Today we began a very important lesson in learning . Many times we see things through the lenses of the final product, obviously something is forbidden and it makes logical sense but how did the rabbis figure that out and what are the exact details of how it came about? By getting into the details of the origin of the halacha with the back and forth of whether it is a problem or not then we can better appreciate the severity of the halacha and make it ingrained inside us.
In our specific case the Chofetz Chaim, in footnote 2 of his Be’er Mayim Chaim goes into much detail discussing and questioning how we know that just listening to lashon hara, even if you don’t accept it is still a Torah level prohibition. The Chofetz Chaim began with a gemara in Kesubos 5a quoting and explaining a verse in Devarim 23:14 that you should stick your fingers in your ears when you hear bad speech. The Chofetz Chaim says that is not necessarily a proof that the Torah holds you can’t even listen to lashon hara, maybe that is just an, asmachta, a hint in the Torah and the Rabbis said you can’t listen and must stick your fingers in your ear, proof is that there is another Gemara in Pesachim 25b which says that if you are stuck amongst a group of people who are speaking lashon hara and cannot leave but dislike what they are saying that is good enough. But if the Torah says you should stick your fingers in your ears it should have said that? It must be it’s only advice if the rabbis hinted to in the Torah. But you shouldn’t come to the conclusion that the Torah permits you to just listen to lashon hara, for there could be a difference between needing to stick your fingers in your ears and searching out juicy slander to listen to. The fact that many places like the Rambam and Rabbeinu Yona use a term that you cannot accept lashon hara does not mean that it is permitted to listen because all they mean is to be inclusive of times when you really are permitted to listen to lashon hara for the sake of avoiding physical or monetary damage to yourself or helping others from getting hurt, which though you can listen and be cautious to what you hear but the Torah says you cannot accept what you here as absolute truth until you look into the matter yourself.
Next week we’ll continue with this footnote to see if there really is a Torah level source that you are not allowed to even lean an ear to just listen to lashon hara.