Mishmeres HaSholom: Ask the Rav

Q: While speaking on my cell phone in the car, I sometimes set it on loudspeaker. If it turns out that the caller discusses a sensitive or personal topic, and my wife or children are with me, I feel uncomfortable and regret that I didn’t warn the caller that there are passengers in the car. Besides the unpleasantness of the situation, there may be a chashash of lashon hara if there are issues the speaker wouldn’t want publicized.

I once heard my friend answer the phone in his car and say, “Wish my friend, who’s with me in the car, good morning …”

If I didn’t do so, did I transgress an issur of lashon hara?

A: Indeed, when there are other passengers in the car, and a driver takes a call on loudspeaker, he should advise the caller of the other listeners.

Even if it won’t turn out to be a real chashash lashon hara, it is forbidden to cause other people to hear the contents of the conversation, and the caller’s manner of speech, without his permission. There is a prohibition of “bal yomar” (Yoma 4) included in “avak lashon hara” (Chofetz Chaim, lashon hara 9, 6), because people adjust their manner of speech according to their listeners. For example, the type of “good morning” we use to greet a good friend doesn’t compare to the “good morning” for acquaintances. Sometimes there’s a friendly joke that we wouldn’t want other people to hear, especially when the caller is a wife or child, etc.

Thus, activating the speaker button is in itself an issur, because by doing so we allow all the passengers to listen.

Even more, if there would be a way that you wouldn’t have to activate the speaker button — rather, the phone would automatically answer on loudspeaker — you would be obligated to inform the caller at the start of the conversation that there are other passengers, because the caller is unaware of the automatic speakerphone. This is so for a number of reasons: Firstly, there is the concept of doing what is correct, to accustom ourselves to avoid getting into trouble (Be’er Mayim Chayim, lashon hara, klal 2, S. 27). Additionally, we’re bound by the obligations of “Lo saamod al dam rei’echa,” “Ve’ahvta l’rei’acha kamocha,” and more. It is possible that even the driver’s act of saying “hello” causes the caller to speak, and his words are thus an actual prohibition, as he is letting other people hear the conversation that ensues.


 

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.