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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
It is forbidden to speak rechilus even if it is totally true and even if it’s not in front of the person you said you heard it from. All the more so if he is standing there, and you are brazen enough to say what he said about him, even if he already knows that the guy said it, it is still forbidden and considered rechilus. Saying it in front of the person who you heard it from is worse for two reasons: 1. You are causing more hatred and setting up a worse fight if you have the audacity to tell the person spoken about what the other guy said about him in his face, makes it more believable. 2. There are other prohibitions that are very easily applied in this circumstance. There is a gemara in Shabbos 118b which quotes a personal testament of Rebbe Yossi that in his life he never said something behind anyone’s back. This could mean that you can speak rechilus behind someone’s back but the Chofetz Chaim goes into much detail to prove that wrong through gemaras, the Rambam, Sma”g, and Tosfos, many we have seen already. There is a famous Yerushalmi in Peah 1:5 which says 3 people are killed when lashon hara is spoken: the speaker, the one accepting lashon hara and the one talked about. The Rambam quotes this gemara and the Beis Yosef, Rav Yosef Cairo’s commentary on the Rambam makes it sound like it only applies to lashon hara nor rechilus, but the Chofetz Chaim clarifies that the Rambam is arguing on the Raavad , for the Raavad holds the gemara only applies to rechilus like the example given in the gemara but the Rambam in fact holds it applies to both lashon hara and rechilus.
We concluded the 2nd chapter of hilchos rechilus today. There is an opinion out there that if lashon hara (or at least something that could be taken negative) was told in a group of at 3 least, one can tell the person being talked about who said it because he will find out anyway since word spreads. However you should not rely on this opinion as we elaborated in the laws of Lashon Hara chapter 2, since the Maharsha”l says that the Rambam, Sma”g, and Tosfos all argue on this opinion and forbade in all circumstances repeating what you hear or who said it even if you heard it in a group and even to tell someone else besides the one being talked about.
There are 3 practical cases listed here which apply to this concept. The theme of each of these cases is that if someone is trying out something or researching something one shouldn’t divulge to anyone what he was doing if it doesn’t happen.
A. If Reuvain was business partners with Shimon and he decided he wanted to go someplace else and tried out becoming partners in Levi’s business. If things don’t work out and he decides to stay with Shimon, then no one can tell Shimon that Reuvain was thinking of leaving his business because that will cause friction. Even if word leaks no individual should tell Shimon what Reuvain wanted to go elsewhere because it never panned out and they stayed together so it’s forbidden to create any friction.
B. A guy was dating a girl and after a couple dates he wasn’t sure he wanted to go on. Someone offered him another shidduch and he looked into and decided it’s not for him, so he decided to continue dating who he is currently and they wind up getting engaged and living happily ever after. Even if multiple people knew he was checking out another girl no one can tell the one he is dating that he checked out someone else but wasn’t interested because that will still cause friction.
C. If a Rav of a shul secretly got an interview with another shul but was turned down no one who knew of the interview can tell people in his current shul about it because, again it will cause friction and distrust. People have a right to look into things and make preparations if they think their current situation isn’t ideal and if nothing happens and they stay where they are then they have a right to privacy and no one else should know what they did, no harm done and life goes on, so why put thoughts into people minds and cause trouble that is rechilus!
Even if you say any names if they can figure who you are talking about it’s rechilus. Even if you are just conversing, masiach lifi tumo, and you tell over a story about what some did or said about the person you are talking to which was hurtful in the past and they might have gotten over it but by reminding them if what happened innocently without any names but they remember the incident and who did it and it stoked the coals and delights the flame of anger from the fight they had had, that’s rechilus. There is also no difference whether it’s written or oral, or whether it’s about a person or his business, bottom line anything you say that some did or said which will stir up hatred in the listener’s heart is considered rechilus.
If sone one asked asked what so
and so said about them and you can’t push them off with half a lie to avoid
speaking rechilus then you are allowed to fully lie for the sake of peace but
you can’t swear falsely if he refuses to accept what you say.
