If I saw Reuven steal money from Shimon, I’m permitted to tell that over either if I intend to get the money back to the person it was stolen from or if I feel that I can spread the word that bad things can’t just happen and it will have a benefit to people in general. However, there are seven requirements that I must meet if I am to avoid speaking lashon hara.
Number one, I had to have seen the event myself with my own eyes. Number two, I have to make sure that in fact it’s wrong as I think it is. Was it really stealing or in fact is there a history that I’m unaware of? Number three, I have to give tochacha, I have to give rebuke to the person who did it, first. And Number four, I have to be לתועלת מתכון, I have to have intentions for the good. I have to intend to get the money back for the person whom it was stolen from or my intention is solely to let people know. But I can’t benefit from the story, I can’t really be doing it because I have a grudge to bear against the person I’m telling about. I have to also make sure that I don’t exaggerate. Because, again, the event that happened might be permitted to tell over, but any exaggeration, any little coloring or addition to what happened changes it and makes it מוציא שם רע.
And there are two more requirements that must be met. It has to be that the events that happen can’t cause more damage to the person than if this was reported in beis din. So for instance, let’s assume that I know that if I tell over to Reuven that Shimon stole money from him, I know Reuven is a hothead and I know Reuven is going to do an excessive amount of damage to Shimon, it is forbidden for me to tell over that event.
Let’s assume I know that Reuven stole $100 from Shimon. And my intention is to get that money back to Reuven. But I know that if I go over to him and tell him what happened, what’s going to happen is he’s going to lose his temper and he’s going to steal $1000 or break his windows or whatever it may be, then I’m going to cause more damage than would have happened had this been reported in beis din, and therefore it’s forbidden for me to speak over what happened.
So even if my intentions are good and even if I know it to be factual, if in fact the person I’m telling it to is going to extract more damage, more punishment, more vengeance than what would have happened in beis din, then it’s forbidden for me to tell it over even if my intentions are pure.
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