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.
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.
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.
Halacha 4: It forbidden to be a tale
bearer of news you heard or saw even if it is true. Not only if the party you
are telling it to and the party you are talking about are on good terms with
each other for sure that is terrible and the medrish in Vayikra Rabba 16:1 says
there are 6 categories of people hated by Hashem and a seventh which is worse
then all of them which is a person who speaks rechilus causing fights amongst
loved ones. But even if they hate each other already it’s still rechilus to
stoke the coals. There are many indications in chaza”l and poskim that
rechilus even about the truth is still forbidden.
1. Moed Kattan 16a: Only a messenger
of the court can tell the court if the person he was sent to summon to court
cursed out the court but if he isn’t a messenger of the court he can’t tell the
person spoken about even if true. This is learned from Moshe sending a
messenger to summon Nadav and Avihu to his court and they cursed out Moshe. The
messenger told what happened. The gemara says only because he was messenger of
the court he was allowed to say if not it would be rechilus. We also see from here
that there is rechilus even between 2 people who hate each other for Nadav and
Avihu definitely hated Moshe as apparent from the verses dating all the way
back to when they were in Egypt and Moshe Rabbeinu hated them because there is
a mitzva to hate anyone who tries to convince and certainly if he is successful
at convincing other to stay from Hashem’s Torah. No matter if it’s going
idolatry or any other sin, all is going against Hashem which is a sin so one
who convinces other to do that is hated by Hashem and there is a mitzvah for
every Jew to hate that person whether he badly influences an individual or a
group. Nadav and Avihu convinced hundreds to join them in rebellion against
Moshe and the Torah given through Moshe therefore there was a mitzvah to hate
them, still in all if the person
telling the news wasn’t the messeof the court then he would not be able to tell
Moshe what Nadav and Avihu told him.
2. Another proof that rechilus is even
about the truth is from the gemara in Sanhedrin 29a which says that you can’t
write down (announce) by name which judge said guilty or innocent because that
would be rechilus.
3. In Bava Kamma 99b there was a case
of a cow that was invalidly shechted the owner took the shochet to court to get
his money back. Rav mistakenly said the cow was a treifa anyway so it would
never have been kosher. Rav Kahana and Rav Asi poskined as a majority that the
shochet has to pay for the mistake he made. They told the owner later that Rav
had made a mistake. The gemara asked how Rav Kahana and Rav Asi could have told
the owner of what happened isn’t that rechilus, even if it was true. The
Rambam, Sma”g and Rabbeinu Yona all clearly poskin that rechilus is even
on the truth as well.
Halacha 5: Itmakes no difference if on
your own fruition you tell someone rechilus or if someone convinces you to
divulge what the other guy did to him or said about him. Even if a rabbi or
parent asks who did it or said it, as long as telling isn’t constructive, then
it is rechilus, no matter how bad the news is, even if it is avak rechilus, it
is nevertheless forbidden. Proof to this is because Doeg was held accountable
for saying rechilus against Dovid and the city of Kohanim that protected him.
King Shaul coaxed Doeg into telling him what happened besides the fact that he
was and Doeg was afraid of the king still in all he was guilty of speaking
rechilus. This is no different than someone trying to convince you to eat pig,
you still would never do that and if did you get a sin so why woukd someone convincing
you to divulge information which is rechilus be any different, it’s still
forbidden and you should be held liable even if coerced for the sin you did.
Even though many halachos that apply to
lashon hara will be repeated in Hilchos Rechilus but it’s worth it to repeat
and not have you figure it out by yourself to ensure no mistakes. Essentially
rechilus is tattletaling. It is a severe sin which is the main sin of
“Don’t be a tale bearer amongst your people” (Vayikra 19:16). It
causes much murder amongst the Jews as we see by the case of Does HaAdomi and
that is why the pasuk right after this one is “You should not stand over
the blood of your friend.” Because of Doeg HaAdomi a whole city of
Kobanim, Nov, was wiped out. Doeg HaAdomi told King Shaul that Achimelech gave
David bread and Goliath’s sword. This normally would not have been a big deal
and if Shaul would have asked Achimelech if he gave David the sword when David
was found with it he would have admitted to it since Achimelech thought he was
doing King Shaul a favor by giving his son-in-law, who was respected in his
household bread to eat and the sword of the enemy he defeated. However, Doeg
knew that Shaul had insane jealousy for David and when he told King Shaul the
news he knew Shaul would get upset and he murdered a whole city who was helping
David. That is the power of rechilus.
Besides this sin you are able to transgress
other sins as discussed in the beginning of the sefer just like by lashon hara.
What exactly constitutes rechilus? It’s peddling words from one person to
another. For example, as the Sma”g (lav 9) states, If one tells you
something in private about someone and then you go over to that guy and say, so
and so was just talking about you and this is what he said about you (and said
negatively) that is the classic example of rechilus, as the Shaarei Teshuva
says (222). Also, if Reuvain says to Shimon, this is what Levi did to you, or I
heard this is what Levi did to you or wants to do to you. All this constitutes
rechilus assuming there is no positive purpose of telling what happened, which will be
discussed in chapter 9.
What makes rechilus so bad is that if
Shimon would have confronted Levi by himself then Levi might not have denied
any allegations, or if Levi did nothing wrong and the truth is with him, or the
intent is not what was originally thought then nothing bad could have come out.
But now that Reuvain tells over the story to Shimon of what Levi said or did
then he might put a negative spin on the issue and an argument will ensue or
wrong implications will be concluded that will lead to fights and potential
murder That is why rechilus is so bad.