאת אומרת ביישו בדברים פטור. אינו רוצה לומר אלא מן הממון האמור שם במשנה

  • so a victim of slander is allowed to take justice into his own hands basically?
    – lgshost
    May 31, 2023 at 15:14
  • It seems so, within the boundaries set out, meaning to cause the other person to have a loss of income. This should not be taken as practical Halacha, as you understand. Ask a rabbi for your personal case
    – Chatzkel
    May 31, 2023 at 17:07

See Chosen Mishpat 420:38.

There it mentions different approaches when dealing with someone emberassing someone else and levels of embarrassment. Like excommunication from the community or lashes which is certainly not done nowadays. It is decided by the Beis Din how to correct the matter.

A Beis Din might take a case to reach a compromised or use the Halacha of the land, but it is hard to clearly show a direct loss from a defamation.

I can imagine a case where a witness lies so badly about a monetary loss in a court case and it turns out other witnesses come and explain he was in a different place and could never have seen what he saw. In such a case the false witness would owe the money he tried to cause a loss, but there are a lot of rules there like being a witness in a Jewish court and being warned etc...

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