Thank you to David Solomon for this review material, which was part of his class for BMT students in Jerusalem in 1993.
- Repentance for Speaking Lashon Hara
- Repentance for Believing Lashon Hara
- Listening to or Believing Lashon Hara
This is the second of three review classes on Hilchot Lashon Hara, followed by three on Hilchot Rechilut.
Hilchot Lashon Hara Review: Part 2I. Repentance for Speaking Lashon Hara
Repentance, or Teshuva, involves three steps (in any order):
- Regretting one’s actions
- Confessing the misdeed privately to G-d
- Committing to not repeat the error in the future
In addition, any sin one person commits against another also requires rectification:
- make amends or repay the damages
- ask for forgiveness
If someone spoke Lashon Hara, all five of the steps are required. The first three are the same as in all repentance – sincere regret, confessional prayer, and the resolve plus strategies to avoid speaking it in the future.
To make amends, the speaker must go back to all those who heard his Lashon Hara and explain to them that what he said was incorrect. He must also apologize to the subject of the Lashon Hara and ask for forgiveness. If, however, the speaker is certain that the Lashon Hara was never accepted, he is only required to complete steps 1-3.
Note: if, as part of asking forgiveness, telling the subject about the Lashon Hara would cause the subject more anguish (either because he is hearing it for the first time or it renews his distress over the matter), the speaker is forbidden to mention it. Instead he should tell the subject that he sinned against him without specifying how, and ask his forgiveness.
(1) It is forbidden to accept or believe Lashon Hara, and by listening to it one might cause himself to believe it.Believing Lashon Hara is forbidden regardless of the subject (family, friend, enemy, etc.), and regardless of the speaker (teacher, parent, spouse, etc.). In some cases if the subject is known to commit certain sins or have other problems, it might be permissible to believe it. In any case, someone can suspect that the Lashon Hara might be true, such that the listener takes precautions to protect himself from harm.
(2) By participating in a session of Lashon Hara, the listener would be assisting the other participants to commit the sins of speaking and believing the Lashon Hara.
If information against someone might be of benefit to someone (e.g. a potential business partner, roommate, etc.), it is permissible for that person to listen to it. (It’s a good idea for that person to state why he is listening to the information so that the speaker realizes that the intentions of the listener are constructive, and also so that he doesn’t intend to speak for non-constructive reasons.) However, the listener is forbidden from:
(1) accepting the information as true (he may only suspect and investigate), orIf caught in a group of people who are speaking Lashon Hara, one should try and leave the group or change the topic. If stuck there:
(2) taking action against the subject based on the information.
(1) decide in one’s heart/mind not to accept the Lashon Hara as true.If someone starts speaking Lashon Hara, try to privately and respectfully tell them that speaking Lashon Hara is forbidden. The best way to prevent others from speaking Lashon Hara is by setting a good example.
(2) do not enjoy the Lashon Hara (because the subject is being shamed, its a funny story, etc.).
(3) do not pretend to agree or accept the Lashon Hara (make a face, don’t make eye contact, or at least wear a blank expression)
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HaLashon, Copyright (c) 1996, 2002 by Ellen Solomon and Project Genesis, Inc.