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.
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.
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.
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.