Sunday, January 06, 2013

Sanctioned Lashon HaRa

Lashon HaRa -- literally "bad tongue" -- is the Jewish way of describing gossip. From the translation it's pretty clear that gossiping is not looked upon very favorably in Jewish tradition.

Even within Jewish communities....even within Orthodox Jewish can find varying degrees of attention to the details of the laws regarding lashon hara. I know people who will tell you about an incident that disturbed them but will simply leave out the name of the offending individual, and I know others who will tell you in such a way that, if you can't figure out who they're talking about, you've been living in a cave. (actually, one of the advantages of working at home is that, in fact, I know very little of what's going on in the local community unless it's posted on our Tzfat Chevre Facebook group). But, at least they try.

This Shabbat I had a copy of one of the latest Hadassah magazines. Sherri Mandel, a well-known American-Israeli author, had written a piece about hosting guests for Shabbat and I was looking forward to reading it.

The thrust of Sherri's article was her frustration at hosting people who complain, don't appreciate your work and can even be insulting in word or deed (or both). I host my share of "characters" and I can relate to the tension that sometimes occurs when you have so many different personalities sitting at one table. There's a bit of bickering sometimes, or one person says or does something that gets on someone else's nerves. And heaven forbid that the conversation turns to politics....whoa. I rarely express a political opinion to keep the heat from rising, and I'm fairly centrist.

Sherri's article was pretty specific about the incident that annoyed her, and I can only hope that the offending person never reads the article. I can sympathize with Sherri....when you put yourself out, and feel as though you're being insulted, it's aggravating.

But does that make it right for her to have shared this experience -- in which the person involved could definitely identify herself -- with the world?

And where were the Hadassah editors? Shouldn't they have said something? Do bad manners justify embarassment? 

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