SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM
As we have seen, it is forbidden to listen to negative information in any situation where the speaker is transgressing by relating the information. As it is not permissible to speak loshon hora about a non-observant Jew unless he is classified as an apikores (heretic), it is forbidden to listen to loshon hora that is being spoken about him. As has already been noted, today the average non-observant Jew is classified as a “tinok she’nishba,” (lit., a child who was taken captive), a victim of ignorance and circumstances and not, G-d forbid, an apikores.
As mentioned above, to discuss the life-style of a particular non-observant Jew in order to teach others not to learn from his ways is considered speaking l’toeles, for a constructive purpose, and is permissible. It is therefore also permissible to listen to such a discussion.
Similarly, when an individual’s improper behavior is publicized as a way of pressuring him to mend his ways, it is correct to listen, for the goal will never be achieved if everyone chooses to ignore what is being said of the person.
SEFER SHMIRAS HALOSHON
The Folly of Revenge
The Sages teach that a single Jew’s sin adversely affects the entire Jewish people. This is because, as mentioned above, all Jews stem from a single source and are like one. When one organ of a body is injured, the entire body is affected.
The Midrash states (Vayikra Rabbah 4:6):
“A scattered sheep is Israel” (Yirmiyahu 50:17). When one of a sheep’s organs become afflicted, all its organs are affected [i.e. they become inflamed, which is not the case with other creatures — Maharzu]. Similarly, all of Israel can suffer retribution because of one Jew’s sin.
R’ Yishmael taught: This can be likened to a group traveling aboard a ship. One of the travelers begins to drill a hole in the floor beneath him. His companions cry out: “What are you doing?!’’ “What do you care?’’ he responds. “I’m drilling only beneath my seat!’’ “But the boat will become flooded and all of us will drown!’’ the others retort.
Therefore, be exceedingly careful not to exact revenge from your fellow Jew or bear a grudge towards him, for it is you yourself whom you are hurting! Rather, tell yourself that Heaven has brought this distress about as a result of your sins, and what difference is there if it came about through this person or through someone else? If you will accept what has happened as an expression of Divine will, it will atone for your sins..1
Such was the attitude of David when Avishai ben Tzeruyah sought to take revenge from Shimi ben Geira for his having cursed David. Commanding Avishai to refrain from this, David said, “Hashem told him [i.e. permitted him to — Ralbag] ‘Curse!’ ” (II Shmuel 16:10). The Sages state that it was because of this acceptance of the Divine will that David merited to be one of the “supports’’ of the Divine chariot (Shevet Mussar 20:27 citing Midrash).
1 In explaining the prohibition against taking revenge, Sefer HaChinuch writes: “Among the roots of this mitzvah is that a person know and take to heart that whatever happens to him, whether for good or for bad, is brought about by Hashem, Blessed is He, for nothing can occur that is contrary to His will. Therefore, when one is pained or annoyed by another, he should realize that his sins have caused this and that this has been decreed by Hashem. Thus he should not turn his thoughts to revenge, for this person is not the real cause of his hurt; rather, sin is the cause.’’ This explanation does not discount the fact that the one who caused hurt did so of his own free will and will be held accountable for his misdeed.