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The Laws #33

More Good Intentions

Another situation where it is permitted to listen to lashon hara is if I think I can do some good by listening. Let’s say for instance I see that you’re very, very upset. Reuven did something to you. And assuming I have some influence on you or on the situation, potentially I would be allowed to listen. For instance, let’s assume that you’re really upset because you feel that Reuven cheated you. And it happens to be that you might listen to my opinion. I would be allowed to listen to the story to then show you why in fact Reuven is justified. Maybe in fact he is correct. In that situation I am allowed to listen, why? Because I’m not listening to hurt Reuven’s reputation. What I’m doing is I’m listening to explain to you and to show you how in fact it might be different than the way you assume.

In addition, if I know that by listening I may be able to right the wrong. Let’s in fact say Reuven really was wrong and I know that potentially I can go over to Reuven and maybe influence him to change his ways, to give back the money he stole et cetera, in that case again I’m listening for the good. I’m not intending any harm, and therefore I’m allowed to listen to the lashon hara.

In both of these scenarios, though, I’m forbidden to be mekabel, I’m not allowed to accept it to be true. Meaning, if I’m listening to the lashon hara because I can potentially influence you to view the case differently or I’m listening to the story because I think maybe I can influence Reuven to right the wrong, either way I’m allowed to listen because I’m listening for a good purpose, but I have to keep it in my mind as a potential, as a possibility. I’m not allowed to accept it to be true, because the issur of accepting lashon hara as true applies even if I have in mind a good intention; I’m not allowed to accept it. I’m allowed to listen, be choshed, suspect it to be true, but I’m not allowed to actually accept it as factually true.

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