Mishmeres HaSholom – Ask the Rav

Q: I’m very sorry to say that I slipped and told some friends about the low mark that my classmate got on the test. I want to atone for my aveirah and, so, I’d really like to ask my classmate’s forgiveness for what I did. But I think that she’ll feel very bad if she hears that other girls know about her low grade. I should add that, as far as I know, no damage or pain was caused to her by what I said. What should I do?

A: If no pain or damage was caused to the classmate or will be caused in the future by the low mark having been revealed — according to basic halachah, the questioner does not have to ask her friend’s forgiveness. It’s enough that she should do teshuvah: regret her deed, admit her sin and resolve not to repeat it in the future. But it’s not at all clear that what she said won’t cause damage…

True, in regard to the future, for shidduchim, for example, the mark is unlikely to hurt her. If she is generally weak in schoolwork — those inquiring about her will hear about it, in any case. And if she’s a good student in general — this one exception won’t cause her any damage.

But there is still concern that revealing the mark may cause her damage and pain now, in class; the other girls may lose respect for her, exclude her from projects, programs, experiences, etc. This depends very much on the student’s personality. If she’s a lively, sociable girl, the type who takes the lead, speaks up and organizes things — she probably won’t suffer at all, and there’s no obligation to conciliate her and apologize, as above. But if her social status is mediocre or worse, the information about her very low grade may well cause her pain and damage. If that is the case — the basic halachah is that the questioner should conciliate her.

It would be preferable for the questioner to tell the girl that she’d told classmates about her mark. But since she thinks it likely that the girl will be offended if she hears that her low grade was revealed, one may be lenient and rely on the opinion that when this is difficult, the offender may conciliate in a general manner, such as on Erev Yom Kippur, without specifying (see Chofetz Chaim, Hilchos Lashon Hara 4:12; Beer Mayim Chayim 48; and Mishnah Berurah 606:3). In addition, the questioner should seek opportunities to publicly praise the girl, such as: “She figured out the riddle first”; “She found a fantastic quote illustrating what the teacher taught”; “She is such a special baalas chessed or vatranis,” etc. That way, she will cause the other girls to think highly of her, rather than belittle her, and it will correct any damage that is likely to result from what she revealed.

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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