In Sefer “Chofetz Chaim” perek 4, halacha 7, the Chofetz Chaim says that “if a person has no yiras shamayim and is consistently on the wrong path (e.g. a non frum person), it is permitted to speak lashon hara about them.”
The Chofetz Chaim continues: “this halacha is relevant to a sinner who casts off the yoke of heaven entirely and does not consider himself bound by the Torah’s obligations, as well as a person who is not careful about one specific transfression that everyone knows is forbidden”.
This halacha unfortunately comes up often when dealing with non-frum yidden, some of whom are unethical businessmen. Some of these businesmen have little or no connection to Judaism while others are “traditional” (go to shul on Shabbas but don’t keep Shabbas).
1. Does this halacha still apply nowadays? Or are people nowadays all considered “tinok sh’nishba”?
2. If people are considered “tinok sh’nishba” nowadays, what is the difference between our times and the Chofetz Chaim’s times which had the “enlightenment”, terrible persecution and other powerful forces moving Yidden away from Torah?
Please bring sources.
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Thank you for your question.
Regarding unethical business practices, the fact that someone has such practices would not permit us to speak lashon hora about him, unless the lashon hora is being spoken l’toeles. The reason is, as the Chofetz Chaim says, that it has to be an aveiro that is known to all. Unethical business practices unfortunately are often not known to most people that they are forbidden, as most people are ignorant in Choshen Mishpat, and rationalize that what they are doing is not stealing etc. Therefore, we can’t say that the person is committing it out of disregard for the mitzvos. Regarding a tinok shenishba, it is well known what the Chazon Ish (O:CH 87-14, Y:D 1-6) said that most non-religious Jews nowadays, that since they were never given an education to respect mitzvos. If anything, they were given an anti- religious education, therefore even their knowing that the mitzvos exist doesn’t take off their tinok shenishba status.
It is hard to compare the nisyonos of the generation of the Chofetz Chaim to our generation, because, in the Chofetz Chaim’s times there was a nisayon of knowing the mitzvos but stopping to do them because of ideological reasons. Most of the non-religious people nowadays are not that way because of ideological reasons, but simply due to ignorance as to what Yiddishkeit is about. Besides, the gedolim of each generation assess things according to the way that they see the challenges of their specific times, and they say that the irreligious nowadays are considered tinok shenishba.