How does one reconcile a duty to warn of bad businesses and a duty to not speak lashon hara? Ex. Yelp

  • 3
    According to the Talmud (Niddah 61a) although one should not accept slander, one must nevertheless consider the possibility that it is true and take necessary precautions. It therefore seems very likely, that that there should similarly be no problem is spreading the information in the first place, in order to protect others. It would probably even satisfy the obligation to "Not stand by your brother's blood" (Leviticus 19:16).
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Oct 2, 2016 at 20:44
  • related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/43709/….
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 15:46

1 Answer 1


According to R. Menahem HaMeiri the definition of l'shon hara, is speech that is meant to be defamatory or hurtful. Thus, statements of a negative nature that are said for a positive reason (in this case warning others of bad businesses), and not to hurt others, are permissible since by definition they are not l'shon hara. These are his words in his Hibbur HaTeshuva (Meshiv Nefesh I:4):

עקר לשון הרע הוא המתמיד לספר בגנות האחרים ויתן דפי בענינים או שילעג להם למעוט הצלחתם...ומעין זה מי שילעיג על חבריו למעוט השגתם בידיעה...לכונת לעג וליצנות...וכלל הדברים כל אשר יתן מום באדם...ללא כונת ענין נבחר הוא ענין לשון הרע...שאין לספר במומי בני האדם על דרך לעג וליצנות, אם לא יעשה כן...לאיזו כונה

The archetypal l'shon hara is one who frequently relates embarrassing things about others, and adds falsehood to what he says, or he defames them on their lack of success...And similarly one who defames his fellows on their lack of intellect for the purpose of defamation and mockery...The rule is that anyone who ascribes a fault to others...without some specific intent is l'shon hara...For one should not relate the faults of others in context of defamation and mockery, unless he is speaking for some purpose. (Translation my own).

This also appears to be the opinion of R. Elhanan Wasserman, who generalizes this to all interpersonal mitsvot. He writes in Kovets Ha’arot (Yevamot: 70):

ולולי דבריהם היה נראה, דכל האיסורין שבין אדם לחבירו אינן איסורין אלא דרך קילקול והשחתה שלא לצורך... וכן בלאו דלא תלך רכיל, מותר לספר לה"ר על בעלי מחלוקת כדי להשקיט המריבה. וכן בלאו דאונאת דברים... ומוכח מכ"ז, דכל האיסורין האלו הותרו לצורך תועלת

If not for their words, it would appear that all interpersonal prohibitions, are only forbidden in the context of degrading and tarnishing others for no purpose...And so too with the prohibition of gossiping, it is permitted to tell l'shon hara on disputants to quell the dispute...And similarly with the prohibition of onaat d'varim [verbal abuse]...And it is evident from all this that all of these prohibition are permitted to achieve an end. (Trans. my own).

Importantly, they do not attach conditions to to'elet, as the Haffets Hayyim famously does.

  • What conditions does the Haffets Hayyim attach to to'elet?
    – user9643
    Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 3:07
  • @Ploni ayein sham I didnt cite him, as he isnt part of this answer. The point is that they don't attach any conditions. Thus, whatever condition is required by someone else, is not required by them. I was just mentioning the HH as an example of someone who mentions conditions.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 3:31
  • "who generalizes this to all interpersonal mitsvot" = "I shot him because he was in my way"?
    – Loewian
    Commented Aug 7, 2018 at 18:22
  • I assume it would even be an obligation to warn about a bad business. Commented May 10 at 23:26

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