Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos rechilus chapter 9 halacha 1

If you see your friend wants to partner with someone, or hire someone for a job, or babysitter, etc. And you feel that person will definitely cause harm to your friend, for example you know he is a thief. Even if you are the only one who knows it and no one else, you still must tell your friend in order to save him from harm. However, when telling you you must meet the 5 prerequisites that will be discussed in the next halacha. When speaking up about someone who someone else is about to hire you have to take 3 things into account. (A) are you allowed to tell your friend so that he won’t hire him and cause himself a loss, (B) is there perhaps a mitzvah, obligation to tell him, and (C) on the other hand it might be forbidden to tell him because it’s rechilus since he could be causing the would-be worker a loss. All these factors must be taken into consideration before talking to your friend in order to know whether you should, could, and if so how to talk to him. The mitzvah that one would be fulfilling or not transgressing is “לא תעמוד על דם רעך” (ויקרא 19:16) “Do not stand on the blood of your friend.” This prohibition doesn’t only apply to saving your fellow Jew’s life if you can but also protecting his money as we see in Sanhedrin73a. This isn’t just a prohibition against standing by and not testifying to get back money that you know was unlawfully taken away from your friend which you have an obligation to go to court and testify about even if you are alone, not two witnesses, because you can at least force the suspect to swear and pay but even as an individual to go over to the potential victim and warn him about the thief or any damage lurking in his midst is a mitzvah and if not done one will transgress this prohibition. See Choshen Mishpat 426:1, Sifra Vayikra 19:16, Rambam Sefer Hamitzvos mitzva 297, Shaar Mishpat Choshen Mishpat 28:2, also see Sefer Hachinuch mitzvah 236).

Even though it seems very clear that one must speak up and it would not be rechilus if he helps someone not get hurt physically or monetarily but one must remember that he cannot be too quick to speak up and be sure to meet all the 5 prerequisites before doing so in order not to transgress the prohibition of rechilus.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos rechilus chapter 9 introduction

In the laws of Lashon hara chapter 10 was dedicated to cases where one is allowed to speak lashon hara about a person was acting inappropriately in matters of man and his fellow man, i.e. interpersonal relationships, and the speaker is only speaking out for the betterment of others. Now, chapter 9 of the laws of Rechilus is dedicated to when one is ideally permitted to speak rechilus, if the speaker’s intent is to remove or avoid damages. The Chofetz Chaim concludes the introduction that may Hashem not cause me to stumble in the word of Jewish law.

In the Be’er Mayim Chaim the Chofetz Chaim elaborates, and says that before we begin the chapter, he wanted to discuss something very important in these matters. From the fact that the Rambam (Hilchos Deos 7:5) says, “If one tells someone something that will cause, if the word spread, for damage to happen to the subject matter, either physically, monetarily, painfully, or fear, this is considered lashon hara.” Based on this it seems that lashon hara is different than any other monetary damage because one is normally exempt from indirect damage but liable for indirect when speaking lashon hara. The reason being is that the Torah doesn’t forbid anything that leads to monetary damage, for example one is permitted to make a fire in his backyard for a BBQ, or is allowed to have a herd of oxen, etc. but technically if they do direct damage, he is liable, therefore if indirect damage happened he is exempt. However, Lashon hara is ideally forbidden to be spoken to begin with so even indirect damage is forbidden. Therefore if one wants partner in business or wants to be hired for a job and someone else had said something bad about him and it traveled until it got to the would be partner or hire and he does not get the job, it is the person who originally spoke the lashon hara who is at fault for this guy not landing the job in the business deal, even though he wasn’t the one who told the partner or the one hiring the guy. This issue of rechilus and lashon hara is not just direct damage but even preventing someone from getting good coming to themes forbidden. There is a famous case in Kiddushin 59a of a person who grabs an ownerless cake rolling down the road which he sees a poor hungry person running after it to get it and he picks it up to keep it for himself. He is called wicked for taking away the opportunity for the poor person to acquire a piece of food even though it didn’t belong to anyone and he had equal riht as the poor man to acquire it but he didn’t need it, though he wanted. All the more so a person who bad mouths someone and causes him not to get a job or the like and he’s not viaing for the job himself, is certainly called wicked, for example he says this guy is a great electrician, but he has a very bad attitude. So now the person he told is going to look for someone else, and the electrician is out of a job and lost money even though he could have done it just fine, all because you spoke rechilus about him, for no benefit to yourself that’s why you are wicked. The Chofetz Chaim concludes that he went onto so much detail here to make clear that all the examples we are about to learn are forbidden rechilus if the parameters are met to permit one to speak out.

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.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos rechilus chapter 7 halachos 3-5

Halacha 3: Makes no difference if you spoke rechilus to the subject himself or to his relatives, even if you tell them to keep it a secret because they will still get angry and bear a grudge against someone who said or did something to his or her relative. Surely to not tell them to keep it a secret is forbidden because word spreads and the subject will find out and fights will escalate but even if they won’t tell him, it’s forbidden whether it’s an outright negative statement or it can be taken either way, telling the relatives we can assume the relatives will take a negative slant and defend their family. However, if you tell a total stranger what someone did to someone else and tell him to keep it a secret that is fine because nothing can escalate.

 Halacha 4: Rechilus is a problem whether you are telling on a Jew to another or to a non-Jew and it’s even worse telling a non-Jew because no doubt he will cause trouble for the would be suspect and might even be life threatening. This means even telling a non-Jew that this Jewish prodect you bought isn’t so good or the job the Jew did for you wasn’t a great job and the like. However, if it is really true that the Jew sold the non-Jew something broken or really did a terrible job the there is an obligation to tell the non-Jew based on the pasuk of “righteousness, righteousness you shall run after” (Devarim 16:20). The Jews are holy; just and upright, therefore we have to adhere to doing the right thing and if one of us did wrong even to a non-Jew we can’t cover it up. However, if the matter is relative or false then it is certainly rechilus.

Halacha 5: You can’t accept rechilus from anyone just like lashon hara even from your wife. It’s extra critical when your wife is telling you about her day, she is allowed to vent but if she starts telling you how she heard how someone said something or did something not nice to you then you can’t show your interest in what she is saying and you should politely and nicely show your disinterest and figure out a way to nicely tell her you don’t want to here about it. This is because what she is saying is rechilus and if you agreeably listen now she will speak rechilus again some other time and it will cause a lot of anger, frustration, arguments and eventually depression.

 Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos rechilus chapter 6 halcha 6 footnote 12 and halacha 7

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.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos rechilus chapter 6 halachos 5 & 6

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.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos rechilus chapter 5 halachos 5-7

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.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos Rechilus chapter 4

 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.