Sefer ChofetzChaim Chapter 6, halacha 5, footnote 14

We began footnote 14 today. It is very long and might last us 3 weeks, but very important. It deals with the second condition of what you must do if you cannot  just walk away from a group speaking lashon hara, neither can you rebuke them or for whatever reason you can’t put your fingers in your ears. Condition #1 was that you cannot believe one iota of what is being said, once you start you automatically transgress the sin of listening to lashon hara. Condition #2 was that you have to feel totally out of place or disgusted by what you are listening to. The footnote says this is based on a gemara in Pesachim 25b which deals with the issue of whether it is permissible to get benefit from a forbidden thing if you can’t escape it and you have no intention of benefiting, for example if you start smelling sweet incense sacrificed to an idol. In that case everyone agrees if you cannot escape the smell and you have no intention of smelling it, you have not committed a sin. If you could escape it but you had no intent of smelling it there is an argument between Rebbe Yehuda and Rebbe Shimon if unintentional benefit is permitted and the Rosh as well as the Rif poskin it is. But if you could not escape and you decided since I can’t do anything about it I might as well enjoy it then that’s a sin and certainly if you could get away and still intend to enjoy it it is a sin. The Ra”n adds that this doesn’t only apply to smelling and idolatry but to any of the senses which you are forced to do like hearing or seeing and it also applies to any sin. Therefore in our case when one sat down in a group let say to eat, at a wedding for example, and there was no intent to listen or speak loshon hara, and he cannot just walk away then he is not committing any sin. Even though we also posking that if a sin is guaranteed to happen, a psik reisha, even if it is unintentional he still transgresses on a Torah level, so if he doesn’t stick his fingers in his ears then listening will automatically happen, that is only an issue if one is actively doing something which will automatically lead to a sin but just listening is passive and he has no intent of listening and he cannot escape so there is no sin on his part. Even if you want to combine his action of walking to the group with his listening, since walking to the group didn’t guarantee he would be listening to lashon hara, then that isn’t considered a psik reisha.