Q: I graduated from high school 28 years ago and usually only meet my former friends at simchos. Since we’ve begun marrying off our children we meet more often, and I come up against the following she’eilah all the time:
Though my friends and I usually start out discussing neutral topics, this type of chitchat easily turns into lashon hara. What am I obligated to do when women around the table start discussing personal issues such as other people’s family situations, financial status, or how someone’s child is doing?
A: These discussions are halachically permissible and are not lashon hara or avak lashon hara as long as you don’t analyze other people’s negative or positive character traits or actions. However, inasmuch as extraneous words effect transgression, one who is stringent will keep away from discussing personal details of people’s lives, as they may cause others to voice their negative or harmful comments.
(Men, who are obligated in limud haTorah, have an additional issur of “V’dibarta bam — v’lo bidevarim biteilim.”)
It is told of my grandfather, Rabbi Mordcha Chuna Fuchs, zt”l, who was a great chassid of the Ahavas Yisroel of Vizhnitz, z”l, that he used to fall asleep if someone spoke lashon hara in his presence. The tzaddik Reb Yidele Horowitz, zt”l, tested him a couple of times and testified that if a third party was mentioned, even if what was said wasn’t lashon hara, he would doze off.
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