Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos rechilus chapter 8

There are many cases that fit into the category of avak rechilus, the dust of rechilus or quasi rechilus, which means you say something which isn’t negative, but the listener might take it negative and therefore it’s forbidden to say. Here are a few examples, please use your head to apply to cases elsewhere:

1. Gary at Todd, how is David doing? Todd says I don’t want to talk about it, or shhhhh, I don’t want to tell you what happened or what’s going to be with him. The point is Todd is obviously hinting to something bad that David is involved with, and Gary might now think up negative thoughts about David which might be or might not be true, but they are negative so it’s avak rechilus, even if the words that Todd said were not negative at all. If Todd had a negative tinge to his voice, then it could be real rechilus especially if Gary is looking for something, has an agenda to know what’s happening with David, but at the very least it is still avak rechilus. The best thing to say is David is fine and moves on with the conversation.

2. If you praise a person in front of someone else, not just his enemy, even loved ones or partners in business, if they will get upset then you can’t praise the person in front of them. For example you praise someone’s partner or spouse in front of their face on how much tzedaka he or she gives, or leant you a big loan, and the like. They might get and think how is just wasting or spending money without calculating, the business will go down the drains or he doesn’t care enough about the family etc. It might lead to arguments or even break ups. This only applies to telling people about big gifts or big loans or the like. This is why the gemara in Erichin 15a says “Do speak praise of your friend because through good it will come to bad.”

3. If you ask a favor from someone and he said I can’t do it. You can’t say back so and so told me you did this favor for him so why can’t you do it for me? The guy might get upset at the one he did the favor to because he told someone else what you did. And even if you don’t tell him that he told you that this guy did a favor for him, you just say I know you’ve done this favor for other people and it’s he knows who must have told him, that us still avak rechilus, because now he will be upset at the person, he originally did the favor to. 4. If you say something that you heard, that could be taken 2 ways. For example, if you tell someone I heard from so and so that you always have a fire on in your kitchen cooking meat and fish all the time. That could mean he’s a glutton and his wife is always cooking for him tons of delicacies to eat or they always have a lot of guests and she cooks up a storm all the time. He might have taken it the wrong way and think so and so was calling him a glutton and feel insulted. We see the severity of this issue from a Yerushalmi in Peah 1:1 with the Pnei Moshe who says that the Angel’s changed what Sarah said when they spoke to Avraham. Instead of saying she laughed and said my husband is old they said that she said I am old. Even though it was the reality and not an insult but it was like avak lashon hara so it was worth lying for this is the severity of avak lashon hara and avak rechilus.

5. The Chofetz Chaim quoting Rabbeinu Yona says this is worse than any other avak rechilus: A person must keep secret a secret his friend confided in him about, even though revealing the secret might not be rechilus but it could cause damage to the person who said the secret and might psychologically disturb him if he finds out the secret was leaked. Also it’s a lack of modesty to reveal a secret and he is just going against the words of the person who entrusted him with that secret.

CITE Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos rechilus chapter 2 halachos 1, 2.

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.