Even though it’s fully prohibited to speak lashon hara about any Jew, explains the Chafetz Chaim, there’s an additional prohibition when speaking about a person who is a Torah scholar, a talmid chacham. Explains the Chafetz Chaim that people make a radical mistake about what is a talmid chacham. They assume a talmid chacham means somebody of earlier generations, Rabbi Akiva, maybe Rav Moshe Feinstein. But people in our day age – we don’t really have real talmidei chachamim.
Explains the Chafetz Chaim, the category called a talmid chacham is someone who is fit to pasken, fit to render halachic decisions in that generation, and who is involved in Torah study. If a person is a shul Rav, if a person is a Rosh Yeshiva, if a person is a Rebbi, he’s certainly in the category of a talmid chacham. And one who speaks lashon hara about that person, number one, is obviously speaking about a Jew, but additionally is potentially violating the issue of being mevazeh a talmid chacham, embarrassing a talmid chacham, which is a much more grave and much more serious consequence.
Therefore, one has to be careful. If a person is a shul rav, if a person is a talmid chacham in the sense that he’s fit to pasken halachah in that generation and he is involved in Torah study, one has to be careful when about speaking such a person. Because, again, additional to being a regular Jew, he also has the status of a talmid chacham, and therefore the prohibitions become far more grave and serious.
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