If I find myself in a situation where someone begins speaking lashon hara; I didn’t anticipate it but they just begin, again, the Chafetz Chaim explains to us the best thing to do is to tell that person, “I don’t like to listen to stories about other people.” If I can’t do that the next best is to step away. If I can’t do that, best after that is to put my fingers in my ears. However, if I feel that I can’t do all three, then since I didn’t intend to listen to lashon hara and it’s really happening without my knowing it, I will avoid the issur provided that I do three things.
The first of those three things is to make up firmly in my mind not to be mekabel, not to accept that which this person is saying as true. You see, besides the problem of listening to lashon hara there is a separate issur of being mekabel, of accepting. If you tell me a story about Reuven and I say, “Hm, now I know, now I understand,” I’ve accepted that as true and that’s a distinct issur, separate from listening. That’s a separate issur called kabbalah. So if I’m here in a situation where you’re speaking lashon hara and I didn’t intend it, I have a patur ones, I didn’t intend it, and so if I have to listen and I have no choice the Torah is not going to hold me accountable for listening. But I have to make sure that I don’t accept it, because that you’re not forcing me to. Meaning, the circumstances force me to listen, but circumstances don’t force me to be mekabel.
So the first thing I have to make sure is that I firmly make up in my mind that I will not accept this to be true, I’m not mekabel it. So if I’m listening to the lashon hara and I meet the first criteria I have to make sure that I do not accept it to be a fact.
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