Mrs. Atlas cannot wait for her husband to come home from work. As soon as he walks through the door, she exclaims: “You’ll never believe what I overheard today!
“I was in the supermarket and the store was quite empty and unusually quiet. That’s how I was able to stand in aisle 3 and overhear a conversation between Mrs. Eigelman and Mrs. Dillman in aisle 2. They were discussing the upcoming shul elections. I couldn’t believe my ears! Mrs. Dillman said that her husband is not voting for you because he was unhappy with how you chaired the Finance Committee this past year — isn’t that a chutzpah? You were the first chairman to ever get the shul’s finances in order!”
Mrs. Atlas has spoken rechilus to her husband. Just as husband and wife are not permitted to speak lashon hara to one another, so too they cannot speak rechilus.
The Chofetz Chaim adds an important insight:
When we think into this matter well, we discover that aside from the actual sin, when a husband believes rechilus that was told to him by his wife, he brings many difficult problems upon himself. For when his wife sees that he happily accepts her [sinful] words, she will frequently come to him with such reports. This will lead to his becoming angry, depressed, and involved in arguments.
Therefore, a G-d-fearing person will tell his wife not to relate such matters to him.
As we noted in Day 81, there are situations where a wife is permitted to share with her husband what would normally be considered lashon hara. The great tzaddik and posek Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach crystallized this idea in the following way:
For a marriage to function properly, a husband and wife must share their feelings. If a woman is disturbed by something involving her dealings with others and she feels that she must unburden herself, her husband should not thrust her aside by saying, “No, it’s lashon hara.” If the problem is too difficult for her to bear alone, he must share her packet of tzaros and help her overcome them.
Of course, their purpose [in discussing such matters] must be to reach a solution to the problem and to alleviate her pain — not to gossip or degrade a fellow Jew. Even while “letting off steam,” husband and wife must be careful to abide by the laws of lashon hara [and not say that which is unnecessary or express negative opinions about certain people].
An example of the above is where a woman is being mistreated by her employer and she needs to speak to her husband about it. However, in our example involving the shul elections, there is no reason why Mrs. Atlas had to tell her husband of the conversation that she overheard in the supermarket. To the contrary, as the Chofetz Chaim points out, she is actually hurting her husband by repeating such information to him. He will become angry and aggravated (assuming he transgresses the sin of believing rechilus) and will not be able to change the situation for the better.
A good wife should do her best to uproot such a conversation from her mind and act as if she never heard it.
IN A NUTSHELL
Relatives cannot speak rechilus to one another, except in a situation where they are suffering emotional pain and need to unburden themselves.
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