ויבא יוסף את דבתם רעה אל אביהם
Q: My son has a friend who I believe may be a very bad influence on him. His friend is involved in things that I don’t want my son to be involved with; actually he’s involved with things that it is better for any frum boy not to be involved with. My question is, if I bring it up to his parents, they probably will ignore me, relay to their son what I said, and just create animosity. Nothing positive will be accomplished.
If I speak to their rebbe or principal, the boy will get into a serious amount of trouble with the yeshiva. Minimally, he will be on probation, and in all likelihood, if this issue isn’t totally resolved almost immediately (which is quite likely), eventually the boy will be asked to leave the school.
Am I allowed to bring this up with my son’s yeshiva? There is the issue of lashon hara I’m concerned about, and the boy’s future may be adversely affected as well. On the other hand, I’m concerned for my son’s welfare first and foremost. What is the halacha here?
A: Unfortunately, this sheila is not uncommon, and as you appropriately mentioned, there’s dinei n’fashos involved in any decision that you make.
Avoiding Lashon Haara
The issue of lashon hara doesn’t apply if one is protecting oneself or someone else, if that is the sole intention of the one saying the lashon hara. Still, the Chofetz Chaim asserts that there are several conditions that must be met.
Firstly, you must be absolutely certain what you’re saying is true. Your knowledge must be first hand – not something you heard or believe. You cannot rush to judgement. If after calmly thinking through the situation you’re certain all the facts are indeed correct may you pass on the information.
Also, you may not exaggerate at all when you relate the story to the principal or rebbe; only the facts, without any embellishment, whatsoever.
Your intention must be only for a “toelles” – for a positive purpose, i.e. to protect your child and others, or for the good of the boy. You may not feel any gratification by saying this to the principal (in case you have some ill feelings towards that boy).
If it’s possible to work this out without speaking lashon hara about the boy, i.e. you can explain to him what’s wrong by yourself, you can give him reading material that will help him, etc. telling this to someone would be forbidden, even if your intention is for a “toelles”.
The Yeshiva’s response
Additionally, if the rebbe or principal will deal with him in a way that the Torah would disallow, i.e. embarrass him publicly, or expel him from Yeshiva immediately, without proper warning [if there’s a chance the situation can be rectified by working with him – this very much depends on the people involved], then you should not tell them what’s going on as they will also act in a halachically incorrect manner. [The Chofetz Chaim writes, however, that even if the Rebbe is not that discreet and it’s possible others will find out, even if that’s not really halachically acceptable, in the instance where the boy will continue on his way if he won’t be stopped, if the boy will change his ways because of the Rebbe’s demonstration of the boy, the good of the boy outweighs the issue of the Rebbe’s lack of discretion].
Seek an Expert
Everything written here is just a basic overview. There are many facets and details that need to be worked out, and every case is different so you should be in touch with a moreh horaah who is proficient in these halachos to discuss your particular case, especially considering the gravity of the sheila.