Sometimes people will speak lashon harah about someone saying that it is allowed because he is a "rasha." Then you may hear others saying that today we never really know who is a rasha and we can't make that judgement.

Today, is one allowed to label someone as a rasha and treat him with the halachic ramifications that apply? (for example, speaking lashon harsh about him, hating him etc) If so, who is qualified to make such a decision? What qualifies someone as a rasha and how far does this extend? When do we apply the principle of "tinok shenishbah"? Does Tinok Shenishbu apply to those who raised in some type of religious background, i.e. Reform, Conservative?

Addtionally, how does this fit with the obligation to be "mocheh" (protest) wrong behavior?

  • 3
    WONDERFUL QUESTION Jun 5, 2014 at 13:07
  • Is there a difference between labeling Jews and non-Jews?
    – Scimonster
    Jun 5, 2014 at 14:02
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    I personally think the Jewish people have been so shattered this century, especially by the holocaust that it would be well to apply the principle in pirkei avot 2:5 "do not judge your fellow until you reach his place" if there is a specific person then consult your L.O.R. about how to act towards a certain bad person/influence.
    – ray
    Jun 5, 2014 at 18:48
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    Somewhat related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/35518
    – Fred
    Jun 6, 2014 at 5:00

2 Answers 2


declaring someone a rasha should be treated in a very sensitive manner and must be backed up by an overwhelming amount of evidence. the reason I say this is the second beis hamikdash was destroyed on the account of sinash chinam and therefore the construction must logically happen based on ahavas chinuam. we should not be overly fond of declaring anyone a rasha unless there truly and sadly is good reason to do so

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    I agree that ahavas chinam is very important, but this is a halachic matter. we need to define what it means "ahavas chinam" and that does not necessarily take the place of hating a rasha when there is an actual chiyuv to do so. being machmir on one side (the side that feels more comfortable and nice) can lead to being too meikel and doing something wrong on the other side. and on the other hand, one might lean to be "machmir" on labeling someone a rasha only to justify his lashon harah. so that's why i'm asking to question - to get things straight.
    – Mindz
    Jun 8, 2014 at 9:38
  • my answer doesn't say it should never be done but there must be evidence to do so. like it says in the very first perek of pirkei avois, "be careful in judgement". furthermore even when there is a chiyuv to hate the rasha this doesn't get rid of the chiyuv to love your fellow yid either
    – Dude
    Jun 8, 2014 at 15:34
  • but i would think one chiyuv does replace the other - if you are meant to hate him, you cannot love him...?
    – Mindz
    Jun 10, 2014 at 9:57
  • when there a an obligation to hate someone the obligation to love them doesn't disappear. we aren't meant to be hateful people but to hate evil. the point I'm trying to make is calling someone wicked is a very serious thing to do and there must be good reason for doing so
    – Dude
    Jul 2, 2014 at 15:49

A rav in my community was labelled a rasha because it was discovered that he sexually abused scores of young children during the course of about a decade. About 10 noted neighborhood rabbanim called him a rasha and published this in several posters and newspapers.

I am not publishing his name or the neighborhood in this post, despite the permission stated by these rabbanim that doing so is NOT Lashon Hara. I think that the permission is limited to those who already know and those in the community who need to know, not the general public. Point is, that a well, though locally, publicized case on a person's cruel behavior, as sexual abuse is, apparently, warrants a person being labeled a "rasha", esp. if that person did not modify his behavior after previous warnings.

  • you say you "think" - can you bring me any sources about the topic? (i.e. anything from the chofetz chaim, shulchan aruch?) also, sometimes this kind of information needs to be spread publicly, beyond the community. I know of a case in which a rav was also proven to be untrustworthy and he moved to a different community where they did not know him. If the info is not spread, other people may be harmed.
    – Mindz
    Jun 8, 2014 at 9:33
  • I don't recall the exact location, but in his Shmirat Halashon book, Chafetz Chaim does spend several chapters discussing exactly this scenario of when someone does something harmful and it is public knowledge, it is permissible to spread the details and it is not considered lashon hara. The exact limits and the details and far too long to list, here, but you will find discussion in that book. If I can locate the place, I will B"N edit the comment.
    – DanF
    Jun 9, 2014 at 15:35

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