Q: As a volunteer for the Lev L’Achim kiruv program, I often encounter women who consult with me regarding domestic issues, familial feuds, etc. They are not talking to me to merely get the matter off their chest, but rather consulting for real advice. It isn’t possible for me to stop them in the middle of a conversation to tell them that they should share with me only what is necessary because it will offend them and affect the whole delicate relationship we’ve built. I must note that sometimes I don’t know the individuals mentioned, but it is possible that sometimes I may know who they are.
What should I do?
A: When a range of shalom bayis issues are involved, it is impossible to know (in advance) which part that the person will say will be relevant to the issue at hand and which parts will not. Therefore, as long as it is possible that it will be necessary to hear the contents of the story in order to give advice, it is permissible for the volunteer to listen to it; obviously, only to be meichish — suspect.
If the woman includes facts that are not relevant to the constructive purpose at all — e.g., she starts talking about her uncle in Netanya who behaves improperly in his house — she must be stopped. She should be made to understand that we have many mitzvos relating to interpersonal relationships and loving others, and that halachah teaches that if an incident is unrelated to the constructive purpose, it is forbidden to speak negatively of someone else, because it can cause him damage or pain.
This explanation will not affect the relationship. On the contrary, it will strengthen it when the woman seeking advice will realize how much the Torah obligates us to be considerate of others and to be careful not to cause them damage.
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