Halacha for Thursday 26 Tevet 5780 January 23 2020

A Driver’s License-“Lashon Hara”

Question: If an individual wishes to obtain a driver’s license and I am aware of a medical problem that will impair him from driving, may I relay this information to the Department of Motor Vehicles?

Answer: The Rambam (Chapter 1 of Hilchot Rotze’ach) writes: “Anyone who has the ability to save one’s friend and does not transgresses the prohibition of ‘Do not stand idly by the blood of your friend.’ Thus, if one sees one’s friend drowning in the sea or being attacked by bandits and can save him or if one hears people planning evil and setting a trap for one’s friend and does not notify the individual, one has transgressed the negative commandment of “Do not stand idly by the blood of your friend.’”

Although the Rambam rules (Chapter 7 of Hilchot Edut) that one who speaks ill of one’s friend has transgressed the prohibition of speaking “Lashon Hara,” even if the information is true about whom the verse states, “May Hashem sever all flattering lips, the tongue that speaks proud things,” nevertheless, this prohibition of “Lashon Hara” certainly applies only in situations where one wishes to insult and mock one’s friend; however, if one’s intention is to merely bring about benefit by preventing harm, this is indeed permissible. This can likewise be inferred from the first Rambam we have quoted where he writes that if one hears people planning evil for one’s friend and one does not notify the individual, one transgresses the prohibition of “Do not stand idly by the blood of your friend.” The Tur and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 426) rules likewise.

Similarly, Hagaon Harav Yisrael Isser, one of the greatest scholars of Vilna, writes in his Sefer Pitchei Teshuva (Chapter 156), as follows:

“The Magen Avraham and great Mussar works speak lengthily about the prohibition of ‘Lashon Hara.’ I feel the need to point out the other side of the coin, i.e. the even greater sin of abstaining from revealing important information which will save the oppressed from his oppressor because one is concerned with the sin of ‘Lashon Hara,’ for instance, if one sees someone who wishes to kill or injure his friend secretly and does not reveal this to the friend because one believes this is ‘Lashon Hara.’ Clearly, the sin of one who behaves this way is too great to bear and this individual transgresses the prohibition of ‘Do not stand idly on your friend’s blood.’ Similarly, regarding Shidduchim (marriage matches), if one knows that the perspective groom is an evil and swindling man and he wishes to get married, this is included in the Mitzvah of returning a lost object to its owner. These issues are revealed only to one’s own heart, for if one intends to speak ill of his friend, this is ‘Lashon Hara’; however, if one intends to warn one’s friend in order to save him from a trap, this is a great Mitzvah and one will be rewarded for this.”

Similarly, the Chafetz Chaim (Chapter 9 of Hilchot Issurei Rechilut) rules that if one sees an individual who wishes to enter into a business venture with another person and knows that this will certainly cause the individual financial harm, one must notify him of this; the same applies to Shidduchim. This is on the condition that one does not exaggerate the matter to bigger proportions than one is aware of. One must likewise intend to benefit the individual and to help him avoid harm as opposed to humiliating the other party because of jealousy and hatred one has for him.

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l adds in his Responsa Yechave Da’at (Volume 4, Chapter 60) that in situations where it is necessary, officers in the IDF should disclose confidential medical records pertaining to a husband’s health to the Bet Din in order to be able to judge a woman’s divorce claim against her husband.

Thus, regarding our scenario, Maran zt”l rules that if one knows that the applicant for a driver’s license has an illness that impairs his ability to drive or cannot drive safely because of his advanced age or any other reason which cannot be detected through a standard examination, one must immediately inform the Department of Motor Vehicles about this in order to prevent bodily and property damage as well as death, G-d-forbid.

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