Q: My sister shares her distress with me regarding a complicated situation that she is dealing with regarding the chinuch of one of her children. May I may tell her about a family in our neighborhood who is dealing with a similar situation, in order to give her the encouragement of knowing that she is not the only one facing this predicament. Tzaras rabbim chatzi nechamah — the distress of a group serves as half a consolation.
A: The question does not describe the “complicated chinuch situation” that your sister and neighbor are dealing with. It seems that it is a matter of a struggle with an unusual situation, which means that this involves lashon hara regarding these children and their families. Accordingly, it is certainly permitted for the woman who is experiencing the challenge to share the difficulties with you, her sister, because she needs help and advice from you regarding her suffering, and it thus constitutes to’eles. However, private information that you want to share about a neighbor, who is also experiencing this difficulty — with the goal of encouraging your sister that she is not the only one in this situation — does not constitute lashon hara l’to’eles (with a constructive purpose).
This is because, though your sister can derive encouragement from the story, the neighbor and her children have no connection with your sister and are not responsible for her problems. There is thus no heter to share confidential information for your sister’s benefit.
On the other hand, if the neighbor’s situation is common knowledge and not a secret, then you may share it for this purpose, as long as the intention is not to publicize it more, and the speaker and listener adhere to all the conditions for constructive purpose as delineated by the Chofetz Chaim.
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