We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chusim for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.
Last week’s stretch of the week was: Come up with a strategy to get yourself out of an anticipated lashon hara situation.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Taking A Deeper Look - Lesson #30
DERAGATORY SPEECH AND GOSSIPING
LASHON HARA AND RECHILUS
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PART 3 – L’to’eles
The underlying factor in the issur of lashon hara is the lowly, corrupt nature that characterizes the person who chooses to find fault with others and degrades the person in the eyes of his peers. However, this would not be true if we are speaking up for a constructive goal, such as to decry evil, to help someone who was wronged or to do a service for society. Under these circumstances, when said after careful consideration and sometimes with guidance, the speech would not fall under the category of lashon hara or rechilus, but rather lashon hara l’to’eles.
Lashon hara l’to’eles is sometimes said for the benefit of the person spoken about. One example would be reporting someone’s conduct to a mentor whom he respects, so that the listener will help the sinner do teshuva.
At other time, the to’eles is for others, such as to save them from a suspected theft or other anguish that the subject is plotting, or to help the victim retrieve a stolen item. In such a case, it is important that the listener not report back to the subject what he heard, as this would constitute rechilus. However, if there is a constructive purpose to be achieved by tipping off the subject, such as so that he can take measures to prevent people from believing the report about him, then reporting back would be allowed.
Sometimes the lashon hara will bring benefit to both sides. For example, when people are considering someone as a possible shidduch or business partner, each side is permitted to check out the other by inquiring about them. They may ask as many people as necessary until they feel confident that they have a clear picture of the person’s character and circumstances.
In any situation where we are relating lashon hara l’toeles, we are required to explain why we are saying it, so that the listener should not wrongly infer that lashon hara of this kind is permissible even without a constructive purpose, and so he will not be confused by the speaker’s behavior. We must also inform those being asked for the information that it is for constructive purposes; otherwise, we violate the issur of lifnay iver, causing someone to sin.
The asker must be sure not to believe what he hears, but only to take precautions based on the information. The person who is asked should make sure he has beneficial intentions, that he does not exaggerate the subject’s shortcomings, and that he does not reveal negative points that he was not asked about specifically, unless they are in the category of “chesronos stzumim”-serious deficiencies. These, he must volunteer even if not asked, because of his obligation of lo sa’amode.
Story: (based on a true story)
I hate carpool. I mean, I love it, because you don’t have to drive your kids every day, but it’s such a headache sometimes. It’s not only the need to find people who live near you and have kids the right ages and making sure you have space for bigger kids and booster seats and that the available driving days and times work for all the people involved. It’s also a shidduch-it needs to be a good match of people.
If you are neurotically on time, or have a child who is, don’t carpool with your wonderful neighbor who is very laid back and says, “They’ll get there when they get there-why be nervous?” Do your kids miss breakfast a lot? Skip the woman who never lets any food in the car. A bad carpool situation can stress everyone out and have a negative effect on your and your kid’s life.
My oldest started a new school this year, and months in advance I waded through lists of others who send there, some of whom I know and some who I don’t. Even those I knew, I’d never carpooled with, so there were bound to be relevant things I didn’t know. So when my first real possibility came up, I checked it out. My neighbor Sara down the block had carpooled her recently graduated eighth-grader with this Mrs. Bloom from several blocks over, so I asked her, “How was it? What’s she like?”
“Um, why?” she asked. And I realized that I hadn’t told her why. Without that, she couldn’t say anything beyond, “It worked out” or “Great, great.”
“I might carpool with her next year. So how was it?”
“In general, good for me,” she said. “But if you have specific questions, you’ll need to ask them.”
OK-first hurdle cleared. If Mrs. Bloom routinely forgot to pick people up or was a dangerous driver, Sara would have had to volunteer the information. So now it was the subjective stuff. In the next few minutes, I determined that she was usually on time, didn’t mind noisy kids, and didn’t go crazy if a kid spilled something in her car.
“Sounds alright,” I said with a grateful sigh. “I guess I’ll call her now and set it up. It was so hard to find someone who would do afternoons so I could just do mornings so I can work that extra hour. Oh! Wait. One last thing, how is she with switching driving days or times?”
Sara exhaled. “I was wondering if you were going to ask that. I wasn’t sure if it mattered to you with your schedule this year, so I wasn’t sure I could tell you without your asking. I was ready to call a rav and call you back. Mrs. Bloom isn’t great with switching. She’s sort of inflexible that way. And she doesn’t do mornings, ever.”
Huh. I wasn’t sure if Sara had been allowed to call her “inflexible”. Was there more that would be a problem? Did she have assigned seats for kids? Did she insist on certain music? But I couldn’t and didn’t ask, because I knew that the information I already had was a deal-breaker, and I had no need to know any more. Never being able to switch with me, even for emergencies, was a big enough problem.
I got off the phone, and later told my husband I wouldn’t go through with it. He suggested that, based on what I’d heard, I should confirm the information first. So I called Mrs. Bloom and found out that yes, she was unable to ever drive a morning, and regardless preferred to keep to the drives she was assigned.
That didn’t work for me-I needed some flexibility of coverage if I was sick or a child had an appointment. So I walked away, and avoided the inevitable fight later on when I was more invested.
Discussion Question Options:
Other than shidduchim and business partners, what other things might we ask for or provide information for l’to’eles?
What steps should we take before we relate a negative piece of information to someone l’to’eles? How can we know if we are the right person to convey the information?
How can we use information to protect ourselves, but not believe it?
Stretch of the Week:
When relaying information l’to’eles (for a halachically clear purpose), clarify your intentions and speak carefully. Get back to the one who asked if you need time to think or ask a shaila.