Q: My neighbor from across the hall hosted her married children for a family get-together which ended well into the night. The grandchildren made a racket in the hallway, disturbing the neighbors’ peace. In the morning, an elderly woman who lives in the apartment below me approached me, voicing her annoyance at what she thought had been our noise the night before. I wanted to tell her that it had nothing to do with us, but I kept quiet because I didn’t know what was permissible to say. I would, however, like to remove the accusation against me, especially since an unavoidable plumbing problem that stemmed from our apartment was upsetting this elderly neighbor. But, I am afraid of transgressing lashon hara, because it will become obvious that the noise came from the apartment across the hall. What am I allowed to say?
A: People who hold parties into the late hours of the night are obligated to keep an eye on their children so that they don’t disturb neighbors. You are therefore allowed to remove the accusation from yourself by telling the elderly neighbor that it wasn’t you who made the noise, even if she will thus deduce that it came from the neighbor across the hall. (You should not specify who it was.)
With regard to middas hachassidus, there is a point in leaving the accusation and not shifting the blame onto someone else. In the above-mentioned case, however, it seems that it isn’t necessary to go by middas hachassidus for two reasons: 1) Because of the existing problem with the pipe, the accusation can exacerbate her anger and cause hatred between neighbors. 2) There may be a to’eles in the neighbor knowing who made the noise so that she could make them aware of the fact that it can be disturbing to others.
It therefore seems that even with regard to middas hachassidus you may remove the accusation.
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