Just as it is forbidden to accept lashon hara as truth it is also forbidden to accept rechilus as truth. It comes from the same prohibition, “לא תשא שומע שוא” (Shemos 23:1). The Chofetz Chaim goes into great detail proving that the term lashon hara is inclusive or interchangeable with rechilus though rechilus never refers to lashon hara. There are other possible prohibition and breaking of positive mitzvos involved in accepting rechilus as truth in one’s heart which were discussed in the introduction of Sefer Chofetz Chaim. Chazal in Erichin 15b and a gemara Yerushalmi Peah 1:1 both say that there are 3 people who could be killed potentially when lashon hara is spoken the speaker, acceptor and victim that was talked about. We saw this when Doeg spoke rechilus about the City of Nov who was hiding David and he told jealous King Shaul they were hiding him. Doeg was killed, the whole city of Nov was wiped out, and King Shaul was eventually ruthlessly killed in battle. The one who accepts lashon hara is worse than speaking it. Also, the gemara in Pesachim 118a says that whoever’s speaks or accepts lashon hara as truth deserves to be thrown to the dogs, as we see that right after the pasuk prohibiting accepting lashon hara it says and it will be thrown to the dogs. The simple understanding of that verse is that any meat improperly slaughtered should be thrown to the dogs because it is not kosher. But the gemara made a drasha from the juxtaposition of verses that those who speak and accept lashon hara deserve to be thrown to the dogs. Even listening is forbidden (because you can’t give credence to lashon hara) this means you can’t sit down in a group of lashon hara talkers and say I won’t accept what they say without researching, I’ll just listen. But certainly accepting rechilus or lashon hara as truth without researching the matter is worse and always forbidden, whereas at times just listening and looking into the matter might be mitzvah if it’s a matter which might affect you physically, or monetarily in a negative way and you have a mitzvah to take proper precautions. It’s a very hard balance to figure out when you can and can’t listen but that’s part if our service of Hashem and according to our efforts is our reward.
At first glance, in a scenario where Reuvain tells two people that Shimon is stupid, for example, and person A tells Shimon that Reuvain called him stupid which is rechilus and the question is if person B now tells Shimon what Reuvain said has he transgressed rechilus, the Chofetz Chaim says is based on an argument between Tosfos, the Rambam and Rashba vs. The Rosh and Nimukey Yosef whether a person who digs a pit already 10 tefachim to 20 tefachim deep is liable if an animal falls in and dies. Tosfos, Rambam, and Rashba hold the person who dug the next 10 tefachim to 20 is also liable because he also created a damage that could potentially kill the animal if the first ten tefachim were not dug, therefore so to by rechilus we might be able to say that since his statement could have had the same damage as if the first one was not said the he is also liable for rechilus. The Rosh and Nimukey Yosef hold that since in reality the second person didn’t add anything then he is exempt for damages, and this could be true by rechilus as well. The Chofetz Chaim did say that even those who would say the damage would be liable that is only true if nothing has happened yet and you can potentially say either one of them could cause the damage so both are liable but here the damage was already caused the rechilus was already said so it’s like adding wood to a fire which already burnt down a house to ashes which should be exempt because nothing was done.
However all this is in a technical world if you can evaluate that no damage is being added but the reality is that ideally the second person cannot repeat what he heard to Shimon because usually what happens is that Shimon might have brushed off what the first person said but when he hears from someone else that Reuvain called him stupid then that not only gives more validation to what was said that it was in fact said but it stokes the coals more and entices Shimon to now go over to Reuvain and pick a fight over what he seems to have said. In fact, the second person’s repetition of what the first person said is in fact a worse degree of rechilus because of its reinforcement of what was previously said and gives more credibility to the rechilus which means it is certainly forbidden according to everyone.
The Chofetz Chaim went into great detail to explain why someone else cannot repeat the rechilus that the first person already told like in a case where Revain calls Shimon stupid in front of two people and Person A unlawfully tells Shimon that Reuvain called him stupid. Person B cannot also tell Shimon that he was called stupid by Reuvain even if he did not add anything more to what happened. Why not, the damage was already done, what is he adding? Even more so we find that if something was said in front of 3 then it can be repeated because, it will get back to the subject spoken about. The fact that he said it in a fashion that it will automatically spread must mean he did not have any qualms saying it. The statement might sound shady, but it is not out right outlandish, therefore if said in a way that it sounds like it was meant to be spread it must not be that bad and is permissible to repeat. If so, then once something was already repeated then why can’t it be said again, if there is no harm done since it is already out? Granted our case is an outright injustice of a statement and only 2 people heard it but once it was repeated then why can’t the other say it again the same way, nothing added, what harm is there?
