Why The Chofetz Chaim Was Wrong, #3

GodolHador notes the following email from a reader:

One thing [historian Professor Marc B. Shapiro] said at the end was interesting. Someone asked him about how a historian balances lashon hara and fulfilling his task. So Shapiro answered that the trouble is that he’s never seen a definition of lashon hara. And that he’s read more private correspondence of rabbis than anyone in the room, more than enough to last him a lifetime, and they are full of lashon hara and bashing and pettiness. Of course, he then qualified it by saying that presumably they felt that what they’re saying was le-toeles, but that’s precisely the point: everyone thinks that what they’re saying is le-toeles.

Lovely human beings, rabbis.

Regular readers will know that I have previously argued that the Chofetz Chaim’s Laws of Shmirat HaLashon are used to silence legitimate dissent and that, just as some contemporaries of the Chofetz Chaim warned, are often used to oppress the weak and powerless. The Rabbi Yehuda Kolko man-on-boy sex abuse case seems to be a clear example of this.

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16 Comments

Filed under Crime, Haredim, History, Modern Orthodoxy

16 responses to “Why The Chofetz Chaim Was Wrong, #3

  1. Jay

    What he said was that it’s very difficult to define lashon hara since you are allowed to speak bad about the frauds and the charlatans, and the problem is that all the rabbis speaking bad about others think that it’s OK because they are exposing the frauds. So he said that defining if something is assur to say or a mitzvah to say becomes very subjective.

  2. Jay

    check out the comments on GH. Someone brings a proof that even if R. Scheinberg said what he is accused of, you are not permitted to publicly criticize him, Gedolim get a pass

  3. Yochanan Lavie

    I am glad Shmarya has the cojones to take on the Chofetz Chaim. He had some good ideas, but he wasn’t Moshe Rabbenu. Of course, it is harmful to speak badly of people in general. Yet sometimes one must do so out of self-preservation.

    Also, linguist Deborah Tannen writes about how important “gossip” is to women. It builds intimacy among female friends. By totally outlawing talking about people, the CC is effectively silencing women. Men and women alike, we can’t discuss Torah 24/7, like automatons.

    The torah is a guide for life, but it is not a computer virus for human beings. (Whereby we live and reproduce only to spread Torah, at no benefit to ourselves).

  4. Anonymous

    Did Rav Yisroel Meir Hacohen Kagan Z’ztl claim to be Moshe Rabbeinu?

    Gossip may be important to women, but if the gossip is lashon hara, it is forbidden. Nobody said every mitzvah was easy.

    There are plenty of things between Torah and Lashon hara that one can talk about. Politics, schools, the weather, your personal life, sports, the stock market, to name a few.

  5. Ma. Rabbi

    You get angry at me for saying that Rav Ovadya Yosef is money hungry. At the same time, you malign the holy Chofetz Chaim of blessed memory who is revered by Chassidim and Misnagdim and the entire frum world.Had you learned his seforim you would now that informing the community about a predator like Kolko is NOT loshen horah but pikuach nefesh. If the Chofetz Chaim were here he would be the first to condemn Kolko.

  6. I haved learned his sefarim, including that one, and I know what the din is. But I also know that writing a code of speech and promoting it the way he did would only lead to abuse of the weak and powerless. Collegues of the Chofetz Chaim argued exactly this, to no avail.

    The Chofetz Chaim’s code is misused to be sure. But that misuse should not have come as a surprise to anyone. But it was a surprise to at least one man – the Chofetz Chaim himself.

    As for Rav Ovadia, compare his actions with regard to actual real halakhic pekuach nefesh – Ethiopian Jews – and the Rebbe’s. Rav Ovadia wins hands down.

  7. Ma. Rabbi

    Despite the mental gymnastics, you still offer no apology for attacking the holy Chofetz Chaim. You have listed 3 posts implying to your readers that the Chofetz Chaim is somehow at fault, for the frum communities reluctance to condemn Kolko.This is not only misleading, but outright falsehood.

  8. No it is not. The Chofetz Chaim knew that some rabbonim feared exactly these horrible results. But the “Holy” Chofetz Chaim rejected the warnings. Did he want to have child abusers protected by his speech code? Surely not. But he was foolish enough to write a code that is easily misused, and he ignored those who warned him. So the results, no matter how unintentional, are still directly linked to him.

    Again, the Chofetz Chaim was WRONG.

  9. Jay

    Don’t you know that the Chafetz Chaim was the closest thing to a malakh we had?

  10. ah yid

    Don’t you know that the Chafetz Chaim was the closest thing to a malakh we had?

    actually reb avrohom the maggid’s son was.
    he was known as ‘avrohom hamalach’

  11. Uzziahu

    Ma. Rabbi
    Maria Rabbi?!
    What denomination is that?
    Are you Jewish? Erev Rav?
    We need to know!
    If you are looking for money grabbers, look no further than those who call themselves chossidim!
    They know money! Dynasties, royal status, the works!
    Watch for your teeth if you attack tzaddiqim! sheneemar:
    Shinney Reshaeem Shibbarta! (ve-ein reshaeem, except your type).

  12. Nigritude Ultramarine

    Don’t you know that the Chafetz Chaim was the closest thing to a malakh we had?

    It would be a mistake to think that he reached his madreiga overnight.

  13. fdsf

    >Don’t you know that the Chafetz Chaim was the closest thing to a malakh we had?

    Don’t you know the many midrashim which assert that the Torah is an earthly, not angelic document?

    The Chafetz Chaim was indeed a tzaddik. It’s a good question whether tzaddikim should write law codes for the masses.

  14. Asher Weiss

    The Chafetz Chaim’s scholarship has been greatly exaggerated. I heard from an old-time Poylisher who is a fine Talmid Chacham, that after Rav Meir Simcha HaKohen died, the rabbinical associations of the non-Chassidim neaded a spokesman.And The Chafetz Chaim fit the bill. In fact, I was told by a well-known Rav that the Mishneh Berura is chock-full of errors and that the last truly classical work of Halocha was the Aruch HaShulchan – but despite Rav Yechiel Michel’s undoubted Geonus- it’s too “Meikil”. Look in the Mishnas Soferim – there are 3 mistakes in Os Tes alone.

  15. Asher Weiss

    The Gemara states that if something is spoken of by 3 people, it is already NOT Lashon Hara. This Man De’Amar is skirted around by the C.C. At a Kinus he said to the Rebbe Rashav, “Howcome you Chassidim are lenient concerning Lashon Hara?” To which the Rashav answered “Howcome you Misnagdim are lenient concerning shaving?”
    To speak the truth about people is a great aveira according to the C.C. And inasmuch as Torah leadership is full of hypocrites and phonies – from Rebbes to Rabbonim – I can see why the C.C. told us to “schveig shtill”.

  16. Anonymous

    “just as some contemporaries of the Chofetz Chaim warned:”

    Do you have any info on who the contemporaries were and how I could find outabout this? thanks

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