In the early portion of this week’s Parsha, we read that Yosef was sold by his brothers. Before his sale, we read that Yosef brought evil reports about his brothers to Ya’akov. What were those reports? Rashi teaches us that Yosef told Ya’akov that his brothers 1) ate limbs from living animals, rather than the animals first being dead – 2) the sons of Leah referred to their other brothers – the sons of the maidservants, Bilha and Zilpah – as slaves and 3) they were guilty of immorality and forbidden relationships.
Rashi teaches us that Yosef was punished measure for measure.
On account of suspecting that his brothers ate forbidden meat, the Torah teaches us that they slaughtered a lamb, dipped Yosef’s coat in its blood and then they ate the meat. For accusing Leah’s sons of calling their other brothers slaves, Yosef was sold as a slave. Since he accused them of forbidden relationships, he ran into trouble with the wife of Potifar.
If we sit back and analyze this comment of Rashi, it seems to be difficult to understand. Our Rabbis teach us that the brothers were righteous, so why would Yosef mention such an outlandish report to his father? On the other hand, if the reports were true, why was Yosef punished? A person is permitted to speak Lashon Hara to a third party if the third party has the power to fix the problem. Ya’akov was in a position to correct the behavior of the brothers.
From that aspect, Yosef was within the halacha to tell his father. However, before a person issues a negative report that is for constructive purposes, that person must be convinced that his report is 100% accurate. The problem was that Yosef did not fully investigate the matters before he told them to his father.
The Sifsei Chachamim explains that Yosef thought they were eating forbidden meat. However, if he had looked closer, the meat was kosher. It was either from a slaughtered animal that was still twitching or from an animal whose mother was slaughtered while pregnant with this animal. In the former instance, the animal is considered dead, so the brothers were not eating limbs from living animals, although Yosef felt that it was. In the latter instance, the fetus is kashered with the slaughtering of its mother. It does not require its own ritual slaughtering and was permitted as is, but, Yosef felt that it does require ritual slaughtering.
Regarding the sons of Leah calling their other brothers slaves, they called their brothers the sons of the maidservants, which they were. In fact, the Torah also refers to them in that manner. However, Yosef thought that they were calling their brothers slaves – born before their mothers were emancipated, which was not true.
In relation to accusing his brothers of immorality, Yosef saw them doing much business with some of the women in the neighborhood and suspected that it was more than a business relationship.
Before we jump to conclusions, we must be 100% positive that our conclusions are correct. We are not permitted to invent facts. That is for the Palestinians, Hamas, Syria, etc. and the rest of the world to believe those concocted facts. Reporting incidents and people before a thorough investigation of a matter is forbidden and can be destructive to a person’s livelihood and to that person’s personal life.
Yosef jumped to conclusions and it resulted in harm to the family of Ya’akov and to himself. It is important and obligatory to seek help when it is possible to fix a problem. However, jumping to conclusions is not the way to exercise one’s right.