If I saw Reuven steal money from Shimon, I’m allowed to tell over that event for two reasons: either to get the money from the person who stole it or to let people know that evil can’t happen without people speaking badly about, לתועלת הרבים, for good of other people. However, there are seven requirements that must be met for me to avoid speaking lashon hara.
Number one, I had to have seen the event with my own eyes. Number two, I have to know for a fact that it really is wrong as I think it is. Number three, I have to give rebuke to the person beforehand; I have to tell Reuven it’s stealing, why did you do it? Number four, I have to לתועלת מתכון, I have to intend for the good; I can’t derive benefit, I can’t be doing it because I want to get back at Reuven. Number five, I have to make sure I don’t exaggerate, because if I exaggerate, what happened? Then it’s no longer what happened, it’s now מוציא שם רע, I’m adding to it. Number six, I have to know that the person I’m telling it to is not going to do more damage to the person than what would happen in beis din. If in fact I know Reuven stole $100 and I know Shimon will demand back the $100 or equal then I’m allowed to tell him. If I know that he’s going to go ballistic and exceed what beis din would’ve done, I’m not allowed to tell him this even though it’s l’toeles.
One more criteria, one more requirement is that I have to know that there’s no other way for me to bring about this result without telling it over. If in fact I could accomplish the same thing without telling lashon hara then I have to use the other method. The only way I could do it is if in fact I know that there’s no other way.
So, again, just to sum up, if in fact Reuven stole money from Shimon I am allowed to tell that over if I meet the seven criteria. The first criteria is I had to have seen it myself. The second criteria, I have to know it factually to be gezel, to be stealing. I have to give him rebuke first. I have to be לתועלת מתכון, I have to have a good intention. I have to know that what’s going to happen is not going to be worse than what’s going to happen in beis din. I can’t exaggerate. And finally, I have to know that there’s no other way for me to accomplish the same result without telling him. If in fact I meet these seven requirements then in order to get the money back to Reuven or to let people know they can’t do this I’m allowed to tell it and it’s not considered lashon hara.
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