Q: A loud conversation between two women, containing poisonous lashon hara, including names, reached my ears in the course of a bus ride. As a young teenager, I felt uncomfortable reproaching them (even in a respectful manner), and I continued sitting in my seat, unsure of how to proceed.
Was my behavior acceptable? If I was meant to reproach them, how could I have done it so that it would have been well received rather than sounding offensive?
A: The mitzvah of “hoche’ach tochi’ach es amisecha” is a mitzvas aseh min haTorah, and it is your obligation to make the women aware of their stumbling over slanderous conversation. It is not a situation where one is required to humble oneself; rather, you should act upon the words “vayigbah libo b’darkei Hashem.” Practically speaking, you can say politely, “Excuse my meddling, but your conversation included names and I am worried that I am thus transgressing by listening to lashon hara.”
No doubt that if relayed gently and respectfully, the reproach will be accepted graciously.
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