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  • Torah and Jewish Thought
  • Lashon Hara

Implications of Speech

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Rabbi Daniel Kirsch

Tammuz 4, 5781
Question
Someone mentioned that a guy i know had got a new job. I replied that he is making a go of it. They said they know the employers werent sure about the fit originally and asked why theyd accepted him. I replied that they took him on as they would have taken anyone who could say yes to an immediate start. Is this loshon hora? ...about him as being hired for that reason....or his employers that this is all they were interested in?
Answer
shalom uvracha, simply the answer is that it was forbidden to say that. The reason is because it appears that you are saying that he is actually not qualified for the job, and was hired merely because the employer was desperate. That would be considered 'lashon hara or to be more exact 'avak lashon hara' . Regarding the talk about the employer being very eager to hire him-- It seems that this is not considered lashon hara. There is nothing wrong in implying that an employer is willing to give a chance to someone less qualified because of worker shortages . However, I should mention, that when it comes to hilchot lashon hara, the rulings depend a lot on the context of what was said, and the tone and emphasis of what was said. Therefore, it's possible that if information was said in a way that was not taken negatively about the worker, but just that the employer needed workers immediately (and therefore this applicant was accepted), that would be permitted. On the other hand, if the context and tone (and even body language) were said in a way that was indicating that the employer was negligent at his job and did not check the applicants credentials properly, that would be considered lashon hara about the employer. The bottom line: if it was said with good intentions and it was understood in a way that meant no harm, and no damage can come from the talk, then it would be permitted to say that. Otherwise, it is forbidden. (Sources and details: see Chafetz Chaim (5: 2-5) that one is not allowed to say that someone is not smart or that he is lacking some talent or good trait-- even if it's true. This is because it could cause the person damage or 'tzaar', pain. Similarly, saying about a worker that he doesn't have the traits that are required, could cause him pain or damage. Additionally, it could be understood that he is not just lacking good traits but also has some real negative traits (in which that case would be forbidden even if it wouldn't cause the worker any damage see Chafetz Chaim 3:7, and comment 7 in the Be'er Mayim Chaim). Since nothing specific was said it seems that it is not considered lashon hara but avak loshon hara (see Chafetz Chaim 9:1, and Chafetz Chaim Dirshu: chapter 9, comment 3). In many places, the Chafetz Chaim writes that hillchot lashon hara depend on the way things were said. The Chafetz Chaim brings an argument among the poskim if things were actually said in a way that could be understood in a negative light, if this puts it in the category of lashon hara or avak lashon hara, see 9:3, in the comment).
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