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.
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. “
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.