I ran into her at the supermarket, on the bus, at the park with her children—and she was always sweet, friendly, and cheerful with nary a bad thing to say about anyone.
Needless to say, if a separated or divorced woman needs help, she should be able to ask for it and receive it. Also, there’s no problem with mentioning your marital status, whether it’s divorced, widowed, married, or single.
My point is that she never said a word against her ex-husband nor her in-laws, including after they were divorced. And I’m sure she must have had what to say. Marital problems are incredibly painful.
But as the halacha tells us: If there is no halachically permitted to’elet (beneficial purpose) to lashon hara, it’s forbidden to say it.
Later, she remarried to a good man with children of his own. Because her family size suddenly doubled, life got busier and more stressful, but she seemed happy. The marriage seems good.
What I also found both unusual and heartening is how the stepchildren get along together. Some even became best friends, share clothes, and walk arm in arm together. You’d think they were twins, but they are step-siblings. Obviously, both she and her second husband must have been good parents as single parents and apparently continue to be good parents together.
But I can’t help thinking that guarding her tongue & maintaining a good mood & good middot in what must have been a very trying situation brought her a lot of bracha.
Shemirat Halashon Helped Other Things Too
Yet throughout the separation, she refused to say one word against her husband. Even when prodded, she either kept her silence or said something brief in his defense.
She also didn’t play around with lashon hara by dissing him under the guise of “merely” commenting or joking about male generalities and stereotypes.
As time went on, admiration for her grew.
Even people who hadn’t liked her much before developed a high regard for her because of her integrity during the separation. Eventually, she and her husband got back together and stayed together. She also found herself better-liked than before.
Just to emphasize: Her personality didn’t change from the time of separation to the time of reunification. People who didn’t like her so much before suddenly liked her a lot now SOLELY because of the integrity she displayed during the separation.
All in all, a win-win situation—all because she guarded her tongue so carefully.
No Guarantees in This World
Does guarding your tongue always work out so nicely?
Or does indulging in continuous lashon hara always backfire?
I think we all know people who slander their spouse (or ex-spouse), their boss, their co-workers, their parents, their in-laws, their children, their siblings, etc. and it doesn’t seem to hurt them. On the contrary, maybe they even do it in such a way that garners them lots of sympathy.
Likewise, there are people very careful to guard their tongue, and they don’t get the benefit of the doubt or the support they need.
The simplistic explanation is that the sinning person gets his reward in This World for the good he has done while punishment awaits him in the Next.
In contrast, there is also the concept of tzaddik v’ra lo—Hashem stores all the reward for a good person in the Next World and allows that good person to experience their atonement in This World.
There are also very deep and complex reasons having to do with past lives and other stuff to which I’m not privy, but trust that Hashem knows exactly what He is doing.
The Lashon Hara Deception
This includes people dealing with genuinely difficult and dysfunctional people. Sometimes, the pain simply leaks out—and who can blame them? There’s definitely room for compassion here.
But over time, I saw that it just doesn’t help. There’s temporary relief and nothing more than that.
You see people who write about this family member and that neighbor—using real names!—and things never improve or only get worse (which gives them a lots of fodder for future columns, I guess).
And how many times have you sat through a shalom bayis class in which the rebbetzin disparages her husband (with humor, of course) under the guise of talking about normal male-female differences in marriage?
Notice that her marriage never improves and she rarely holds up her husband as a good example.
And people who truly suffer in their marriage or family don’t really find resolution in dropping lots of sarcastic comments about their nemesis or even continuously pouring their heart out to friends and a string of therapists.
Please notice that as long as they keep doing that, their situation stays the same or even worsens.
I could give several real-life examples of people who simply could not stop themselves from badmouthing their in-laws and spouse.
Some were quite justified in their complaints (like in the case of emotional or verbal abuse) while others merely imagined they were justified.
Regardless, nothing good or healing ultimately came out of it.
But because yesterday’s post was full of negative examples, I want to stick with positive examples in today’s post.
So I’ll just say this:
The exception to the above ended up being those who initially complained about their spouse, in-laws, parents, neighbors, etc.—and then stopped.
Whether justified or not, they stopped.
Those who stopped the understandable but ultimately forbidden lashon hara and instead turned just to prayer and gratitude to Hashem often saw an improvement in their situation.
An Admittedly Extreme Anecdote
Yet she wouldn’t say a bad word about him.
Instead when she did speak of him, she spoke with great sympathy (not fake sympathy to make herself look good, but genuine sympathy and love) and I was happily surprised at how much automatic support she immediately got throughout her ordeal.
For example, a “rabbi” I know to be an uncaring person (though he pretends otherwise) and an emotionally abusive husband himself immediately gave her good help to speed things along. Almost automatically, she found the attention of some powerful rabbis (who are good caring people) and got her get within a couple of months with almost no hassle.
She also received solid community support and sympathy.
Now, her response is pretty extreme and I'm not sure it can be or should be emulated.-
Literally, I'm not sure.
I certainly would not be loving or sympathetic in the same situation, chas v’shalom. And I would never expect anyone else to respond that way either. No way.
But she’s a very sweet, sincere, and sympathetic person by nature, so all someone like me can do is stand by and admit that her way has its merits—even if I could never respond that way myself and even if I wouldn’t want to respond with such sweetness and love myself. Really, it’s very extreme.
But I can’t deny that things certainly worked out unusually well for her afterwards.
And this is basically how the Pele Yoetz says to behave.
Turning Ideas into Action
You just don’t say anything unless there’s a clear halachic to’elet for doing so.
Hopefully, you’ll experience blessing in this world for guarding your tongue—and many do.
But the Pele Yoetz emphasizes that it’s the Next World that counts.
He clearly states several times that guarding your tongue from revealing the faults—and going so far as to praise to others--of specifically your spouse, parents-in-law, and children-in-law reap great reward in the Next World...even (or especially) if these people are genuinely dysfunctional and your complaints are perfectly justified.
He says that in the case of children- or parents-in-law, you often will see the fruits of your silence (and praise) in this world via your own children or grandchildren.
But as he says to the husband who’s married to a wicked wife, if you treat her badly and get angry at her and slander her, then you simply get Gehinnom in both This World and the Next.
Pretty strong mussar if you ask me!
But again, he’s only saying this because he wants to truly help us and he wants what’s truly good for us.
And the only true good is Eternal Life in the World to Come.
It’s hard to always remember & actualize this, but any step we take in this direction is very, very good.