Q: There’s a bachur from chutz laAretz who came — against his father’s wishes — to learn in a yeshivah close to our home. The father had warned the bachur that if he chose to attend this yeshivah, the father would have nothing to do with him and that he wouldn’t support him financially. Because of his strong desire to learn Torah, the boy disobeyed his father’s wishes, (as is the halachah in such a case).
Is it permissible for me to tell someone in the yeshivah that this bachur should be respected for coming to yeshivah against his father’s wishes, or is it considered lashon hara regarding the father?
I reason that there might be a heter to share this information, because the boys in yeshivah don’t know the father, and will almost certainly never meet him.
Along the same lines, I’d like to ask if one may speak negatively of an unknown individual, when there’s no chance the listeners will meet that person.
A: Even when speaking in praise of the boy, telling others that the bachur’s father fought against his son’s desire to learn in yeshivah constitutes a twofold lashon hara:
- The description implies negativity regarding the boy’s father, and there’s a good chance that members of the yeshivah will meet him one day and know clearly who he is.
- The boy may also be seen in a negative light, as the son of said father.
When praising the boy for his mesirus nefesh for Torah, you may say that he overcame many stumbling blocks to get to yeshivah. You must be careful that your listeners won’t infer negativity from your statement about the father.
With regard to your second question, there is a heter to discuss an individual you don’t know and have no chance of meeting in the future. However, nowadays, when the world has become a global village, there’s always a chance you’ll meet the subject of the negativity you heard, eventually causing you to transgress. It is thus preferable that you do not rely on this heter, and therefore relay the information without names or identifying details.
Mishmeres HaSholom is the international organization for increasing the study and practice of the laws of shemiras halashon.