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.

  Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos rechilus chapter 3 part two of footnote 3

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.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim Hilchos Rechilus chapter 4 halacha 2 part 1 of footnote 3

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.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos Rechilus chapter 4

 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.