#2 – Do Not Accept False Stories

The second lav that’s very common to violate when one speaks lashon hara is”לא תשא שמע שוא”. The words “לא תשא שמע שוא” have different explanations, but one explanation is do not accept false stories. Explains the Chafetz Chaim in the name of the Mechilta that this refers to being makabel lashon hara. If you tell me a story about Reuven, Reuven did such-and-such, Reuven did whatever it may be and those are words that are defaming to his character, words that would cause him pain or embarrassment, it’s forbidden for you to speak those, but additionally it’s forbidden for me to be mekabel, to accept them.

Meaning to say, there are two totally discrete issues when it comes to lashon hara. One is speaking; for you to speak lashon hara is a prohibition “לא תלך רכיל בעמך”. When I am on the receiving end there might be times when I’m permitted to listen, it might be yes it may be no, depending on circumstances, but it almost always is something that I’m not allowed to be mekabel, I’m not allowed to accept to be factual, to be true.

Meaning, you come and tell me “Reuven did such-and-such.” The first issue we have to deal with is the speaking of lashon hara. But even if I violated listening to lashon hara, I’m not allowed to accept it to be true.

And this is one of the most difficult problems with lashon hara. For some reason that’s difficult really to understand, it seems to be human nature that when you tell me a story about someone that is derogatory, that puts them down, it’s very easy to accept it to be true and very difficult to dislodge it from my memory. And what the Chafetz Chaim is explaining to us here is that this is a discrete and separate lo sa’aseh. One issue is speaking, the other is being mekabel. If I accept as a fact something that you tell me that so-and-so did, I am violating a separate lo sa’aseh called “לא תשא שמע שוא”.

Now, needless to say, if I speak lashon hara I am accepting those facts as true, because I wouldn’t be saying it if I didn’t accept it to be true, but the point is even on the receiving end, when I listen I have to keep it as an open question, I don’t know it for a fact. You tell me Reuven did such-and-such. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. Just because you’re a person who speaks lashon hara doesn’t make it that you have great credibility. And if in fact I follow the normal course that we normally do, I accept it to be true, I hear what you’re saying and I change my opinion about Reuven or I accept that he did this and this, not only am I involved in the problem of speaking and listening to lashon hara, additionally I violated the separate lo sa’aseh called “לא תשא שמע שוא”, not accepting false words. I was mekabel lashon hara.