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The Laws #35

Listening in a Group Setting

As we discussed, it’s forbidden to listen to lashon hara. But what happens if I find myself in a group and suddenly someone begins speaking lashon hara? Now, I didn’t anticipate it and I didn’t expect it, but someone begins telling a story about someone and So-and-So and So-and-So, et cetera. What happens?

So the Chafetz Chaim explains that the best situation is for me at that point to say to the person who is telling the story, “I don’t like to hear stories about other people.” Now, by doing that obviously I’m preventing this person from speaking lashon hara, obviously I won’t be hearing lashon hara, but I’m helping that other person by again stopping them from speaking and that’s the best thing to do, to explain to them that I don’t like to hear stories about other people.

Now, assuming that I’m not comfortable doing that and assuming I’m not able to do that, the next best effort here is, the Chafetz Chaim explains, for me to just walk away. Assuming someone is speaking to a large group of people, I could just walk away and not be there. So again, I can’t help them by preventing them from speaking, but at least I will not have listened.

Let’s assume no, I can’t prevent them from speaking and I can’t walk away. The Chafetz Chaim explains that the next best scenario is for me to put my fingers in my ears, not to listen.

Now, the problem is that oftentimes way number one, two, and three don’t work. In other words, meaning to say, what happens if I’m in a situation that someone is speaking lashon hara and I feel I can’t stop them and also I can’t walk away and also I feel that I can’t put my fingers in my ears because it’s going to look very unusual. So what do I do? So the Chafetz Chaim explains that because I didn’t intend to be here and I didn’t realize it, I can get away without violating an issur. I won’t violate the issur of listening to lashon hara provided that I meet three criteria, and in the next session we will discuss what the three criteria are.

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