There is an episode in Tana”ch where Nasan the Prophet tells King David that his son, Adoniya, has started a rebellion and declared himself king. And Nosson told King David this after Batsheva, King Davids why and mother to his heir, Shlomo. So one might say we see from this episode that you can repeat something already told by someone else. However, Nosson the Prophet went a step further and added information like how Eviyatar was in cahoots with Adoniya which Batsheva never mentioned, therefore it must be he was only allowed to say this lashon hara because of what the Yerushalmi in Peah chapter 1remarked as a halacha that one may speak lashon hara about two people who are fight against each other. The reason being is that by speaking out and publicizing the matter it is possible that you can apply enough pressure to stop the fight for the sake of peace.
The Chofetz Chaim then interestingly applied this halacha to a case of damaging in Bava Kamma. There is a whole question if one adds wood to a preexisting fire which burning down a house is he liable for causing damage. If it contributes and strengthens the fire, then certain he is responsible but the gemara concludes that if he just through a twig into a blazing fiery inferno he is exempt because he did not add anything to make the damage worse. The Chofetz Chaim wants to say then that that will be a proof one can repeat something which does not add in any way to whom the bad mouthing he was told about before hand had said. It’s the same words and connotation.
One can transgress the prohibition of rechilus even if you don’t reveal anything new, for example if Reuvain played a trick on Shimon and Levi told 2 people what he saw. Then person A told Shimon Reuvain pulled a trick on him. This is for sure rechilus by person A but if person B then goes and tells Shimon also, that is also rechilus because Shimon might not have thought much about it after he was told once but he will definitely think more into once he was told about it a second time since it will stir hatred in Shimon’s heart for Reuvain. Another example is if Reuvain is found guilty in court and Shimon asks him what your verdict was, Reuvain tells him, and Shimon responds that doesn’t sound right. Even if he is just trying to give his own honest opinion it’s still forbidden, for one thing he only heard one side of the story, but even if he heard both sides of the story and knew all the information there is no point in telling the guilty party that the judges were wrong since the verdict is done and it’s too late. Even if he thinks he can fix the situation then still there is no reason to speak to the guilty party just go over to the judges and try to really fix the situation, maybe they will change their minds after they hear what he has to say but speaking to the guilty party only stokes the coals of hatred inside him. Back to the previous case, if person B adds more information to what Shimon already knows that is certainly forbidden also if Shimon wasn’t sure if what he heard was true and person B clarifies that also makes things worse. The way to fix the sin of rechilus and to repent is to apologize to the one spoken about and to admit your wrongdoing to Hashem, decide to try to never do it again and regret what you had said. Classic steps of repentance between man and man and man and Hashem. However, it should be noted that Rav Yisrael Salanter poskined that if the person spoken about does not know then one should not go over to him and tell him what you did and apologize because it will most likely make him feel bad even if you are trying to apologize. Making a person feel bad is worse. The Chofetz Chaim argues and says you should apologize anyways, however the Chofetz Chaim does give another word of advice which might be helpful for Rav Yisrael Salanter’s view which is if you did speak rechilus to someone then you should strategize and put in much effort to try to reverse the hatred you instilled in the listener’s heart, in that way you fix the sin as if it never happened.
Halacha 2: For example-If David told Chaim that Mike got a C on his test. Then Chaim went to Mike and told him I heard from David that you got a C on your test. Mike can’t now go to David and ask him how could you tell Chaim I got a C? By saying this Mike is also speaking rechilus about Chaim that he repeated what he heard from David. One should make an excuse that because he transgressed the mitzvah of lashon hara you can now tell the person spoken about what you had heard because he is a sinner and deserves to be called out, but that is not so because he is still part of ” Your nation” his sin did not warrant being detached from the Jews. Even if Mike didn’t say Chaim’s name that he heard it from him, but it can be obviously inferred, it is still forbidden to repeat. One shouldn’t make an excuse that I am not trying to give away the name so I can say that someone told me something about you. Unfortunately now adays many people transgress rechilus in this fashion.
