Q: I live in a school dormitory. A friend of mine, who realized that she had been maligned in the lunchroom, is pressuring me to reveal who took part in the discussion.
I could be honest and say that I was in fact there when the conversation took place, but cannot divulge the information because of the prohibition of rechilus, or I could lie and pretend I wasn’t there at the time, thus warding off her annoyance with me. Which way is preferred?
A: If you tell her that you weren’t present during the conversation, she will in all probability continue investigating by asking others until she hears who and what was said about her. Additionally, she can discover that you lied about being there at the time, which may cause machlokes, lashon hara or rechilus.
It is therefore preferable to be honest about the fact that you were privy to the conversation, but to tell her that there was hardly anything derogatory said about her. You should add that halachically it is forbidden to reveal who spoke, and reassure her that you’ll rebuke those girls on your own. You will thus gain the additional mitzvah of generating peace between friends.
Parenthetically, it was your obligation to admonish the girls while they were talking, or, if it would have caused them to increase their mockery, left the lunch room.
If you did not act in this way, you are obligated to do teshuvah, including regret, viduy, and accepting upon yourself to act differently in the future. Admonishing them now will serve as rectification of the past sin.
The questions and answers above were taken from the Mishmeres Hasholom pamphlet in Israel. For details and inquiries please e-mail us at email@example.com or call 972-2 5379160.
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