Mishmeres haSholom – Ask the Rav

Q: As a relative of a clinically depressed woman who suffers from slight emotional disorders, I’ve often listened to her barrage of complaints and slander regarding all sorts of people, some of whom are familiar to me. My attempts at calming her down in the past, by minimizing the offense or judging the subjects favorably, have proven to provoke her anger.

Considering the emotional instability of the woman, does a heter exists to listen to her lashon hara?

A: As a relative, you may act as a listening ear, if the disturbed woman lets her steam off and calms down by slandering those who, in her view, have offended her. It is obviously forbidden to believe her tales, or to show any sign of agreement with her on the matter. Given the fact that she is emotionally unstable and her perception of fact and fiction are blurred, it should be easy to listen without giving the tales authenticity.

Before listening to her, consider carefully if at that point in time the woman is in need of a listening ear. If there is no pressing need for it right then, then it is forbidden to listen to her tales of slander even if you don’t believe them.

The questions and answers above were taken from the Mishmeres Hasholom pamphlet in Israel. For details and inquiries please e-mail us at office@hasholom.org or call 972-2 5379160.

The views expressed are of the individual author. Readers are encouraged to consult their own posek for guidance.

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