Halacha 3: Even if you don’t send a message to the person spoken about, about what you heard from someone else but you tell other what you heard, using the name you heard it from or it’s obvious who you heard it from it is still rechilus because word spreads and it will get back to the person, who was talking about him and be will not be too happy, as we saw in Shabbos 33b by the case of Yehuda ben Geirim who said what he said to his household and it somehow got to the Roman government so Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai turned him into a pile of bones because he should not have told his family anything. Also in Sanhedrin 29a it sounds like you can’t tell anyone the results of each judge after a verdict, not just the guilty party because the guilty party will find out who was on his side and who wasn’t and will have hatred in his heart for those against him. Now even if you tell people don’t repeat what I have said and they are trustworthy then it must mean What was said is not so good even if it has a pareve or possibly positive slant to it, why then would you tell them to keep it a secret therefore it is still lashon hara. All the more so you can’t tell the relatives of what someone said about their son, parents, or even aunts, cousins etc. Because it is the nature of family to feel anguish out of hearing such things and to hate the people who speak about their family which will cause fights. This is straight out rechilus. There is a source in Shir Hashirim Rabba 1:39 that a father never wants to hear anything negative about his children even if told not to repeat. The medrish actually talks about how Hashem does not want to hear lashon hara about His children. Also we find a Sifri in Re’eh (87) that says that even though a child won’t be a messenger to give physical punishment to his parents for any other sin but for the sin of convincing others to do idolatry, if one of his parents try convincing him, he is the first in line who will have to stone them and cannot cover up and have mercy on them even though it’s a natural feeling. All other relatives it’s just logical that you will want to defend them if you hear lashon hara about them. Even though if a burglar is breaking into your house to steal you can kill him before he tries to burglarize you because since you are protective of your money your instinct is to defend it and then the burglar will want to defend himself and kill you so you can kill him first, and this we, assume applies even if the burglar is a relative or even your son, the natural instinct of protecting your property is so strong still in all in general a person is quick to defend his relatives against others attacks. The one exception to the burglary rule is if the father is the burglar because the father has such mercy on his child that even if he is a burglar he would not kill his son to defend himself if his son would try to defend his property, therefore his son cannot kill him.
Halacha 4: If the purpose of telling others how Shimon spoke lashon hara about Reuvain is so that people will rebuke Shimon that was discussed earlier (part 1, chapter 10, halacha 4) how to deal with that issue.
It is forbidden to speak rechilus even if it is totally true and even if it’s not in front of the person you said you heard it from. All the more so if he is standing there, and you are brazen enough to say what he said about him, even if he already knows that the guy said it, it is still forbidden and considered rechilus. Saying it in front of the person who you heard it from is worse for two reasons: 1. You are causing more hatred and setting up a worse fight if you have the audacity to tell the person spoken about what the other guy said about him in his face, makes it more believable. 2. There are other prohibitions that are very easily applied in this circumstance. There is a gemara in Shabbos 118b which quotes a personal testament of Rebbe Yossi that in his life he never said something behind anyone’s back. This could mean that you can speak rechilus behind someone’s back but the Chofetz Chaim goes into much detail to prove that wrong through gemaras, the Rambam, Sma”g, and Tosfos, many we have seen already. There is a famous Yerushalmi in Peah 1:5 which says 3 people are killed when lashon hara is spoken: the speaker, the one accepting lashon hara and the one talked about. The Rambam quotes this gemara and the Beis Yosef, Rav Yosef Cairo’s commentary on the Rambam makes it sound like it only applies to lashon hara nor rechilus, but the Chofetz Chaim clarifies that the Rambam is arguing on the Raavad , for the Raavad holds the gemara only applies to rechilus like the example given in the gemara but the Rambam in fact holds it applies to both lashon hara and rechilus.
We concluded the 2nd chapter of hilchos rechilus today. There is an opinion out there that if lashon hara (or at least something that could be taken negative) was told in a group of at 3 least, one can tell the person being talked about who said it because he will find out anyway since word spreads. However you should not rely on this opinion as we elaborated in the laws of Lashon Hara chapter 2, since the Maharsha”l says that the Rambam, Sma”g, and Tosfos all argue on this opinion and forbade in all circumstances repeating what you hear or who said it even if you heard it in a group and even to tell someone else besides the one being talked about.
There are 3 practical cases listed here which apply to this concept. The theme of each of these cases is that if someone is trying out something or researching something one shouldn’t divulge to anyone what he was doing if it doesn’t happen.
A. If Reuvain was business partners with Shimon and he decided he wanted to go someplace else and tried out becoming partners in Levi’s business. If things don’t work out and he decides to stay with Shimon, then no one can tell Shimon that Reuvain was thinking of leaving his business because that will cause friction. Even if word leaks no individual should tell Shimon what Reuvain wanted to go elsewhere because it never panned out and they stayed together so it’s forbidden to create any friction.
B. A guy was dating a girl and after a couple dates he wasn’t sure he wanted to go on. Someone offered him another shidduch and he looked into and decided it’s not for him, so he decided to continue dating who he is currently and they wind up getting engaged and living happily ever after. Even if multiple people knew he was checking out another girl no one can tell the one he is dating that he checked out someone else but wasn’t interested because that will still cause friction.
C. If a Rav of a shul secretly got an interview with another shul but was turned down no one who knew of the interview can tell people in his current shul about it because, again it will cause friction and distrust. People have a right to look into things and make preparations if they think their current situation isn’t ideal and if nothing happens and they stay where they are then they have a right to privacy and no one else should know what they did, no harm done and life goes on, so why put thoughts into people minds and cause trouble that is rechilus!
