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Is it asur to speak lashon hara about yourself? The only source have that it is asur is a story about thr Hafes Haim on a train. I'm not sure if that's a sufficient source to assume that it's asur.

I've read the Kisur Hilchot Lashon Hara before and I don't remember it coming up. I've heard that's it's not in the Hilchot Lashon Hara of the Hafes Haim either, but there is that famous story that the Hafes Haim says it is Asur to say Lashon Hara about yourself.

I remember that the Sefer Shaare Teshuva says that you shouldn't tell people your Averot but there are also other types of Lashon Hara. So that's my question.

  • I've heard it is; no time to go looking for a source now, though. – Seth J Aug 7 '13 at 15:02
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    Have you looked through the Chafetz Chayim? – Isaac Moses Aug 7 '13 at 15:10
  • I think that things we say about ourselves need to be true, and need to have a good reason. Even so, in general terms, we have the right to share sensitive information about ourselves in a way that we do not have with sensitive information about others, because we can't decide on someone else's behalf what is private to them. (This is a comment, not an answer, because it's just my personal thought.) – Annelise Aug 7 '13 at 16:54
8

R. Yehuda Herzl Henkin deals with this in a responsum (בני בנים ג:יח) and asserts that the story and the halacha are not true.

ובספר עלי תמר על הירושלמי שם הביא סיפור על בעל החפץ חיים ז"ל שנסע ברכבת ופגש יהודי שלא הכיר שהוא החפץ חיים וסיפר לו שהוא נוסע לבקר אצל החפץ חיים בראדין והפליג בשבחו והחפץ חיים אמר לו למה אתה הולך אליו כי אינו גדול כמו שאתה חושב אלא הוא יהודי פשוט ואותו יהודי התרגז על דבריו וחרפו וגדפו והגיע לידי הכאה ואחר כך כאשר בא לבקר את החפץ חיים בביתו השתומם לגלות שהוא האיש שאיתו רב ברכבת ובקש מחילה ואמר לו החפץ חיים שאדרבה הוא אסיר תודה לו היות וכתב ספר שלם על הלכות לשון הרע ולא עמד על ההלכה שאסור לדבר לשון הרע גם על עצמו עד שהעמידו הוא על הדבר עכ"ל הסיפור וכתב עליו בעלי תמר שיש סמוכין לזה מהירושלמי הנ"ל. ואולם אין פוסקים הלכה מתוך סיפורים וכבר כתבתי שאין ראיה מהירושלמי ומה שלא עמד על הלכה זו בספר חפץ חיים אותו נקבל כי אכן לא נמצא שם אבל מה שמשמע שחזר בו ודן דין חדש לאיסור לא נאמין לזה בלי ראיות מש"ס ופוסקים ובעיקר הסיפור בשלמא אם היה אומר לנוסע אני החפץ חיים ואיני כמו שאתה חושב אלא אני יהודי פשוט שפיר דמי ולא היתה יוצאת מזה שום תקלה אלא הנוסע היה מוסיף לו אהבה בעד ענוותנותו היתירה אבל במה שהסתיר זהותו וכאילו דיבר סרה על אחר יש בו מראית עין של לשון הרע ועוד שהכשיל את הנוסע באיסור דאורייתא של גידוף והכאה אלא בודאי אין הסיפור אמת

In the book Alei Tamar on the Yerushalmi there he brings a story about the Chofetz Chaim, that he was traveling on a train and a Jew who did not recognize that he was the Chofetz Chaim met him and told him that he was traveling to visit the Chofetz Chaim in Radin and he was effusive in his praise. And the Chofetz Chaim said to him, "why are you going to him? He is not as great as you think; he is just a simple Jew." And that Jew got angry over these words and he disgraced him and cursed him and ended up hitting him. Afterwards, when he came to visit the Chofetz Chaim in his house, he was astonished to discover that this was the man he had been with on the train, and he requested forgiveness. And the Chofetz Chaim said that on the contrary he is thankful to him, for he had written an entire book about the laws of lashon hara but had missed the law that one must not speak lashon hara about oneself, until this fellow set him straight on this. This is the end of the story, and the Alei Tamar writes on it that there is support for it from the Yerushalmi mentioned earlier. However, we do not decide halacha from stories, and I have already written that there is no proof from the Yerushalmi. And that which [was mentioned in the story] that the Chofetz Chaim missed this law in the book Chofetz Chaim, we can accept because indeed it is not to be found there. But that which it implies that he retracted and judged the law anew for prohibitiveness we will not believe without proofs from the Gemara and Poskim. And with regard to the actual story it would have been fine had he said to the traveler, "I am the Chofetz Chaim and I am not like what you think; I am just a simple Jew" and no problem would have resulted. In fact the traveler would have increased his love on account of his extra humility. But that which he hid his identity and appeared to speak badly about someone else would be maris ayin of lashon hara, plus he caused the traveler to violate the biblical prohibition of cursing and hitting. Instead, the story is certainly untrue.

It should be noted, though, that the Chofetz Chaim's son quotes a similar story in his biography of his father (Sichos HaChafetz Chaim # 53).

