Thursday, June 3, 2010

LASHON HARA and innocent bystanders

Today is the 21st day of Sivan, 5770

You are sitting at someone's table in a party or at a reception and several people start speaking Lashon haRa. What do you do? As we have learned, listening to Lashon haRa is as bad as speaking Lashon haRa; how, then, can you avoid transgression?

You have a few options:

1. You can rebuke the gossipers -making sure, of course, to do it in a very respectful way. You can remind them that this is a Torah prohibition, Halakhically equivalent to munching on shrimp or bacon.

2. If you know that they will not listen to rebuke then "it is a great mitzvah," according to the Chofetz Chaim, to get up and leave the table.

3. If you find this impossible, then you should prepare yourself to stand firm so that you will not be guilty of a great sin.

Make sure to fulfill the follow­ing requirements:

a. Decide firmly in your mind that you will refuse to give credit to any Lashon haRa.

b. Make sure that your facial expression does not convey any hint of approval of whatever, is being said. If possible, your expression should convey strong discomfort.

The above applies if one is innocently sitting at one's place when the Lashon haRa conversation is taking place. However, if someone strolls through an area where he overhears such a conversation and stops to listen, then it is considered a willful sin, even if one takes no part in the conversation and does not approve of it.

Adapted from: “Chofetz Chaim, a daily companion”