Tazria: Speaking Lashon Ha-Ra about Secular Jews

Question: Is it permissible to speaking Lashon Ha-Ra about secular Jews? Answer: The Chafetz Chaim wrote that it is permissible to speak Lashon Ha-Ra about an "apikoros" (a heretic). Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, agreed that this is correct, but he also said that this creates a dangerous opening for every person to decide for himself who is an "apikoros." I will decide that anyone who does not think exactly like me is an "apikoros." The entire House of Israel will then be full of Lashon Ha-Ra. It is permissible for me to disagree with a G-d-fearing Jew, but I do not have to consider him an "apikoros." Further, while secular Jews certainly seem to be heretics, many authorities have already ruled that they are "Tinokot She-nishbu" (literally Jewish children captured and raise among non-Jews), i.e. Jews who did not receive a proper Jewish upbringing and education. In order to be an "apikoros," one must be knowledgeable. Someone once came to our master, Rav Kook, and said all sorts of thing against the Tanach. Rav Kook said: You are right. He said: I am?! "Yes,” replied Rav Kook, “if the Tanach is as you say then what you are saying is correct, but the Tanach is something else." The person was not denying the Tanach - he simply did not know it. This is not an "apikoros," it is an unknowledgeable Jew. Secular Jews in general are not heretics; they are simply "Tinokot She-nishbu." They have not learned and do not know, therefore do not speak ill against them. It is possible that a particular secular Jew is an "apikoros," but it is not so simple, because the "spirit of the time" is extremely strong. It may be that a person did learn Torah, but there are all sorts of influences. The Rambam (Hilchot Mamrim 3:3) defined someone with a corrupt education as a "Tinok She-nishba." Today, however, one's education is not limited to one's parents, but includes the "street." What is the "street"? These are all of the possible "foggy" influences: radio, TV, the internet, books, etc… We build walls around us, but things still enter. There is a saying that the apple does not fall far from the tree. The Chief Rabbi of Israel, Ha-Rav Yitzchak Herzog, was once asked: what happened with your son Chaim, who became the President of Israel and who was secular? Ha-Rav Herzog said: “The apple doesn't fall far from the tree” only applies with a usual wind, but an unusual wind can carry it far away. He was referring to the Tosafot on Baba Kamma 27b. It is therefore even possible for the son of the Chief Rabbi to receive a corrupt education -- not from the Chief Rabbi, but from what is going around in the "street." In short: Do not be quick to apply the term "apikoros".