Mishmeres HaSholom: Ask the Rav

Q: There are many bothersome and upsetting challenges that come up in my relationship with my mother-in-law. I discuss these difficulties with the other sister-in-law in my husband’s family, who also has a hard time getting along with her, and we encourage and help each other, which eases the situation.

Is this permissible from the perspective of hilchos lashon hara?

A: There are a few methods of conversation and speech used when discussing this topic:

  1. Because the sisters-in-law are familiar with the details of the difficulty of getting along with their mother-in-law, they could assist each other with good advice and avoid heartache, which makes it easier for them to cope. This can be done when sharing new incidents or repeating old stories. If that is the content of their discussion then it is permissible, as long as the constructive purpose is intended.
  2. Sometimes there is no specific advice needed, but the goal of their conversation is to vent their pain regarding recent or previous incidents. When that is the case, then there are situations when discussion is allowed, but it is not an all-inclusive heter. The dispensation should only be used when there is no choice and the situation is unbearable, with the condition that the constructive purpose is intended.
  3. Sometimes, during regular conversation, they might joke about what they’re suffering from their mother-in-law, or just mention sensitive topics and criticism with no purpose. There is no heter for this. It doesn’t matter if they’re bringing up new topics; it clearly constitutes lashon hara, and even if they’re repeating old stories, it is still forbidden, because this type of talk generally strengthens the animosity and reinforces the anger. The details and extent of the offense are also reevaluated, and thus constitutes new rechilus regarding the mother-in-law.

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.