It’s lashon hara for me to say about a person that he’s not smart. But what if the world assumes that he’s brilliant? What if the world has him established as a tremendous talmid chacham, a brilliant man, and I know he’s not? He’s of average intelligence or maybe he’s very smart, he knows a lot, but he’s not that brilliant. And I tell you, “You should just know, that person who everyone thinks is such a genius, he’s smarter than me and you, but he’s not really a genius.” Explains the Chafetz Chaim that that is 100 percent lashon hara. Even if it’s true, even if he isn’t such a talmid chacham and even if the world has him at a peg, at a certain level that he really isn’t at. If I tell you, I tell other people that he’s not who you think he is, I’ve damaged his reputation, I’ve damaged his standing.
And if you’ll say to me, but it’s true, he really isn’t that smart, he really isn’t such a genius – that’s exactly what makes it lashon hara. If it’s false it’s not lashon hara, it’s motzi shem ra. If it’s true, that’s exactly what makes it lashon hara.
So if I say that a certain Rav, he knows how to pasken the shaylos that come to him, he’s not really a major world talmid chacham as you think he is, what I’m doing is I’m debasing a talmid chacham, I’m taking him down a notch in peoples’ eyes. And if it’s not true, if I’m saying it out of jealousy or bad character traits then obviously it’s motzi shem ra, it’s false, it’s lying, it’s sheker. If it’s true and he really isn’t that great, that’s exactly what makes it lashon hara and the Torah forbids me from doing that.
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