SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Hilchos Lashon Hara 6:5-6
In this segment, the Chofetz Chaim discusses a situation where one finds himself among people who are in the midst of speaking lashon hara. What should one do at this moment?
The language used by the Chofetz Chaim here is so powerful and incredible that we will translate, rather than adapt, his words. Bear in mind that the Chofetz Chaim was exceedingly careful with his every word. Nothing is exaggerated; everything is precise.
Says the Chofetz Chaim:
If the person is able to leave this gathering or to place his fingers in his ears, it is a great mitzvah to do so, as is stated in Masechta Kesubos. However, if it is impossible for him to leave the gathering, and he feels that it is too difficult to place his fingers in his ears because they will laugh at him, then he should gather his energy and remain steadfast during this time of distress, and wage a war for the sake of Hashem against his yetzer hara, so that he should not transgress the Torah prohibition against accepting lashon hara.
For this, he needs to be very careful with three things …
1. He must decide in his mind that he absolutely will not believe the disparaging words that are being said about others.
2. It should not please him to hear these forbidden accounts.
3. He should be steadfast in not showing the speakers any sort of facial expression or movement that might indicate that he agrees with what they are saying. Rather, he should sit stony-faced. It would be even better for him to show an angry face so that they will realize that he does not endorse their foolish words.
In a situation where one could easily have left the group and did not, or where he joined a group knowing that a sinful conversation was in progress, or where he joined knowing that these people are prone to speaking lashon hara, he is as guilty as they are, for our Sages have instructed us to distance ourselves from forbidden talk. If someone joins such a group with the intention of listening to their evil talk, then certainly, says the Chofetz Chaim “his sin is too great to bear.”
The Chofetz Chaim concludes by quoting the ethical will of the Tanna R’ Eliezer ben Hyrkanos to his son:
My son, do not sit among groups who speak evil of others, for when these words ascend Above they are recorded in a book. Those who are present are inscribed [in that book] as a wicked group, baalei lashon hara.
Someone posed the following question to Rabbi Avraham Pam: “Every afternoon after completing my day’s work, I stand at a bus stop waiting for a bus to take me home. Very often, a certain person I know passes by in his car on his way home from work and offers me a ride. Many times during these rides, this man launches into a tirade about various people. Am I permitted to accept such a ride?”
Rav Pam responded that he should not accept a ride from this person, for by doing so, he would be entering into a nisayon (test) of possibly listening to and accepting lashon hara. Each day in Birchos HaShachar, said Rav Pam, we pray that we should not be faced with spiritual tests. How, then, can we knowingly enter a situation where we might be tested?
IN A NUTSHELL
When we hear lashon hara against our will, we must make sure not to believe it, and we should give every indication that we are unhappy about it.
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