(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Torah Forum (c) Project Genesis

Date: Sun, 18 Jul 1999 19:26:15 -0400 (EDT)
From: Russell Hendel <  rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu>
Subject: Re: National Traits

Anna Domnich asks if it is permissable to make comments about national
traits (eg this nation is known for its ...).(Torah Forum v4 n76) I would
like to suggest an answer based on the laws of slander. For convenience let
us consider that Talmudic statement that "90% of talk comes from women and
10% from men". Under what circumstances can this statement be made?

First of all you MUST indicate that the trait doesn't NECESSARILY belong to
all people in this group but only to MANY of them. Thus 'ALL women talk
alot' is prohibited while 'Many women talk alot' is permissable.

Second it is certainly prohibited (because of slander) if you intend to
disparage women (The laws of slander apply to both people, groups and
property---see how the Spies were punished for slandering Israel (a piece
of property) to the Jewish people).

Third it is permissable if your intent is to caution people that some women
talk alot (eg one might get overly involved with them and this might lead
to sin). Similarly if many electricians in a county were overcharging it is
permissable to say "electricians overcharge" if your intention is to warn
people when dealing with them to eg keep receipts or ask first for
estimates or whatever.

In short it appears to me that we treat statements about groups the same
way we treat statements about people: We can't exaggerate and we must
intend to be warning people.

Finally I might add that one of our 4 rabbinic fasts commemorates an
important Law about slander: If someone says something bad about someone to
you then you should NOT BELIEVE them but you should BE CAUTIOUS. Thus
GEDALYAH was warned about his assassination (which destroyed the Jewish
Community); he wasn't allowed to execute the accused assassins but he
should have been cautious (increased bodyguards)--because he didn't the
Jewish community suffered. This is all commemorated on Tzom Gedalyah (Jer

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA; RJHendel@Juno.Com
Moderator Rashi Is Simple; http://www.shamash.org/rashi/