Halacha 1: Rechilus is an issue whether spoken to an individual or in a group. Don’t make an excuse that if I am willing to say what someone else did or said about someone to a group and they will hear what happened so it like saying it in there face it is now permissible. It’s not permissible, or appreciated.
Halacha 2: Avak rechilus, where a statement could be taken in two ways, positive or negative is also forbidden to say in cases where it is taken negatively. Examples will be discussed in more detail in chapter 8. But certainly if you try giving it a negative slant it is forbidden, but even if you try giving a positive slant but you know the people you are talking to will take it negatively wither because the person talked about they have a previous history if no liking, or the listeners themselves knowingly have a predisposition of always thinking negatively so whatever they here they will just take it negatively then you can’t tell them even if you try to give a positive spin. It is in fact transgressing the sin of placing a stumbling block in front if the blind by telling avak lashon hara to such people who are called a nargan in Hebrew.
If the way the sentence was said was pareve, meaning no slant negative or positive and the people listening would not automatically judge negatively then it might be possible to say it definitely if it’s more possible for the listener to judge favorably like in the case of Bava Kamma 99b where a guy gave a butcher a cow and Rav poskined the meat is treif and the butcher doesn’t have to compensate the owner. Rav Kahana and Rav Elazar bumped into the owner and told him that Rav did two things for you. That was all they said, that could be negative or positive. The gemara questioned how they can say this if it’s negative and you can’t tell the litigant what the judges decided because it’s rechilus. Rather those word could be taken positively that, for one thing Rav stopped you from possibly eating something prohibitive. Since there line could be taken in a positive light and the owner had no reason to think otherwise, especially since Rav was known to be an honest and trusted sage that is why they were able to say what they said. However it might be only in a situation like this where there is more of a reason to judge favorably since Rav is a trusted sage but in general one has to be very careful when making pareve statements if they can be said at all, to avoid them being taken the wrong way. It also might be dependent on whether you are willing to say this statement of avak rechilus in front of the person you said say it or did. If you are not embarrassed to repeat what you heard or saw from him then you can say it if not you are forbidden to say it to anyone else.
Even if you say any names if they can figure who you are talking about it’s rechilus. Even if you are just conversing, masiach lifi tumo, and you tell over a story about what some did or said about the person you are talking to which was hurtful in the past and they might have gotten over it but by reminding them if what happened innocently without any names but they remember the incident and who did it and it stoked the coals and delights the flame of anger from the fight they had had, that’s rechilus. There is also no difference whether it’s written or oral, or whether it’s about a person or his business, bottom line anything you say that some did or said which will stir up hatred in the listener’s heart is considered rechilus.
If sone one asked asked what so and so said about them and you can’t push them off with half a lie to avoid speaking rechilus then you are allowed to fully lie for the sake of peace but you can’t swear falsely if he refuses to accept what you say.
The proof that you can lie to avoid the sin of rechilus is from a gemara in Sanhedrin 30a. When the court wrote up the final decision Rebbe Yochanan held you just write innocent (or guilty) as if it was unanimous, to avoid rechilus. Relish Lakish held you write out which judge said innocent or guilty to not look like you are lying and Rebbe Eliezer, the student of Rebbe Yochanan, compromised with writing “Based on their words he is innocent”. This implies that it wasn’t necessarily a unanimous decision but it also doesn’t spell out which judges said what. We poskin like Rebbe Eliezer, and he doesn’t argue with his Rebbe, Rebbe Yochanan, but is adding that if you can minimize the lie while avoiding rechilus you should do so, which is exactly what the halacha here is saying.
There is a Braisa in Yevamos 65b which says it’s a mitzvah to lie for the sake of peace. The Rif there and the Rosh in Bava Metzia 6:21poskin thatvitvis a mitzvah to lie for the sake if peace. If this is a statement from the rabbis in the time of the Mishna then Reish Lakish who lived in the times of the gemara can’t argue that, so how can he argue on the braisa on Yevamos and say it’s better not to lie? The answer is that Reish Lakish held that once the verdict is done and it’s just a matter of putting it onto paper the guilty party won’t be any more angry then he is right now if he finds out who said what. Only when things aren’t finalized yet and you tell on someone then it will make things worse.
This halacha is also based on how Hashem spoke to Avraham when informing him he will have a child through Sarah. Based on the Ramban there Sarah said I am old and my husband is old so how can we conceive a child? Hashem only related how Sarah made fun if herself that she was old but not that he was old. We see from there that Hashem spoke the truth half way and just left out the rest for the sake of peace which is what one should try to do when avoiding rechilus. When it comes to swearing falsely that’s absolutely forbidden however if the guy is really pressing you and doesn’t believe what you are saying there is a concept called a shevua b’oness, a forced oath which if done falsely you are not guilty. But it’s not so easily applied in this case See Yoreh Deah 232:14 in the Rema.