A very common situation that comes up is when I need information about a person. Let’s assume I’m entering into a business dealing with So-and-So or let’s assume I want to make a shidduch my daughter to his son. I need information about the people involved. Now, there obviously I’m not searching for lashon hara, I’m not looking to debase or harm anyone’s reputation, but I do need to know the facts, good, bad or indifferent.
Now, explains the Chafetz Chaim, therefore it is very important that I precede any such request with a very important proviso. If I’m searching for information about a person, I have to explain to the person who I’m asking why I’m asking.
Explains the Chafetz Chaim, let’s say I go over to you and I say, listen, what do you know about So-and-So? Now, I have in mind a very good, productive reason. Let’s say I want to go into business with him. But you don’t know that. I might be entrapping you in speaking lashon hara. Since you don’t know that I have a toeles, a good, positive reason, you just know that I’m asking information or I bring up his name in course of the conversation, you may engage in telling me all about his bad habits and et cetera, et cetera. You don’t know that I am asking for toeles, and I entrapped you in lifnei iver, I violated lifnei iver, I put a stumbling block in front of a blind man, I caused you to speak lashon hara.
Therefore, explains the Chafetz Chaim, if in fact I’m searching for information for a good purpose and I’m allowed to, I should precede that with the fact that I’m asking these questions for toeles, for a good purpose. I’m considering a business deal, I’m considering setting up a shidduch. The point being I have to let you know that it’s l’toeles, that way I’m intending for the good, you’re intending for the good, and we don’t entrap anyone in speaking lashon hara.