Ethics

For the week ending 14 January 2006 / 14 Tevet 5766

Bad Neighbor Policy

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: A friend of mine is planning to buy an apartment in a particular building. I am aware that his immediate neighbor in that building is a very difficult person. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: The Talmudic Sage Netai of Arbel counsels in Pirkei Avot: “Place a distance from a bad neighbor.” One of the commentaries calls attention to the fact that this Sage did not say “Stay away from a bad neighbor” which would have sufficed as advice for personally avoiding a problematic neighbor. By instead phrasing it as he did, another message was intended – place a distance between your friend and a bad neighbor!

There is no need to hesitate doing so out of fear that you may be transgressing the laws of lashon hara because it is not only permissible to reveal something which may harm another but is even the right thing to do.

As regards your friend’s hesitation to accept your warning, our Sages have already ruled that even if one refuses to believe a bad report about another person, he must nevertheless exercise the caution such a warning warrants.

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