shmirat haloshon - If Something is Already Public News...

This post is dedicated in merit that Hershel ben Etya Sarah have a yeshuah.

Elisheva Maline 

We'd love to think that once a bit of news has been publicized it's up for grabs and free for the telling, right? If you initially guessed yes, actually that is the correct answer. You are one hundred percent allowed to share a negative tidbit so long as it's already gone to press. However, there are disclaimers involved, meaning mines which will blow up if you take one misstep. Unfortunately, these little bombs are often ignored by wannabe know-it-alls who claim that they're not speaking loshon hara when in fact the Chofez Chaim says they are. Okay guys, I'm here to burst your bubble.

You can share news as long as it is without bias or embellishment. Since that is basically impossible, I don't know anyone who didn't mention Bernie Maydoff without a shake of the head or a sneer, the Chofez Chaim informs us that we must refrain from speaking our minds. The only circumstance I've heard that retelling something known can be permissible under is when someone is teaching Torah or a life lesson. S/he has no personal bias in the matter; s/he is simply giving an example of something negative as a means to teaching something powerful. Thus the Chofez Chaim differentiates between a person's teaching Torah, when he has no personal bias in the matter, and with regard to the listeners, in the process of learning lishma (for the sake of heaven), they have no negative pull toward the news.

Let's say you feel no indignation or upset about news of a recent occurrence and you simply want to share the latest because it is interesting or you are trying to highlight an opinion of yours in a random conversation. You must ask yourself whether the person listening will have a negative reaction or not. For instance, someone told me a story about a certain group of people who were slaughtering chickens before Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) and then throwing them away. The person who shared the news with me was scandalized, "How could they waste food like that when they advertised that they are giving it to the poor?" Even if this person had no personal bias in the matter, she couldn't share the news with me because I would surely have had a negative reaction. Yet if she was trying to bring out a point, wasting and lying is a sin, she could have done so without mentioning names... As an aside, if two people read the news and they both know about how this and this person got arrested recently, "What a scandal!" it's not necessary to mention what happened if the goal is simply to talk about how shocking it is to discover someone's "true colors" and through the media no less. It's an interesting topic, and thought provoking, but it is unnecessary to mention names and it is loshon hara.

The Chofez Chaim also asks, rhetorically, what is the procedure for one who does not know whether the listener will react negatively or not? In nice language, he advises, "Put a sock in it. Better to be safe than sorry."

Let's face facts. This article will either stress you out or it will open a window of opportunity. The world is full of people who need connection. The same percentage can be attributed to people who need POSITIVE connection and reinforcement. When we close one door to something, another door's got to open. Let's make the experience a nice one.

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