New York – A courageous, trailblazing review of the gossip and slander laws in the context of the Internet
In the past few years, there has been a “Lashon Horah explosion.” Article after article on websites and blogs have been filled with what seems to be pure Lashon Horah. Or is it?
There has also been another explosion: the explosion of Lashon Horah vigilantes—numerous people and groups pointing out “Lashon Horah” everywhere without really knowing what Lashon Hora is.
Now, you may already be thinking—and justifiably so—that our yetzer horah is talking here; that we’re merely making excuses for rechilus and motzi sheim ra.
Not so fast. And let us tell you why.
Torah society has certainly undergone a polarization of sorts. On the one hand, the Internet explosion has led to this unprecedented explosion in Lashon Horah violations, and of the most permanent, most damaging sort. Everyone agrees on that. On the other hand, there has been a significant rise in Lashon Horah awareness, thanks to the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation and other worthy, wonderful organizations that do such fabulous and positive work. And that, of course, is a very good thing.
Unfortunately, this awareness is not always accompanied with the realization that sometimes public warnings are necessary. There are many times that necessary and proper things have been shot down because people say, “That’s Lashon Horah!”
Rabbi Yair Hoffman is a mechanech, the author of several halachah seforim, the former morah d’asra of the Young Israel of Patchogue, a well respected Torah figure with close contacts with many Poskim and a frequent contributor to VIN News. Rav Hoffman points out that both extremes are wrong—and damaging.
To address this issue and to seek direction ourselves, VIN News asked Rav Hoffman to pen an essay on the very pressing and pertinent issue of Lashon Horah and the Jewish media.
The essay was shown to numerous individuals for comment: Talmidei Chachomim, educators, lawyers, community leaders, organizational directors and people involved in the media.
There is no question that the material in this pamphlet is controversial. But the overwhelming response by the abovementioned individuals was that this essay must see the light of day… and that it was about time that something like this was printed.
For the most part, those that have reviewed the essay carefully have been intrigued and pleased by its contents. VIN News plans to implement its recommendations. But we plan more—our wish is that other Jewish media sources follow suit too.
Perhaps the essay could also trigger an avalanche of sorts. Perhaps it could prod all Jewish media sources to band together to create a uniform industry standard that would address these points. After all, the medical industry, the education industry, the travel industry and virtually every other industry meets regularly to discuss standards. Yet here, where the fate of neshamos is at state, there are no meetings, no standards and no guidelines as to what can and cannot be written.
Rav Hoffman has captured that careful balance between what is tachlis dissemination of information and what is Lashon Horah so as to maintain a healthy, vibrant and safe Torah community.
In a time when Chilul Hashem seems rampant and where the idea of maintaining Kiddush Hashem at all costs has been apparently forgotten, this essay is a very welcome endeavor. VIN News is proud to have had a crucial role in bringing it to light.
Comments, of course, are welcome—provided they keep to the guidelines enumerated in the essay. And, most importantly, readers should remember that we are a news site, not a Gemara or Shulchan Oruch.
VIN News would like to thank Rabbi Hoffman for the countless hours of research in the past few weeks to bring to light the importance of this issue.
Rabbi Hoffman can be reached at email@example.com
Below you can read it scroll, zoom in and use the tools for better viewing, or download it, we suggest that you print it out, and read carefully, share it with as many as you could.