Sefer Chofetz Chaim Hilchos Rechilus chapter 7 halachos 1,2

Halacha 1: There is no difference whether rechilus was spoken by a man or a woman, relative or non-relative as we see by the episode of Miriam speaking out again her brother, Moshe, and we know there is no difference between lashin hara and rechilus. Even if you hear someone say something bad about your parents and you are so upset that you tell your parents what so and so said about them, that is still rechilus. Even if someone said something bad about one’s rebbe or rav, he can’t go and tell the rabbi what heard. However in Kiddushin 70a, we see that speaking badly about a court or the messenger of the court, the messenger is believed like two witnesses, about what was said about him or the court and the court can accept this report back as testimony and excommunicate the guy he was sent to deliver the court’s message to. (See Choshen Mishpat 8:5 with the Be’er Hagola there.)

It also makes no difference whether the subject spoken about was a man or a woman, an adult or a child, it’s the same as lashon hara and forbidden. Achild is also considered “your nation” even though he isn’t liable in mitzvos yet. Especially since the whole point of the spirit of the law is to prevent fighting and damages, of course rechilus will be forbidden even against a child. Let say an adult saw two children get into a fight with punches thrown and he goes over to one of the fathers and tells what happened. That father might go over to the kid and smack him, then the argument might escalate and the two fathers might start fighting with each other. Certainly if you don’t know who is really at fault or started the fight. But even if you do know who did what and whose faukt it is, still you can’t escalate the issue by telling on the child unless the prerequisites in chapter 9 that we’ll be reading will all be met.

Halacha 2: It doesn’t make a difference whether the subject talked about is an am ha’aretz, a simpleton who  might not understand the severity of mitzvos, or know all the halachos, but if you see him speak nastily about someone else you can’t tell the other guy what he said because he is still considered part of your nation. Only someone who purposefully sins knowing the alacha and the severity of the sin, but transgressing just to spite is out of the realm of “your nation,” and loshon haa or rechilus could be said about him.

All the more so speaking rechilus about a rabbi or sage is much more wors for a number of reason.

  1. The sin of rechilus itself, if speaking rechilus about a friend where you might lie, is really bad, then all the more so to tell someone what you heard a rabbi say about you or did to you, most probably has lying with in the report because we can assume most often than not that the rabbi or sage know halacha, is G-D fearing and must have had a calculation of why he said what he said or did what he did, so you can repeat it to the subject, because you ight not understand the whole story and most like saying something false.
  2. The person himself you are talking about, the Torah commands us to cling to our sages, it’s a mitzvah to eat and drink with them, do business with them, marry our children off to there children, so especially if you speak out against them you are turning yourself away from them as well as others.
  3. The ramifications of the story, telling over what so and so said about you or did to you, sometimes might not be a big deal, because who caees, he is a no body. But if you say this is what this Rabbi said about you then it hurts more and they will believe it and thbe quicker to hate the rabbi, how could such a respectful person say that about me…, so that another reason why it’s worse to speak recilus about rabbis.

CITE Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos rechilus chapter 6 end of note 20 in halacha 9 and halacha 10

Note 20: a classic example of when one might have circumstantial evidence, but you can’t take matters into your own hand is in a case where Shimon found out he had money stolen. He and his family went away and left Reuvain to sleep the night. The next morning Shimon came back to his house and found his drawer open and a whole wad of money missing. He might even see a wad of cash sticking out of Reuvain’s bag and even confront Reuvain and he said he did not here any burglars break in last night. However, Shimon can’t just grab the money away. He can only take Reuvain to court to force him to swear a rabbinic oath that he didn’t steal Shimon’s money. This is the apparent view of the Shach and Taz in Choshen Mishpat 75, Shach (4) sand Taz (17), though the Sm’a (49) argues. Whether you can verbally degrade the suspect because you have circumstantial evidence that the rechilus is true the Chofetz Chaim is unsure about and leaves it tzarich iyun gadol.

Halacha 10: There is a very serious problem that we find even now a days where one business (or political campaign) might have been hurt because of a smear campaign by another business (or his political opponent), both owned by Jews (or are Jewish), and there is circumstantial evidence that points to the Jewish owner of the competitor personally involve in the smear campaign, the first owner who lost a lot of business and money might think, if he can smear me I can smear him back. But that is absolutely wrong for a number of reasons.

