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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 25, 2007 / 9 Tamuz, 5767

Slander in the Court

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


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My day in court — how far should I go?


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: My boss harassed me for years, and now I've been granted a hearing to get certain benefits I deserve. How should I balance defending my case with avoiding besmirching him?


A: Your question is very praiseworthy. Judaism considers slandering others, lashon hara, to be a most severe transgression.


The short answer is that while the laws of lashon hara are not suspended in legal proceedings, it would be very unusual for someone to violate the laws of slander while providing accurate testimony to such a hearing. Let's analyze the case in more detail.


As we mentioned, the laws of slander do apply in legal proceedings. In fact, one of the most important Talmudic precedents for the laws of slander is in a court context:


However, the scope of this law is very limited. The particularly technicality involved is that the violation Tuvia was accused of can be tried only when two witnesses are present. But the context is that this case is the Talmudic equivalent of a "nuisance suit" or "frivolous litigation" — legal actions with no chance or basis for obtaining constructive court action. Zigod was no more than a tattle-tale; if he had told the judge why he came to testify he would never have been granted a hearing.


When there is a substantive legal discussion in court, it would be very unusual for the laws of lashon hara to apply. Let's see why.


As we have discussed many times, while Jewish law forbids idle slander, it permits accusing others when the following conditions are met:

  • The claims are accurate;

  • There is a constructive objective that cannot be obtained without speaking up;

  • The intention is constructive and not vindictive;

  • The constructive objective is not obtained at the expense of undeserved harm to the accused or anyone else.


The obligation to make only accurate statements in a legal proceeding is not merely a consequence of the laws of slander; it is part of the basic obligation of every person to testify honestly before any legitimate legal tribunal. In your case there is certainly a constructive objective that cannot be achieved any other way; you will not be able to obtain benefits or damages without presenting your case to the court. The third condition legitimate intention, is known only to you, but you state that your only objective is to obtain the benefits due to you (severance pay and the like), not to publicly shame your boss. On the contrary, your question shows that your main concern is to not shame your former employer gratuitously.


The question of undeserved harm is a serious one, but does not seem to be a problem in your case. It could be relevant if the proceeding would involve the accused in criminal liability. (It could also be relevant if someone defended himself in a criminal case by constructing a case against an innocent third party.) But, [to the best of my knowledge] hearings in employment cases don't have automatic ramifications for other cases, and keep in mind also that your employer has every opportunity to present his side of the case as well, so the chance of his being penalized beyond his legal responsibility is small.


When you are in front of the labor court, you should of course be careful to make only truthful statements, and your objective should be to obtain the benefits you think you are entitled to — not to avenge past wrongs. But it is perfectly acceptable for you to present the facts of your case, including unfavorable statements about your former employer, in a way that supports your position. If it is a reputable court, he will have every opportunity to present his side of the case as well, thus enabling the judge or arbitrator to make a fair decision.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.

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