Mishmeres HaSholom: Ask the Rav

Q: There was a recent question regarding family issues that are liable to cause transgressions in lashon hara. The Rav replied that the question was too general to warrant a clear ruling.

Since the issues mentioned are commonplace in families, I wanted to inquire about an incident in our family. We wanted to collect money from family members for one of our siblings who is in difficult financial straits.

In order to explain the severity of the case, we had to tell our siblings about the difficulties the couple was experiencing that caused unusual expenses: medical issues, shalom bayis problems, and more.

Was this halachically correct or did we transgress prohibitions of lashon hara?

A: You describe a family member’s difficult financial situation that stems from medical and domestic problems. You wanted to involve other family members and get them to help out and save this couple. For this purpose you felt it necessary to brief them about details of the crisis.

Helping a family with their difficulties and saving them from falling apart may seem like a case of to’eles. But, in reality, this is not the typical situation in the categories of to’eles cited in hilchos lashon hara. Speaking with a constructive purpose in mind means to tell others about a person who is causing damage, with the purpose of protecting against him or discrediting his actions.

In this case, however, you are discussing a person when he isn’t at fault and isn’t causing his own problems.

It therefore seems that it is halachically correct to do as follows: If the subject is willing to have his personal problems shared with family members, then it is certainly permitted to do so for the constructive purpose of getting them to help out.

If, however, the subject does not agree that his problems be shared with others, or if he wasn’t asked but it is assumed that he definitely wouldn’t want his problems disclosed, then an unbiased outsider should be consulted.

If it turns out that common sense dictates that in this case there is no other option, and it is necessary and beneficial to discuss his unbearable problems with specific individuals in order to help him, then it is permissible to do so, even if the subject doesn’t agree.

You must take care to keep it quiet and share only the basics. If it isn’t apparent that it is necessary and beneficial, then you must refrain from sharing his personal problems and find another way to assist him.

If some people already know the details of his situation, it may be easier to be meikil to pass on the information. Every situation must be considered independently.


 

The following questions and answers 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 opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hamodia.