SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM
Irrelevant, But Permissible
In the cases discussed thus far, the determining factor in making it permissible to listen to negative speech was relevance. If the information is important, in a constructive sense, for the listener to hear, it is proper for him to give his attention to what is being spoken, and at times to even solicit such information.
There are times when halacha permits listening to negative information which is of no relevance to the listener or any of his acquaintances. Where the speaker feels the need to express his anger or frustration for relief of emotional pain, one is doing an act of chesed (kindness) by hearing the person out and expressing understanding of his feelings. If the listener feels that the speaker can be made to understand how he misjudged the person responsible for his frustration, he is obligated to do so. (Often, however, a person expressing his frustrations is in need of empathy and is not open to logic. At a later point, after the speaker has calmed down, the listener could approach him and attempt to explain how he may have misunderstood the situation.)
Care must be taken to keep the speaker from wandering from the matter at hand, and speaking irrelevantly about other faults of the one whom he feels has wronged him. Furthermore, one listening in such a situation must take care not to accept what he hears as fact.
SEFER SHMIRAS HALOSHON
A Father’s Pain
Picture the following: A boy has done something improper. One of the boy’s companions announces to a crowd what the boy has done. Present at this announcement is the boy’s father who, understandably, is quite upset. He tells the one who publicized his son’s iniquity: “Had you rebuked my son in private, with no one else present, I would have been deeply grateful to you. Why did you have to make known his deed to the public? What you have accomplished is to make him an object of ridicule and disgrace. It seems to me that your intentions were not honorable. You were not out to correct my son’s behavior; rather, you sought to damage his reputation and rejoice over his disgrace.’’
Such is the way of Hashem concerning the Jewish people, of whom it is written, “You are children to HASHEM, Your God” (Devarim 14:1). Hashem, as it were, rejoices at our joy, and is pained at our suffering. When a Jew rebukes his fellow in public, in the presence of our Father in Heaven, Whose glory fills the earth, can He take any pleasure from this?
One should be forever cognizant of Rambam’s statement that one is required to be as concerned for another Jew’s possessions and honor as he is for his own (Hilchos Aveil 14:1).