Mishmeres HaSholom: Ask the Rav

Q: Since our recent marriage, we often spend Shabbos at my parents. During our stay, my father uses the opportunity to apprise me of the difficulties and problems he has with specific people, dinei Torah he’s involved in, and more. Most of these tales include negativity and forbidden speech. My father is a talmid chacham, but has a stern, sharp disposition, and because of his pain and bitterness, is unwilling to accept comments from me. For the most part, I’m unsuccessful in changing the subject when he’s talking. I therefore try, as much as possible, not to believe his accounts and minimize my visits. I am, however, still worried about transgressing serious sins of lashon hara.

A: You didn’t specify how you’ve tried to make your father aware of the various sins involved in the slanderous stories he shares with you. You pointed out that because of his strong personality he is unwilling to accept your comments. This does not justify listening to his lashon hara, and also doesn’t exempt you from alerting him to the prohibitions involved.

There are many ways to permanently end this forbidden phenomena. You can try some of these:

Because your father is a talmid chacham, it would be a good idea to bring up the following theoretical she’eilah, pretending that it happened to you:

“One of my kollel friends is constantly telling me about the difficulties he encounters with his father-in-law or neighbor. The stories involve a lot of lashon hara, and I’m in a quandary. On the one hand, I don’t want to hurt my friend, but on the other hand I don’t want to transgress the prohibitions of lashon hara.”

In the course of the conversation, you can take out the Sefer Chofetz Chaim, open to hilchos lashon hara: klal 6, and your father will thus awaken to his own misdeeds.

While listening to your father’s reports, put on an unhappy expression, give no feedback and show your dissatisfaction with this type of discussion. Such behavior will hint to your father that there are issurim involved.

If your intentions are l’shem Shamayim and you daven for success, you will no doubt merit siyatta diShmaya in your endeavors. Your father will get the message and decide that it’s time to stop the slander he’s accustomed to sharing.

(In the meantime, as long as your father is still sharing these stories, you must follow the laws of the Chofetz Chaim, hilchos lashon hara, klal 6:5)


Mishmeres HaSholom is the international organization for increasing the study and practice of the laws of shemiras halashon. To hear a shiur on the daily segment of hilchos shemiras halashon, dial (718) 887-9628. To learn more about our programs or to become a Mishmeres HaSholom member, please call (845) 694-3275 or email office@hasholom.org.

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