If I saw Reuven steal something from Shimon, assuming that I’m telling over these stories for the purpose of either getting the money back or to let people know that you can’t just get away with evil things, that’s considered lashon hara l’toeles; it’s not forbidden. I’m speaking for a good purpose, and that’s permitted. But there has to be seven requirements met.
Requirement number one is that I’d have to have seen it myself. Requirement number two is I have to know in fact that it was really thievery, it was really stealing. It can’t be something that’s vague or unclear to me. I have to know in fact it was wrong.
Number three, I have to go over to Reuven himself and discuss it with him before I go blab, before I go let people know about it. It could be that if I will give him tochacha, that if I will give him rebuke, it could be that in fact he’ll return the money. Or it could be that he’ll explain to me something that I was unaware of. If, however, I can’t give tochacha to Reuven for whatever reason, then there are occasions when I could avoid requirement number three. Let’s say a very strong person, very resistant, or for whatever which reason, it could be that I won’t have to give him mussar and despite not having requirement number three met I could tell it over as well.
However, there is a fourth requirement that always must be met. I have to be מתכון לתועלת, I have to have in mind the good. Explains the Chafetz Chaim that this fourth requirement is a very basic requirement to avoid speaking lashon hara. If I saw Reuven steal money from Shimon and I either want to right the wrong or I want to make sure that people know about it, know not to do evil things, I have to make sure that my intentions are really pure and that I’m really מתכון for a good purpose.
Explains the Chafetz Chaim, if I have a vendetta against this person, if we have bad blood or if I’m angry with the person or if I just want to get him back, then it automatically makes it lashon hara. Even if there’s a good that comes out of it, my intentions color and my intentions define the action.
So if in fact I saw Reuven steal something from Shimon, I must meet the seven requirements. The third requirement is that I have to speak to Reuven initially and warn him, ask him why he did it, give him tochacha, give him rebuke. If I can’t do that, sometimes I don’t have to do that. But number four is I must always be לתועלת מתכון. I must always have in mind the good and not have any benefit from telling this story.
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