Whispers, gossip, and rumours. Nobody wants to be spoken about behind their back and especially if what is being said maligns their character. Today’s daf (Ketubot 36b) quotes a ruling of Rava that if rumours abound about an unmarried Jewish woman that she has been promiscuous – which would disqualify her from marrying a Kohen – then אין חוששין לה, meaning ‘we pay no heed to the content of those rumours’.
Significantly, this is no ‘mere’ aggadic statement. Instead, it is understood as a legal statement as is codified by the Rambam (Issurei Biah 17:21). But beyond this, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains (see Yeyn Malchut on Issurei Biah 17:21), we can draw a very important lesson from this law about our overall attitude towards Jews in general, and Jewish women specifically: “here we see something remarkable concerning the high esteem that we have for Jewish women and an emphasis on the importance of loving all Jews and the unity of all Jews whereby even if a situation arises that ‘rumours abound that she has been promiscuous’, nevertheless ‘we pay no heed’ – and the reason for this is because we are speaking about a ‘Bat Yisrael’ (a daughter of Israel), a daughter of Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah, and she is always b’chezkat kashrut (presumed to have acted appropriately).”
Unfortunately, notwithstanding this halacha, and the powerful message that the Rebbe draws from it, there are many people – and for the purpose of this post I shall focus on young women – whose lives can be ruined by whispers, gossip, and rumours said about them especially while in their teenage years and their twenties. This expression of character assassination can be done by so-called friends, by neighbours, and by schools who will often put their reputation ahead of that of some of their students.
Yet aside from those who do so transgressing numerous laws relating to lashon hara, they also transgress numerous values as well. And why? Because a Bat Yisrael, a daughter of Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah, is always b’chezkat kashrut.