  1. One is only allowed to smear his competitor or opponent if by doing so it will be of positive use in the future, for example to stop any further damage, and there is no other way to save oneself. But one may not do it out if revenge. (See Choshen Mishpat 388:9 in the Rem”a.)

One is only allowed to smear his competitor or opponent in order to stop him from doing further damage only if you heard it from his own mouth, but if you just have circumstantial evidence even if it seems pretty obvious like a commercial put out smearing his competitor or opponent, as long as you don’t know for sure, like if it was clarified in court, or even outside of court you found out that it was definitely him that put out the commercial, for example, and not supporters of him, or people that work under him without his knowledge or approbation, then you cannot go after him. You would have to go after the perpetrators themselves to stop things from escalating. Certainly if you only heard secondhand knowledge that your competitor or opponent is smearing you then you can’t use against him, and all the more so to cause him a loss, even on a miniscule level and even if you think his loss will minimize your loss in the future, it is still forbidden.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos rechilus chapter 6 halachos 8,9

Halacha 9: Even if someone speaks rechilus mesiach lifi tumo, meaning it just came out in a story that someone did or said something to someone else, and there was clearly no intention of the speaker maliciously wanting to tell on the guy, then even though there is more reason to believe the story still one cannot conclude it’s the truth and accept words of rechilus.

Halacha 10: If there is circumstantial evidence for the rechilus there are 5 rules that must be met to be able to accept it as truth.

1. The circumstantial evidence must lead us to believe that the rechilus is true and there can’t be any possible way to judge the suspect favorably.

 2. The evidence for what the suspect did or said has to be absolutely recognizable not just slightly recognizable.

3. The person speaking the rechilus would have had to have seen the evidence firsthand, not heard through other people.

4. Only if knowing this evidence will be useful for the listener or others in the future can it be used to allow rechilus to be said. If there is no use for anyone to listen to this, then people anyways can’t listen to rechilus even if it has circumstantial evidence backing it up.

5. Circumstantial evidence only allows one to believe in one’s heart that what he heard is true but that does not mean he can now go tell it to someone else unless of course it will be helpful for people to know for the future. He certainly can’t take matters into his own hands and monetarily or physically hurt the suspect. If a court cannot act on circumstantial evidence to execute someone or hold them monetarily responsible for damages, unless there are two witnesses that testified then certainly one may not act on his own accord. He must go through the courts to take action. This only help to take proper precautions for one’s safety, monetarily, physically, and psychologically.

A proof that circumstantial evidence doesn’t work to take action is a case in Bava Basra 93a where a known to be goring ox was seen chasing another ox and then it ran into a meadow, and they were both found later with the goring ox standing over the other ox with bloody horns and the other ox lying there with fresh blood spurting out. It seems obvious that the goring ox gored the other ox still in all the peak is in Choshen Mishpat 408:1,2 that if there isn’t completely clear evidence of the incident, like two witnesses seeing the actual goring then the owner of the goring cow isn’t even liable in court, certainly action can’t be taken outside of court.

Another case quoted in the name if the Mahari”k from gemara Sanhedrin 37b which proves the point is of a person seen running after another with a sword and they turn the corner into an alley and afterwards the chaser is found with a bloody sword in hand standing over a dead body,, but he is not sentenced to death since there were not 2 witnesses that actually saw him kill. The Mahari”k says this also applies to monetary damages no matter how apparent it might seem the court can’t just make the suspect guilty if it’s not absolutely clearly what happened, like with 2 witnesses testifying, so certainly people can’t take matters into their own hands.

 Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos rechilus chapter 6 halcha 6 footnote 12 and halacha 7

When it says a person is believed like two witnesses what that means is that on a personal level you can trust like a confidant that he would never lie to you. Even if he is known in the world as an honest person, he is the gadol hador, still if you don’t know him personally you aren’t allowed to trust what he says when speaks lashon hara, as if he is two witnesses. This is evident from the Mahari”k quoting a gemara in Kesubos where Rava didn’t trust Rav Pappa about discrediting a document though he would have trusted Rav Chisda’s daughter. Though Rav Pappa was a great Amora, and he had many dealings with him as we see throughout the gemara, still in all Rava didn’t feel he knew Rav Pappa enough to treat him as two witnesses. The person has to be trusted by you personally as if he is 2 witnesses testifying in court not just two people. This means that you have to personally know he wouldn’t even add or detract one word from what he hear from someone else. There also has to no angle of innocence for the person talked about and it has to be said for a beneficial reason. With all these factors the Chofetz Chaim says that it’s impossible now a days for a person to believe anyone like two witnesses. That is what the poskim have poskined, name the Ri”f and R”osh, Rebbeim that lived over 800 years ago. People unfortunately make excuses to themselves that they can trust their parents or spouse, that they would never lie to them, but the Chofetz Chaim said that even the most modest of women, it’s one in thousand chance that they don’t leave out at one word or add some detail, and there for even the closest family member cannot be trusted like 2 witnesses. The only thing you can do now a days is be concerned of what you hear but never accept any lashon hara or rechilus as truth.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos rechilus chapter 6 halachos 5 & 6

Halacha 5: It is forbidden to accept rechilus as truth even from a person who is believable and a trusted confidant to you as if he is 2 witnesses in court who are always believed (lest contradicted by 2 other witnesses) if there is no constructive purpose in the future. This is because just as it is forbidden to speak lashon hara and rechilus it is forbidden to accept no matter how honest and trustworthy the speaker is. There is also a prohibition of placing a stumbling block in front of the blind as well. However, if one is allowed to listen to what this trusted honest man is saying, for example if there might be physical or monetary harm potentially coming his way which he can avoid, then not only can he take precautions as he does when anyone else says something, but he can actually believe the person since he trusts what he says. However, that does not now give permission to the listener to repeat what he heard to others, even to family members unless it will apply to them as well for the future. This type of person is also only believed if it was firsthand information but secondhand information he is not believed because he wasn’t allowed to believe the first person who told it to him. The proof that one is allowed to believe an entrusted honest person is from Pesachim 113b by the story of Tuvia, however even if he is an honest confidant if there is any way to judge the person in question favorably one must do so.

Halacha 6: When one can trust an honest confidant he has to be someone who you know is good, meaning you know for sure that it is in his nature is never to lie or exaggerate and you can always rely on him for anything that he says all the time as if he is two witnesses testifying in court and no one else will come to spell any doubts on what he said. However even if he is that trusted, and you can actually believe him that does not mean you can take actions against the subject in discussion to cause him a monetary loss or to G-D forbid hit him, or even to verbally accost him. The Torah doesn’t allow you to believe the listener in order to do inappropriate things. Now if you decide you conveniently believe this speaker like two witnesses in this instance of lashon hara or rechilus but you haven’t relied on him at other times, then that is absolutely forbidden because on the contrary the more you believe and decide the matter is true, the more you fall into the category of speaking lashon hara and rechilus.

CITE Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos rechilus chapter 6 note 5 and footnote of halacha 3, and halacha 4

In the footnote the Chofetz Chaim depicts the severity of the travesty of accepting rechilus with two examples. He felt this was an issue rampant in his day and the problem of accepting rechilus is worse than speaking it since it forwards a situation to continue to down spiral and get worse.

The first example was the case of the non-Jewish landlord who kicked out his Jewish tenant and he blamed a Jew for tattling on the Jewish tenant so if the Jewish tenant believes the non-Jewish landlord that a Jew tattled on him and he now hates this Jew and at some other point he tattles on that Jew and gets him into trouble and now he definitely transgressed rechilus and who knows if the other Jew said anything maybe the non-Jewish landlord made the whole thing up. That’s the danger of accepting rechilus!

