SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Hilchos Lashon Hara 8:10-11
In Pirkei Avos, Yosei ben Yochanan teaches: “Do not speak excessively with a woman. They said this about one’s wife; surely it applies to someone else’s wife …”
Avos d’R’ Nosson elaborates upon this teaching. A man should not come home from work or the beis midrash and tell his wife lashon hara about people whom he finds difficult. As the Chofetz Chaim notes, when someone does not follow this halachah and vents to his wife every time he is upset with someone, the result will be not only lashon hara, but machlokes as well. His wife will be upset at that person, she will encourage her husband to “stand his ground,” and might very well vent her anger at the other person the next time she meets him.
The importance of this halachah cannot be overstated. There are those who mistakenly think that because husbands and wives are so close, the laws of shemiras halashon do not apply to them. They erroneously believe that they may share with each other anything that happens in their dealings with others. The above mishnah tells us that this is incorrect. Whatever I cannot tell to my neighbor or friend, I cannot tell to my wife or any other close relative.
There is an exception to this rule. It is obvious that if a child is having a problem with a classmate who is bullying him, he should discuss this with his rebbi, menahel or parents. This falls under the category of lashon hara l’to’eles, lashon hara that is spoken for a constructive purpose. Similarly, if, for example, a woman is being tormented by her boss or fellow employee and she needs to share her pain with someone, she would be allowed to discuss the matter with her husband.
A husband may also tell his wife not to do business with someone whom he knows to be dishonest. Even if he has only heard that the person is dishonest but has not confirmed it, he can warn his wife to be careful, though neither he nor his wife can believe the information as fact.
It is forbidden to tell lashon hara to someone about that person’s relative. For example, if Yosef and Asher are brothers, it is forbidden to tell Yosef, “Boy, did Asher get into trouble today. He …” If the person wants to convince Asher to correct his behavior, he should speak to him directly. If this attempt is unsuccessful, and the person believes that Asher would accept criticism from his brother Yosef, he would be permitted to speak to Yosef.
The same applies to a father and son. One should not tell a father about his son’s misbehavior without first attempting to speak to the son directly, if speaking to him has a chance at succeeding.
IN A NUTSHELL
We are not permitted to speak lashon hara to our close relatives, nor are we permitted to speak lashon hara to someone about his relative.
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