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My uncle has always encouraged me to avoid speaking lashon hara. "Will these words bring me closer to or further from this person?" is his usual response. However, is it ever justified to speak ill of someone?

For example, can we speak lashon hara in an attempt to expose evil and promote justice in the world? Is speaking badly about Kim Jong-un justified? Is it OK to demonize corrupt institutions and leaders?

My feeling is that the prohibition against lashon hara does not protect the guilty. It is perfectly acceptable to expose people for engaging in evil acts that bring about suffering in the world.

Is this correct?

  • Many hold that those in public office are not covered by the laws of Lashan Hara – Josh K Nov 20 '18 at 15:14
  • @JoshK Absolutely wrong! While there are some things that don't apply to those close to the malchut(like clothing of akum); lashon hara does apply. – chacham Nisan Nov 20 '18 at 16:03
  • There are some times when a person is obligated to warn someone in order to protect them from dealing with a person that can or will harm them spiritually, financially, or emotionally. The Chafetz Chaim goes through some specific examples where it is permitted or obligated to do so. – chacham Nisan Nov 20 '18 at 16:07
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    @chachamNisan Someone did claim that it's permitted to say slander about people who hold public office. I never saw it in the original, but it's quoted in this article which is a rebuttal of it – b a Nov 20 '18 at 16:46
  • @ba You misunderstand...there are some who hold(Rambam & others; acc'd to the Gemara) that once something is said before three people, there is no issur to repeat it if they reiterate it in an matter-of-fact manner; not in order to denigrate or slander the person. In other words, once something is public, there is no prohibition to relay the flat information. But to slander by reiterating in order to denigrate the office-holder? By all definitions is forbidden(unless they don't keep shabbat or for some practical & permitted purpose- like "don't vote for him". – chacham Nisan Nov 20 '18 at 18:14
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It would be of enormous benefit to go through the laws of Loshon Hora. There are many examples where it is permitted and even a mitzvah to speak ill of another Jew in very extenuating circumstances. It is also entirely forbidden.

In Chofetz Chaim - A Daily Companion Published by Artscroll (2005), writes (on day 119 - p. 238): In such a situation - the situation where you're protecting your fellow from a genuinely bad storekeeper that sells inferior merchandise, you have an obligation to advise your fellow to not enter the store, and to leave.

However, as with all Halacha, it is not cut and dry - today, it is well known that people buy inferior goods because they're cheap.

Perhaps a more relevant example is a doctor is who is not good at diagnosis. Whatever the case, the point is, consult an experienced Posek in the laws of Rechilus and Loshon Hora before you go around telling people about other bad people. But there are circumstances when it is appropriate.

In such a scenario, it is no longer classified as Loshon Hora but permitted speech.

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    Another "fine line" where this may be permitted is regarding shidduchim. A potential spouse should know if the person s/he is marrying is abusive or has genetic diseases that may potentially affect future children. Here, too, you need to ask someone both qualified and knowledgeable. (I say both, b/c many rabbanim are knowledgeable about overall rules but aren't qualified to translate this to your specific situation.) – DanF Nov 20 '18 at 18:04

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