The second case is where a non-Jew buys wine from a Jew pays for it and leaves his battles by the Jew’s store for the Jew to fill them up. In the meantime, he shops around for a cheaper price and finds another Jew who is willing to sell him wine for a cheaper price and was not told anything about the first sale. The Non-Jew goes back to the first Jewish and ask for his money and barrels back because he got a better deal someplace else. The Jewish salesman asks whose gave him a better deal and the non-Jew not wanting to get in trouble “innocently ” says your Jewish counterpart down the road told me you have high prices and don’t buy from you; he’ll treat me better at a lower price. The first merchant believes this and is furious at the other Jew. They are at each other’s throats and try to ruin both each other’s businesses all because the first Jew believed what the non-Jew said whereas in actuality the non-Jew found the other Jew and the other Jew didn’t even know about the sale of the first Jew. But even if the rechilus is true there is still no reason to believe or act upon it unless to look more into the matter and protect yourself, but if you ignore what happened and is polite to the other Jew, he might see it’s better to be nice and not to act maliciously and he might even change his evil ways. You can set an example for others and avoid a lot of fights by not accepting rechilus.

Note 5 in halacha 3 and halacha 4 with note 7 says that even if there are rumors that someone for example is the thief that stole from you, you can’t rely on the rumors and must investigate unless witnesses testify and the court finds him guilty or if he is known to be a thief, not just rumors than you can assume he stole it.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos rechilus chapter 6 halachis 1-3

Halacha 1: One may not accept rechilus as fact even if it was said in front of 3 people or more. That doesn’t give any validity just be cautious and investigate if it’s a matter of a potential threat, for example if some one told you in a crowd that someone else wants to hurt you or said bad things about you then you can ask others if this is true or not and investigate. But if there is no threat then one is forbidden to clarify whether it actually happened or was said because you will definitely be placing a stumbling block in front if the blind, since people will feel they have to answer you if you ask and they will be speaking rechilus if there is no potential threat.

Halacha 2: Even the rechilus is said in the face of the perpetrator, for example Reuvain is looking at Levi and tells Shimon, “You are the one who said such and such disgrace about Shimon,” now even if Levi was quiet a d didn’t defend himself when the rechilus about him was said right in front of him, still Shimon cannot believe it as fact. Even if the nature of Levi is usually to always speak up and defend himself and this time he didn’t so it looks like he is admitting he said it, still there is no proof that that’s a actually true. This is true even if the Reuvain was allowed to tell Shimon because of a possible threat that Shimon should watch out for, still he can’t believe it just be cautious and take proper precautions, and surely if he spoke regular lashon hara or rechilus which there is no potential threat to anyone, Shimon may not believe Reuvain because he surely is wicked for transgressing the prohibition of rechilus so how can Shimon now believe this bad person who is trying to make someone else look bad?

Halacha 3: If one has a damage in business and he is unsure how it happened, for examole he was kicked out of his rental but he is unsure where someone smeared him and got him kicked or the landlord himself decides he didn’t like him and kicked him off the land. He can’t suspect that any Jew was out to get him unless he has circumstantial evidence, which will be discussed in more detail later, but then he can decide the Jew was out to get him, but that does not mean that he has a right to go after that person’s assets. The reason why this is true is because we don’t assume a Jew would do such a wicked thing as the Torah (Vayikra 19:15) states, “You shall judge your nation righteously.” Even if one heard that a certain Jew caused the damage, he still can’t believe and should only be concerned about what he heard and look into the matter, but not decide that what he heard is true. Even if people were out to get this guy who supposedly got the tenant into trouble and they told the tenant that this guy did it and the guy was quiet and didn’t deny that he wasn’t the cause, still the tenant can’t decide that this is in fact true, that he was the perpetrator, because even though there is a mitzvah to save oneself from acquiring a bad name and must save his own self from suspicion as it says (Bamidbar 32:22), “you shall be clean from before Hashem and the Jewish people” nevertheless divine sees any excuse will not be listened and there is no point in speaking up he has a right to stay quiet and be among those who are insulted and don’t insult back, they listen to disgrace and don’t answer about these people it is said in Chullin 89a, “upon whom does the world continue to exist, by those who keep their mouth shut at a time of argument. “

Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos rechilus chapter 5 halachos 5-7

There is a terrible habit that people have that they feel the need to know what other people did to them or said about them and if they ask and the person refuses to tell them he badgers the guys until he divulges the information. This is certainly rechilus if there is no purpose to knowing, meaning there is no threat against him and even there is potential threat we learned you can’t believe what you here, only take precautions. There are many prohibitions that could be transgressed and mitzvos not fulfilled if one is not careful in this matter. Also, one has to be very careful not to jump to the conclusion all the time that there might be threat against him and he is allowed to listen and inquire about what someone did or said about him. There is a fine line between being cautious and sensing a hunch of a threat and constantly overreacting and that line must be balanced.

