Toeles – Constructive Purpose

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Based on the rule that one must endure social and financial loss rather than speak loshon hora, it would seem that there should be no halachic justification to speak loshon hora for a constructive purpose (l’toeles). Why then does the halachah permit constructive statements to be made?

We have noted that all forms of loshon hora fall under one of two categories:
(1) derogatory statements;
(2) statements which have the potential to cause the subject harm.

Derogatory speech was explained as being lowly in that the speaker focuses on the negative aspects of someone’s character or behavior.

There are times when discussing someone’s shortcomings is clearly constructive, and the reponsible thing to do. This is true either: when one is attempting to assist the person he is speaking about, or when he is trying to protect others from that person. In such cases, though negative traits or actions are being mentioned, the statements made do not constitute loshon hora. Destructive speech is loshon hora; constructive speech is not. Similarly, there is no such thing as “constructive rechilus” (gossi); a statement can be classified as rechilus only if it is destructive. Nevertheless, the Cofetz Chaim refers to derogatory statements made for a constructive purpose as “loshon hora l’toeles” seemingly for lack of a better term. We, too, have made use of the term “loshon hora (or rechilus) for a constructive purpose” at various points in this work.

A great deal of sensitivity, objectivity, and knowledge of halachah is required in order to distinguish between genuine constructive speech and what amounts to nothing more than rationalized loshon hora. The Chofetz Chaim lists sveral conditions necessary for a statement to be deemed on of toeles, conctructive purpose, as opposed to loshon hora.

The conditions for a statement to qualify as constructive – soon to be discussed here – must be studied carefully before taking the liberty of making a statement that would otherwise be considered loshon hora. It would also be wise to discuss the matter with a competent rav, as an incorrect decision could result in irreparable harm.

Sefer Cofetz Chaim, 11 Cheshvan, page 130 and 406

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