Q: I planned to attend a wedding, but I didn’t make it there. The next morning, I asked my sister who had been at the simchah, “How was it?” In response, she described to me how the kallah’s family had dressed for the occasion, including mentioning those who were dressed immodestly, or even worse. I must add that I know the family, and I am familiar with their mode of dress, from other occasions.
Towards the end of the conversation, it dawned on me that maybe the whole conversation was lashon hara and I told my sister so. I went on to tell her that it was important to keep in mind that we shouldn’t judge them negatively, and that we can never understand their nisyonos.
Was it incorrect to ask my sister about the wedding? How should I have responded when she began telling me about the mode of dress? What can I do now?
A: It is okay to talk about the wedding experience in general, but it is preferable to avoid discussing and pointing out the family’s less desirable clothing. As soon as the conversation veered in the direction of that topic, it would have been proper to change the subject. B’di’eved, after the fact, when your sister already said what she did, there is room for leniency in saying that the conversation would not be considered a case of pure lashon hara.
Your discussion involved facts that are known to all those who attended the wedding, which is much more than api tlasa. Additionally, the conversation evolved by chance, and you hadn’t intended to publicize the negativity.
On the other hand, you believed her description, and the tale-bearer caused you to stumble.
There is another leniency in your case. You were expressing your disapproval of immodest clothing which would be a constructive purpose for both of you, as you were strengthening yourself in this area, and warding off the influence. It seems, however, that the two of you avoid immodest dress and wouldn’t be influenced by those who do otherwise. Therefore, there may not be much constructive purpose in your conversation, especially since your sister didn’t emphasize that she was speaking l’toeles. (The fact that you were familiar with their mode of dress does not lend credence to the leniency. On the contrary, because you knew about their inappropriate dress, her words and added details made you believe and accept them.)
According to the abovementioned details, it seems that one can say that b’di’eved it wouldn’t be considered lashon hara. It is, however, proper that you cast your suspicion on the matter in the following manner: assume that your sister exaggerated and that perhaps she made it sound worse than it was, that maybe the women didn’t realize how bad their dress was, or think of other ways to give them the benefit of the doubt.
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