In the previous segment, we were introduced to the license of “api tlasa,” which is widely misunderstood. The Chofetz Chaim sees this as a major pitfall in the observance of shmiras haloshon. The Chofetz Chaim demonstrates that the conditions for the license of api tlasa are virtually impossible to meet. He therefore warns us against relying on this license.
As we all know, it is virtually impossible to keep something secret once it has been told to a group. This is the basis for the Rambam’s approach to the Talmud’s discussion of api tlasa, which permits a person to repeat information that has been said in the presence of three or more people. A group of three is considered a public forum, and whatever is said in such a setting is certain to become publicized. Therefore, someone who repeats the information is not really causing any harm, because whoever hears it from him would have heard it anyway. Accordingly, writes the Rambam, information heard by three or more people is not subject to the prohibition of loshon hora.
However, as we have mentioned, this license is subject to many limitations, which the Chofetz Chaim delineates.
Repeating the information is permitted only if the topic happens to come up in conversation and if the information is related in a matter-of-fact manner. However, even the Rambam agrees that it is absolutely prohibited to repeat the derogatory information for the purpose of spreading it or disgracing the person involved.
Furthermore, this license applies only to those who were among the three or more present when the information was originally disclosed. Someone who hears the information from one of these people is forbidden to spread it further. Thus, if Reuven relates Shimon’s misdeed to Levi, Yehuda and Binyamin, only they can repeat it by relying on the license of api tlasa. For anyone else to do so would be forbidden.
The next segment will discuss another condition which the Chofetz Chaim sets forth regarding the laws of api tlasa.