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The Laws #39

Did Not Anticipate Lashon Hara

As we discussed, if you find yourself inadvertently in a situation where someone is speaking lashon hara, there is a way to make sure that you do not violate any issurim. Number one, what you try to do first is you try to tell the person you don’t listen to lashon hara. If that doesn’t work, you’re not able to do that, you try to step away, just leave the situation. If that doesn’t work, you put your fingers in your ears. If all three of those you’re not able to do, then provided you do three things you will not violate the issur of listening to lashon hara.

Those three things, as mentioned, are: Number one, you have to make sure you don’t mekabel, you’re not accepting the words to be actually factually true. Number two, you have to make sure that you’re not nicha lei, that you’re not really enjoying, you’re not deriving benefit from what this person is saying. And number three, you have to make sure that you don’t in any way encourage the person to further along the process. Now, provided you do all three of these you didn’t violate any issur.

However, explains the Chafetz Chaim, this is only true if you didn’t expect these people or this person to be speaking lashon hara. But let’s assume for a minute that you know this is the type of person who regularly speaks lashon hara or if you walk over and as you’re walking by you see that this person is engaged in speaking lashon hara, then you’re forbidden to sit down and then if you do sit down, even if you meet all three criteria you’re still not absolved from any guilt because you’re sitting down to listen to lashon hara.

The only time that these three criteria will help is if you didn’t realize the person is speaking lashon hara or if you didn’t anticipate it. But if in fact you were able not to be there or you should have anticipated that this person would do it, even if you do all three of these you’re still violating an issur of listening to lashon hara.

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