Mishmeres HaSholom: Ask the Rav

Q: At a get-together for friends, I asked someone a yes-or-no question. The woman, however, had much to say about the matter and after replying with an irate “No!” she went on with a stream of disgruntled and negative comments. Even after I left she continued discussing the topic angrily.

Later, I realized I’d erred. I should have refrained from asking this question, since I knew it was a sensitive topic. I regretted my deed, and I’ve confessed and resolved not to repeat the offense of not controlling my tongue. I have also caused my friend and all the other listeners to transgress. How can I correct my wrong?

A: You transgressed a clear prohibition of avak lashon hara, caused the other woman to transgress by speaking lashon hara publicly and violated many more Torah prohibitions and commandments. You also caused your other friends to transgress by listening to lashon hara and perhaps also accepting it.

You have already repented by regretting your deed, confessing to Hashem and resolving not to repeat the offense. These are great steps. Since, however, you are asking about a more commendable way, and about going beyond the letter of the law to correct your wrong, it seems that it would be good for you to work on encouraging people in the area of shemiras halashon as a way of righting your wrong and as a step to making amends in the area of your own transgression and for being the cause of others’ transgressions.

Regarding asking forgiveness:

It seems that basic halachah does not dictate that you ask forgiveness from the subject of the conversation because you merely caused the talk. On the other hand, the one who was angered and did the talking is obligated to ask forgiveness if damage was caused or if there was shame or pain involved.

If, however, you also want to do what’s commendable in this case, you would do well to try to correct the damage by removing the negative information from the hearts of the listeners.

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.