How does a yeshiva bochur refrain from hearing loshon hara in his dormitory room?
He should walk out of the room until the people go to sleep. Let him sit in the beis hamedrash until his chaveirim go to sleep. And in case they don’t go to sleep until late, he should tell them, “Chaveirim, please excuse me. I have to go to sleep and when you talk I can’t sleep; do me a favor, please.” Ask rachamim, mercy, from them, and then you go to sleep so that way you won’t hear loshon hara and you’ll also be able to get up for davening the next morning on time.
Rabeinu Yonah gives an eitzah like this: He says that when you hear loshon hara and you’re not able to rebuke the people – for some reason you can’t give them reproof and tell them it’s loshon hara – so at least don’t show any interest. Show a sad face, he says, an uninterested and bored face, and that will discourage them. He brings a possuk: ופנים נזעמים לשון סתר – “An unhappy face will dispel the false tongue” (Mishlei 25:23). If you show an unhappy face, that might quiet him down. But if you show an interested face – he’s talking to you and you show an interested face, a lively face – it means you’re encouraging him, “Keep on, keep on talking.” And he’ll keep on pouring loshon hora into your ear. But if he sees that you’re discouraged, you’re not interested, that will stop him from talking loshon hora.
So, let’s say there’s somebody in your house talking about something and you don’t want to talk. They’re wasting your time. Let’s say, it’s not even loshon hora, but it’s devorim b’teilim, idle chatter. So if it’s possible to show that you’re not interested in a way that wouldn’t insult him, then that will help to stop it.
Sometimes however, when the person is not talking loshon hora, it’s a mitzvah to let that person talk. Many times, for some people of lower character, talking a good deal helps them to feel happy. So if you’ll lend them your ears just as a donation, in order to let them relieve themselves, it’s a mitzvah as long as there’s no loshon hora involved. The truth however is, that it’s impossible. ברוב דברים לא יחדל פשע – “When many words are spoken, you cannot avoid loshon hora, that’s for sure” (Mishlei 10:19). So sooner or later, something will come up that’s forbidden. Therefore, it’s always better not to talk much.
When you look at your children and see the ones that don’t talk much, it’s a ma’alah, a good quality. And your grandchildren too. I look around at my grandchildren and I admire some of them, I love some of them very much – the boys and girls who don’t talk much. It’s a very big ma’alah. They’re intelligent, but yet they don’t have the habit of opening their mouths and talking. It’s a midah tova ad me’od, an exceptionally good quality.
And the gemara says it’s a sign of aristocracy, of good yichus. שתיקותא דבבל היינו יחוסא – “In Bavel silence was always a sign of aristocracy” (Kiddushin 71b). If they wanted to marry into a family, and they wanted to know if it was a good family, so they couldn’t always investigate their antecedents, their ancestors. So what did they do? If they saw that it was a person who didn’t talk much, or his family didn’t talk much, so they surmised that it must be a good family, a family of good pedigree. In Bavel that’s how they judged: שתיקותא דבבל היינו יחוסא – Silence, that was their pedigree.
And so in general, if you want to make a good impression, keep your mouth closed. I wrote a poem once:
In lion’s skin an ass did hide
And none could know who was inside
Until himself he did betray
By opening his mouth to bray
That’s an Aesop’s fable. A lion once left his skin on the road, and a donkey came along and found this lion-skin. So this donkey thought, “Oh, what an opportunity! I can wear the lion-skin and now people will be afraid of me!” So he put on the lion-skin to make himself look like a lion, and everybody was afraid of him. He was so happy! He was so excited that he opened his big mouth and he brayed. And now all the animals in the forest realized: “Oh,” they said, “It’s nothing but a donkey!” So they took their sticks and beat him over the head.
And so, you’re a good-looking young man, your face is tzelem Elokim – I’m looking at you right now and you make a good impression on me. You’re a good-looking girl, a nice decent girl. Open up your mouth however, and you bray, and now you spoiled the whole thing! That’s why silence is golden – silence makes you look better.
TAPE # 910