SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Hilchos Lashon Hara 1:5-6
When it comes to the sin of lashon hara, the Satan operates on two fronts. Sometimes, a person becomes filled with a tremendous urge to share some “juicy” information about someone with his friends or family. At such times, one must struggle with himself; he should remind himself of how terrible lashon hara is, how much damage it causes, and how speaking lashon hara contradicts the mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael.
Other times, the Satan operates on a different front. He sends people to pressure the person to reveal negative information that they very much want to hear. Sometimes, the person exerting pressure is a close friend:
Come on, Leah, just tell me who it is that’s in trouble with the principal. Why can’t you tell me? I know that you know! Why aren’t you answering me? I thought we were best friends! Is this how you treat a best friend? Why is it lashon hara? — by next week, everyone will know about it anyway …
No matter how great the pressure, no matter how important the one exerting the pressure, one is not allowed to speak lashon hara.
Even if a father, mother, or teacher is demanding to be told lashon hara, one is not permitted to do so. (This refers to situations where there is no to’eles, positive benefit, in relating the lashon hara. The rules of to’eles will be discussed in a later chapter.) Even if one’s boss ridicules him for not revealing negative information, even if he threatens to fire him, he is not permitted to speak lashon hara.
In All for the Boss, Ruchoma Shain tells of what might have been the most uplifting moment of her father’s life. R’ Yaakov Yosef Herman and his wife emigrated to Eretz Yisrael in the summer of 1939. While they were still at sea, the Second World War erupted. The boat was forced to take a circuitous route and docked at the Haifa port shortly before Shabbos. The Hermans had only an hour or so to reach their hosts before Shabbos. They were forced to leave their personal belongings on the dock — nine suitcases and 16 crates filled with all their possessions.
Such a mammoth loss would surely cause the average person to be subdued. Not R’ Yaakov Yosef Herman. He was in a heightened state of exhilaration all Shabbos, exclaiming, “The Boss [i.e. Hashem] does everything for me. What could I ever do for Him? Now at last I have the z’chus (merit) to give all for the Boss, for His mitzvah of Shabbos and to be mekadesh Hashem (sanctify Hashem’s Name)!” (On Motza’ei Shabbos, they returned to the dock and found all their possessions intact. The British officer in charge at the dock had been so impressed that the Hermans were willing to lose everything to uphold their religion that, unbeknownst to them, he appointed a soldier to guard their possessions.)
R’ Yaakov Yosef Herman was an exceptional tzaddik. Nevertheless, we can take a lesson from him: When a person gives of himself for the sake of Hashem and His Torah, he becomes filled with joy and a feeling of true accomplishment. When we resist the pressure to speak lashon hara, we should feel proud and happy that we have remained strong in guarding our speech for the sake of Hashem and His Torah.
IN A NUTSHELL
No matter how great the pressure and no matter who is pressuring us, we may not speak lashon hara.
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