The proof that you can lie to avoid the sin of rechilus is from a gemara
in Sanhedrin 30a. When the court wrote up the final decision Rebbe Yochanan
held you just write innocent (or guilty) as if it was unanimous, to avoid
rechilus. Relish Lakish held you write out which judge said innocent or guilty
to not look like you are lying and Rebbe Eliezer, the student of Rebbe
Yochanan, compromised with writing “Based on their words he is innocent”.
This implies that it wasn’t necessarily a unanimous decision but it also
doesn’t spell out which judges said what. We poskin like Rebbe Eliezer, and he
doesn’t argue with his Rebbe, Rebbe Yochanan, but is adding that if you can
minimize the lie while avoiding rechilus you should do so, which is exactly
what the halacha here is saying.
There is a Braisa in Yevamos 65b which says it’s a mitzvah to lie for
the sake of peace. The Rif there and the Rosh in Bava Metzia 6:21poskin
thatvitvis a mitzvah to lie for the sake if peace. If this is a statement from
the rabbis in the time of the Mishna then Reish Lakish who lived in the times
of the gemara can’t argue that, so how can he argue on the braisa on Yevamos
and say it’s better not to lie? The answer is that Reish Lakish held that once
the verdict is done and it’s just a matter of putting it onto paper the guilty
party won’t be any more angry then he is right now if he finds out who said
what. Only when things aren’t finalized yet and you tell on someone then it
will make things worse.
This halacha is also based on how Hashem spoke to Avraham when informing
him he will have a child through Sarah. Based on the Ramban there Sarah said I
am old and my husband is old so how can we conceive a child?
Hashem only related how Sarah made fun if herself that she was old but not that
he was old. We see from there that Hashem spoke the truth half way and just
left out the rest for the sake of peace which is what one should try to do when
avoiding rechilus. When it comes to swearing falsely that’s absolutely
forbidden however if the guy is really pressing you and doesn’t believe what
you are saying there is a concept called a shevua b’oness, a forced oath which
if done falsely you are not guilty. But it’s not so easily applied in this case
See Yoreh Deah 232:14 in the Rema.
Even if there was no
bad intent one can still transgress rechilus When he tells someone what so and
so did to him or said about him. Rabbeinu Yona in Shaarei Tedhuva (74) says
that a person is punished for negligence which results in lashon hara even
though he had no intention of insulting the other. This would also apply to
rechilus. For example, if Shimon rebukes Reuvain about what he said or did.
Reuvain tries to defend himself and brings a proof because Yehuda did or said
the same thing. Even if you weren’t trying to get Yehuda in trouble but if
Reuvain thinks Shimon will start hating Yehuda, then that’s considered rechilus
and cannot be said as a defense.
There are many proofs
to this halacha. For one, the Sifri in Biha’aloscha says that Miriam did not
have any malicious intent when she told Aharon that Moshe separated from his
wife, still in all she was punished. The Ramban in Devarim 24:9 says straight
out that even if you have no intent to do any damage it’s still rechilus.
Bottom line you have to think before you talk lest you come to be negligent in
proof the Chofetz Chaim brings is from a gemara in Sanhedrin 30a. When the
Jewish court presents the final decision in a case, Rebbe Yochanan holds that
the official written document for the decision should not spell out which
judges said guilty, and which said innocent because that would be rechilus.
Clearly there is no malicious intent there, of trying to malign any judges. The
court statement would just say which judge said what. Still in all it is
Another proof is from
a gemara in Shabbos 33b where Rebbe Yehuda, Rebbe Yossi and Rebbe Shimon bar
Yochai were sitting around shmuzing and Rebbe Yehuda ben gierim (he was a son
of converts) was nearby listening. Rebbe Yehuda said that the Romans did so
many wonderful things like build roads, bridges, and marketplaces. Rebbe Yossi
stayed quiet. Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai said they did all that for their
own benefit. Rebbe Yehuda ben Geirim told over this conversation to his
students and parents. Somehow the Roman government found out about it. They
rewarded Rebbe Yehuda, Rebbe Yossi went into exile and Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai
was eventually executed. Before he was executed, he found Rebbe Yehuda ben
Geirim one day in the market and he said what are you still doing around and he
looked at him with an evil eye and Rebbe Yehuda ben geirim turned into a pile
of bones. Now Rebbe Yehuda ben Geirim wasn’t trying to eat on Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai,
and he was known to be a great rabbi with students but still what he said
caused the execution of rebbe Shimon bar Yochai and therefore he was held
liable for rechilus and deservingly punished as the Kesef Mishna points out.
