This article is adapted from my newly-released sefer, “What Can I Say... Today?” All halachos mentioned herein are complex and part of a larger framework. The purpose of the article is to raise awareness of these essential halachos. Hence, one should not draw any practical conclusions without first consulting a Rav.
Over the course of writing the sefer, I had the privilege of submitting questions to Rav Yitzchak Berkovits shlit”a, one of the leading poskim in the halachos of Shmiras Halashon, and receiving responses. I was also given access to other responsa of Rav Berkovits regarding these halachos. The following are questions and answers that were not reviewed by Rav Berkovits personally, but by one of his students.
1. Question: Must a person reveal that he or she takes Prozac for mild depression to a prospective shidduch?
Answer: Pashtus one does not have to, provided that he or she is perfectly functional without the meds (just mildly depressed). It is true that girls will have to stop taking the pills during pregnancy and she will be mildly depressed, but so what? Hormones during and after pregnancy can do that to anyone.
2. Question: Can a person find out information for a remarriage from an ex-spouse?
Answer: First of all, anything that an ex-spouse would say is worthless. He or she is not at all trustworthy regarding this issue. (Indeed, every abusive spouse has a picture in his or her mind explaining why the other party was really the abusive one.) Even if, for some reason, you think that he or she could help, it is assur to ask. The ex-spouse cannot possibly fulfill the conditions of to’eles, and in particular, the requirement to have in mind that the information is being told for a to’eles. Thus, it would be lifnei iver to ask the ex-spouse. Find someone impartial, preferably a Rav who dealt with the divorce.
3. Question: What is the best way to teach children the concepts of loshon hora and to’eles?
Answer: The best way for children to learn about loshon hora and to’eles is when they tell you stories. Suppose your child tells you a funny story about a kid in class. After laughing together with him, you can point out that the story would have been just as funny without the name of the kid. If he tells you about a kid that is bothering or hurting him, you can explain that in this case he is allowed to mention the name because you need the name in order to help with the problem (if it is true that you can help him).
4. Question: Is there any heter for following Israeli politics in the news?
Answer: There is no heter that I am aware of, unless someone has a particular reason that he needs to know what is going on, and satisfies all of the conditions of to’eles. Even the meikilim (those who are lenient) who hold that public knowledge is not loshon hora only permit it with specific conditions (including the issur to believe it). Talking about it will also inevitably lead to embellishing, arguing, proving, defending, etc., which are all loshon hora (or at best, avak loshon hora). Even the very phrase “Israeli politics” constitutes avak loshon hora!
5. Question: What is the heter for a frum newspaper to publish a story about a good Jew (who is a well-known baal tzedakah) who has been indicted for illegal business practice?
Answer: Unless there is a specific to’eles, I do not see a heter. A frum newspaper would submit this to their va’ad haRabbanim (Rabbinical board) to decide if there is a specific to’eles. Note that the sugya of apei tlasa is not applicable for a newspaper. Even according to the Rishonim who are meikil, one of the conditions is not having the intention to spread the news further. This would be impossible to say about a newspaper, as otherwise, no one would buy it!
6. Question: I have noticed that a friend’s wife constantly puts him down in front of others. I know someone who is close to her; should I ask her to talk to the wife and try to put a stop to it, or is it better to stay out of it?
Answer: Do you believe that the husband notices? If he does not, just let it ride. If he does notice and is being pained by it, then you should indeed get someone to speak to her.