The Laws #27

Who Determines?

The Rambam defines lashon hara as words that hurt, words that damage. And that damage can be to a person’s standing or to a person’s reputation. But the interesting part is that the determinant of the reputation or the determinant of the hurt is often the person himself who is being spoken about.

For instance, let’s assume that I do something that I’m not embarrassed about. But that person might be. The one that determines whether it’s lashon hara is not me.

Let’s take an example. Let’s say I go to Atlantic City to gamble. For whatever which reason I don’t consider that wrong and I do it. If I would say to you that Reuven and I last night went to Atlantic City, for me I don’t consider it anything wrong, and in that sense I’m not speaking lashon hara about myself. But if he does consider it something he’s embarrassed about, if the person that I’m including with me in that story would be embarrassed about it, it is 100 percent lashon hara about that person. Why? Because when I’m telling you that Reuven went with me, even though I’m not embarrassed if that word gets out it may get back to Reuven and Reuven will be hugely embarrassed about the fact that he was there. And therefore automatically it’s lashon hara.

So the determinant of whether it’s something that’s embarrassing or the determinant of whether it’s something that will degrade or lower his standing is not my personal standards, but the person upon whom I’m speaking.

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