The way to find that balance is to be adherent to the positive mitzvah of “with righteousness you shall judge your nation,” which includes judging your fellow favorably. Now this doesn’t only apply to someone who most probably meant you know harm, but the Chofetz Chaim says that if the Torah went out of the way to make a mitzvah for this it must unexclusive, or rather inclusive of many situations including especially if it would seem the person was trying to be malicious, still there is a mitzvah to judge him or her favorably until it is apparent with clear proof and no other choice that he or she is guilty. But if you just know what you heard was true, ley say you even can confirm it on video, still there is a mitzvah to judge favorably, that maybe something was overlooked which could change the whole story. Even if the story could go 50/50 either according to what you heard who are you to make the judgment that what you heard can go either way, if the All-Knowing Hashem makes a mitzvah to judge favorably why should you decide well

that’s only someone who might deserve to be judged favorably but under the circumstances that in my mind this person doesn’t deserve to be judged favorably, how does one have a right to just make that decision, maybe it wasn’t as bad as it it’s made out to be?! Why pick a fight and blow out if proportion a situation that does not have to be blown out of proportion? Therefore, it must the mitzvah if judging favorably even applies in situations where it can go 50/50 either or even if it looks worse than good. It’s not just a nice thing to judge favorably it’s a Torah obligation until it is unequivocally clear what happened.

Now if one has committed the sin of accepting rechilus the way to repent is to first remove from your heart the belief that what you heard is true. If that is hard to do, then just convince yourself that you are missing a part of the story. Maybe something was taken out or was added or the way it was said came out more negative than it really is, including the way his voice sounded might have changed the story if it was said over in a different tone of voice and he skipped up saying it. You should also accept upon yourself in the future to not ever accept lashon hara or rechilus about any Jew again, and say vidui, meaning admit to your sin. This will fix the sin transgressed as long as you have not spread what you heard to anyone else, which is a different story, not impossible to fix, because teshuva is always possible but not for this discussion right now.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos rechilus chapter 5 halachos 3-4

If there is a possible threat to you physically or monetarily then you are allowed to listen and even inquire with others if what you heard is true in order to take proper precautions for your safety. Even if it is just a feeling you have that something is wrong, like someone looked at you the wrong way or you have any inkling he hates you and want to harm you, you have a right to investigate and even inquire to see if you or your property are in danger and take proper precautions. This is not considered speaking rechilus even if it sounds like you are making someone look bad, but you have every right to protect yourself. But that is all you are allowed to do. You can’t accept anything you hear as truth and act upon it even if you hear the same thing from many people. He should be treated as any other Jew you are just allowed to protect yourself and property from harm’s way. For example, you can’t hate him in your heart and if he asks for a loan or tzedaka you must give it to him. If you don’t then you will be transgressing don’t take revenge or bear grudge especially since he has not done anything to you yet. You also can’t embarrass or treat him any less than any other Jew besides taking precautions to be sure you don’t get hurt. Even if there are rumors that he told on you to the government and they might now be after you, which in that case he is not considered part of “your nation” and you can withhold things from him bit until you know for sure he did it you have to treat him as any other Jew and just protect yourself. The Chofetz Chaim bring a gemara on Shabbos 56a as proof that you can listen and inquire of people to protect yourself from the story of the prophet Shmuel telling King David that he is allowed to listen to and cross check Tzova who was a known enemy of Mefiboshes about whether Mefiboshes, a relative of Shaul, was rebelling against the king and deserves to be caught and sentenced to death. King David only had a slight indication of a rebellion from the fact that Mefibishes didn’t attend a feast King David invited him to, but that was enough to be allowed to inquire about his motives and the potential threat. Those this might have been a more serious matter, a threat to life, but the Chofetz Chaim felt this was a good enough example to prove that any threat physically or monetarily can be researched, inquired into with taking proper precautions as long as you don’t accept it as truth until knowing for sure on your own, with accepting it from other that there is a problem.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos rechilus chapter 5 halachos 1-2

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.