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This is a rather famous story I believe. R. Hershel Schachter in Nefesh Harav (pg 150) quotes Rabbi Soloveitchik: (loose translation)

there's no novelty in saying that the Chofetz Chaim said that one cannot speak lashon hara about oneself (i.e. it's obviously prohibited), because after all, the whole concept of 'maris ayin' shows that a person doesn't have full jurisdiction over his own reputation to forgo it

The Lubavitcher Rebbe has a letter where he writes (6:1621) that of course, just as a person can't speak badly about another Jew, he cannot speak badly about himself.

However, see here where it seems like the Chofetz Chaim himself was more ambivalent regarding a case of permitting one to say lashon hara about oneself, and I'd imagine that a similar leniency would apply to this case.

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The following is from a Torah Tavlin parsha sheet (M'tzora 5774):

A famous story is told about the holy Chofetz Chaim ZT”L, who sat next to a Jew on a train traveling to Radin. The traveler was unaware of the identity of the man sitting next to him and he mentioned he was going to see the great Tzaddik of Radin. R’ Yisroel Meir protested and said that the rabbi of whom he speaks is not so special. Enraged by the disrespect shown by his fellow traveler, whose identity he did not know, the traveler smacked the Chofetz Chaim.

Later, the Chofetz Chaim set the man’s mind at ease. “I deserved to be beaten,” he said, “because, as I have learned, one may not speak lashon hara - even about oneself!”

Notwithstanding this story, one may wonder as to why this should be the case. Seemingly, one’s feelings are his own. Just as one is permitted - although not encouraged - to embarrass oneself if he so desires, presumably he should reserve the right to speak of his own shortcomings as well.

Indeed, R’ Yosef Sholom Elyashiv ZT”L is cited as remarking that no prohibition exists whatsoever against verbal self-denigration. One may, in fact, speak lashon hara about oneself. R’ Elyashiv commented that to the contrary, the above story proves this position, for we see that even the Chofetz Chayim permitted himself to speak about himself. He would not have done so if it was strictly forbidden by halacha. Only in an attempt to alleviate his assailant’s humiliation did he make the comment that he was wrong for talking about himself. In truth, however, it is permissible.

Nevertheless, R’ Elyashiv insisted that this does not grant other people permission to speak about him. This is compared to a situation where one lets another steal his possessions. Undoubtedly, though, the thief who comes along and seizes his property has violated the prohibition against stealing. Similarly, the fact that a person speaks freely about his own inadequacies has no effect on the prohibition forbidding others from engaging in such talk about him.

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    do you know where this statement of R. Elyashiv is recorded? – הנער הזה Jul 22 '14 at 13:39
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If what are saying about yourself is in a constructive way and will help someone else or help yourself to become inlightened and aware of how to change for the positive, then it is permitted to say loshon hara about yourself.. The Chofetz Chaim writes this in his book a lesson a day - loshon hara 2 vol. One should read this to get a better insight

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    A lesson a day was written by the Chofetz Chaim? – Shmuel Brin Jan 5 '14 at 17:53
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The Chofetz Chaim's grandson, Moreinu Rav Hillel Zacks (Rosh Yeshivas Chevron) is quoted as saying that this story is a made up tale, which never indeed took place

Rav Hillel said that no prohibition exists whatsoever against verbal self-denigration, and one may, in fact, speak lashon hara about oneself.

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This story of the Chofetz Chaim is dubious at best - not only does the Chofetz Chaim not hint to this halacha in his works, but he implies strongly to the contrary.

ודע עוד, דאפלו אם בתוך הגנות שגנה את חברו גנה את עצמו גם כן בזה הגנות גופא, ואפלו הקדים להתרעם על עצמו בזה, אפלו הכי מכלל דילטוריא לא נפקי

The Chofetz Chaim writes that talking against one's friend is prohibited, even when he includes himself within the slander he says about his friend. If he held it was equally forbidden to talk about oneself as one's fellow, there would be no 'אפי׳'.

But not only is this story probably inaccurate, relating this story is probably loshon horo (or motze shem ra, depending on it's veracity) - because even if it were permitted to speak degradingly about oneself, it would nevertheless be forbidden to talk about oneself in the manner he did - because the listener was not aware that it was permitted.

The Chofetz Chaim rules (Klal 6:42) that it is forbidden (under the prohibition of lifnei iver) to talk about something permitted if the listener is not aware of the situation that makes it muttar (for example, l'toeles) - since the listener thinks it is something prohibited, it classifies as 'נתכוון לאכול בשר חזיר ועלה בידו בשר טלה', which is a form of trangression. According to Tosfos (Kiddushin 31), one would not be allowed to extend Kosher meat to someone who believes it is not Kosher.

Accordingly, it would be forbidden to slander himself to a listener who is not aware of his identity.

Therefore, relating a story where the Chofetz Chaim supposedly transgressed either Loshon Hora or lifnei iver would be forbidden.

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The story about the Hafes Haim couldn't be, because it's an Isur to cause someone hear Lashon Hara. There are many sources, but I don't have time now. If someone tell about himself and tells to another that the story is about himself - it's Mutar. http://www.kolhalashon.com/New/Shiurim.aspx?Lang=Hebrew&Path=Hebrew|HH|R0697|R0697-1&Order=New2Old&PageNum=8 lesson #143 / #144

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