The Chofetz Chaim had
mentioned in his note that you must first tell the victim what had happened to
him and who did it before you tell anyone else in matters where it’s unlikely
or not the situation where he would be compensated. This is because word spreads
and if he finds out second hand what happened that might make matters worse and
create a tremendous fight. We want to avoid internal fight amongst the Jews.
The #1 reason for arguments is rechilus, people tell on each other to others in
a fashion which allows a bad situation to escalate. Hashem created a
prohibition of rechilus (which the Chofetz Chaim discusses in the next part of
this book, after chapter 10) just for this reason, to minimize the possibility
of finding amongst His children. A person might make an excuse for himself that
he would be allowed to tell others, before he tells the victim, assuming he
meets all the rules, because anyways there is a chance, albeit a farfetched
chance that maybe the criminal will repent and give back what he owes. But we
have to assume that it is a farfetched chance that he will actually repent
since he was already rebuked and didn’t listen or is known not to listen to
rebuke, therefore, unless it is probable compensation can be exacted then it is
forbidden to spread the word if what happened before telling the victim even if
it is for the proper intent of teaching people not to follow the ways of this
evildoer. It is better to not cause fighting amongst the Jews then teach others
a lesson not to follow in the bad ways of these criminals.
Furthermore, you have
to be careful who you give this information to, for if you tell people who
aren’t willing to listen to your warnings not to follow the ways of the
criminal, for example if you are talking to people who are also thieves or part
of the mafia who don’t care about the way this criminal acted. Then you might
cause them to speak rechilus because they might tell the criminal what you told
them, even if you met all the rules and had the right intent to try to stop
them from following what he did, but telling the wrong people might escalate a
big argument and might even cause them to tell on you to the government or
other non-Jews and create serious problems for the Jews.
It also doesn’t
matter if someone asked you what happened or you just tell them if you are
allowed to then it’s fine if not, then not. Many times people make up excuses
that they can tell their family members what other people have done to them,
and it’s a mitzvah to do so because the verse in Yeshayahu 58:7 says “You
shall not hide anything from your own flesh and blood” However only if all the prerequisites are met them you can
tell them if not, then it’s absolutely forbidden and straight out
Chapter 1 end of
halacha 1 – 3
End of halacha 1: There is a discussion amongst the
Rishonim whether lashon hara and rechilus are all part of one verse of לא תלך רכיל בעמיך or is rechilus (tattletale) is worse than
lashon hara (slander) and lashon hara is learned from לא
תשא שמה שוא and although we should not need a verse for rechilus because we
can learn it out from a Kal vachomer (fortiori) from lashon hara however the
Torah goes out of its way to have a separate verse for rechilus in order so
that the court can give lashes to one who falsely slanders someone else.
Another ramification of the extra verse “Don’t walk as a tale bearer amongst
your people” is that the prohibition starts even before one actually speaks
lashon hara rather when he is walking to do the sin it starts.
Halacha 2: A reminder that other prohibitions like revenge,hating
someone in one’s heart etc. can be transgressed while speaking lashon
Halacha 3: A person who habitually speaks lashon hara is in a whole new
realm called a “baal lashon hara” he or she goes around collecting info about
people and then sits around with a crowd talking slander every day. This type
of person is viewed as someone who spites Hashem and his Torah because he
doesn’t just sin every once in a while but premeditatedly sins every day by
creating groups of shmuzzers to speak loshon hara and rechilus.