Rav Elchanan Elgrod-Posek-Laws of Lashon Hara-31January2013

A detailed discussion of lashon hara.
Lashon hara is the halakhic term for derogatory speech about another person. Lashon hara differs from defamation in that its focus is on the use of true speech for a wrongful purpose, rather than falsehood and harm arising. By contrast, hotzaat shem ra (“spreading a bad name”), also called hotzaat diba, consists of untrue remarks, and is best translated as “slander” or “defamation”. Hotzaat shem ra is worse, and consequentially a graver sin, than lashon hara.The act of gossiping is called rechilut, and is also forbidden by Jewish law.
Here is a brief overview of some of the laws, mostly gleaned from Chafetz Chaim:

Lashon hara literally means “bad talk.” This means that it is forbidden to speak negatively about someone else, even if it is true.
It is also forbidden to repeat anything about another, even if it is not a negative thing. This is called rechilut.
It is also forbidden to listen to lashon hara. One should either reprimand the speaker, or, if that is not possible, one should extricate oneself from that situation.
Even if one has already heard the lashon hara, it is forbidden to believe it. On the contrary, one should always judge one’s fellow favorably.
If one has already heard the lashon hara, he is forbidden to believe itNevertheless, one may suspect that the lashon hara is true, and take the necessary precautions to protect oneself.
It is forbidden to even make a motion that is derogatory towards someone.
One may not even retell a negative event without using names, if the listeners might be able to figure out who is being spoken of.
In certain circumstances, such as to protect someone from harm, it is permissible or even obligatory to share negative information. As there are many details to this law, one should consult a competent rabbi to learn what may be shared in any particular situation.

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