Q: As a senior high school student, I often hear young teenagers discussing their teachers in negative overtones. I understand that this is generally a result of their immaturity, and that they’ll eventually come to appreciate their teachers’ values. Because I feel that their conversations don’t affect my attitude towards my teachers, I want to know if I’m obligated to leave the room or can this serve as a heter for listening to their conversations. I want to add that I don’t reprimand the girls because I don’t want them to consider me a Rebbetzin. Is this halachically correct?
A: Listening to lashon hara is a grave sin, even if you don’t believe what you hear and the subject doesn’t lose respect in your eyes because of the negativity. It is therefore forbidden for you to listen to young girls slandering their teachers even if you believe that it doesn’t affect your attitude. (This argument doesn’t hold true in many cases, as the listener is very often influenced in subtle ways and may judge the subject negatively).
Regarding the mitzvah of tochachah: as a listener, you are obligated to admonish the girls when they transgress the prohibition of lashon hara, and to tell them that it is their obligation to give staff members the benefit of the doubt. If you are loving, gentle and clever about the way you approach the girls, they will not label you a busybody.
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