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.
Note 20: a classic example of when one might have circumstantial evidence, but you can’t take matters into your own hand is in a case where Shimon found out he had money stolen. He and his family went away and left Reuvain to sleep the night. The next morning Shimon came back to his house and found his drawer open and a whole wad of money missing. He might even see a wad of cash sticking out of Reuvain’s bag and even confront Reuvain and he said he did not here any burglars break in last night. However, Shimon can’t just grab the money away. He can only take Reuvain to court to force him to swear a rabbinic oath that he didn’t steal Shimon’s money. This is the apparent view of the Shach and Taz in Choshen Mishpat 75, Shach (4) sand Taz (17), though the Sm’a (49) argues. Whether you can verbally degrade the suspect because you have circumstantial evidence that the rechilus is true the Chofetz Chaim is unsure about and leaves it tzarich iyun gadol.
Halacha 10: There is a very serious problem that we find even now a days where one business (or political campaign) might have been hurt because of a smear campaign by another business (or his political opponent), both owned by Jews (or are Jewish), and there is circumstantial evidence that points to the Jewish owner of the competitor personally involve in the smear campaign, the first owner who lost a lot of business and money might think, if he can smear me I can smear him back. But that is absolutely wrong for a number of reasons.
- One is only allowed to smear his competitor or opponent if by doing so it will be of positive use in the future, for example to stop any further damage, and there is no other way to save oneself. But one may not do it out if revenge. (See Choshen Mishpat 388:9 in the Rem”a.)
One is only allowed to smear his competitor or opponent in order to stop him from doing further damage only if you heard it from his own mouth, but if you just have circumstantial evidence even if it seems pretty obvious like a commercial put out smearing his competitor or opponent, as long as you don’t know for sure, like if it was clarified in court, or even outside of court you found out that it was definitely him that put out the commercial, for example, and not supporters of him, or people that work under him without his knowledge or approbation, then you cannot go after him. You would have to go after the perpetrators themselves to stop things from escalating. Certainly if you only heard secondhand knowledge that your competitor or opponent is smearing you then you can’t use against him, and all the more so to cause him a loss, even on a miniscule level and even if you think his loss will minimize your loss in the future, it is still forbidden.
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.
Halacha 1: One may not accept rechilus as fact even if it was said in front of 3 people or more. That doesn’t give any validity just be cautious and investigate if it’s a matter of a potential threat, for example if some one told you in a crowd that someone else wants to hurt you or said bad things about you then you can ask others if this is true or not and investigate. But if there is no threat then one is forbidden to clarify whether it actually happened or was said because you will definitely be placing a stumbling block in front if the blind, since people will feel they have to answer you if you ask and they will be speaking rechilus if there is no potential threat.
Halacha 2: Even the rechilus is said in the face of the perpetrator, for example Reuvain is looking at Levi and tells Shimon, “You are the one who said such and such disgrace about Shimon,” now even if Levi was quiet a d didn’t defend himself when the rechilus about him was said right in front of him, still Shimon cannot believe it as fact. Even if the nature of Levi is usually to always speak up and defend himself and this time he didn’t so it looks like he is admitting he said it, still there is no proof that that’s a actually true. This is true even if the Reuvain was allowed to tell Shimon because of a possible threat that Shimon should watch out for, still he can’t believe it just be cautious and take proper precautions, and surely if he spoke regular lashon hara or rechilus which there is no potential threat to anyone, Shimon may not believe Reuvain because he surely is wicked for transgressing the prohibition of rechilus so how can Shimon now believe this bad person who is trying to make someone else look bad?
Halacha 3: If one has a damage in business and he is unsure how it happened, for examole he was kicked out of his rental but he is unsure where someone smeared him and got him kicked or the landlord himself decides he didn’t like him and kicked him off the land. He can’t suspect that any Jew was out to get him unless he has circumstantial evidence, which will be discussed in more detail later, but then he can decide the Jew was out to get him, but that does not mean that he has a right to go after that person’s assets. The reason why this is true is because we don’t assume a Jew would do such a wicked thing as the Torah (Vayikra 19:15) states, “You shall judge your nation righteously.” Even if one heard that a certain Jew caused the damage, he still can’t believe and should only be concerned about what he heard and look into the matter, but not decide that what he heard is true. Even if people were out to get this guy who supposedly got the tenant into trouble and they told the tenant that this guy did it and the guy was quiet and didn’t deny that he wasn’t the cause, still the tenant can’t decide that this is in fact true, that he was the perpetrator, because even though there is a mitzvah to save oneself from acquiring a bad name and must save his own self from suspicion as it says (Bamidbar 32:22), “you shall be clean from before Hashem and the Jewish people” nevertheless divine sees any excuse will not be listened and there is no point in speaking up he has a right to stay quiet and be among those who are insulted and don’t insult back, they listen to disgrace and don’t answer about these people it is said in Chullin 89a, “upon whom does the world continue to exist, by those who keep their mouth shut at a time of argument. “
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.
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 2: For example-If David told Chaim that Mike got a C on his test. Then Chaim went to Mike and told him I heard from David that you got a C on your test. Mike can’t now go to David and ask him how could you tell Chaim I got a C? By saying this Mike is also speaking rechilus about Chaim that he repeated what he heard from David. One should make an excuse that because he transgressed the mitzvah of lashon hara you can now tell the person spoken about what you had heard because he is a sinner and deserves to be called out, but that is not so because he is still part of ” Your nation” his sin did not warrant being detached from the Jews. Even if Mike didn’t say Chaim’s name that he heard it from him, but it can be obviously inferred, it is still forbidden to repeat. One shouldn’t make an excuse that I am not trying to give away the name so I can say that someone told me something about you. Unfortunately now adays many people transgress rechilus in this fashion.
Halacha 3: Even if you don’t send a message to the person spoken about, about what you heard from someone else but you tell other what you heard, using the name you heard it from or it’s obvious who you heard it from it is still rechilus because word spreads and it will get back to the person, who was talking about him and be will not be too happy, as we saw in Shabbos 33b by the case of Yehuda ben Geirim who said what he said to his household and it somehow got to the Roman government so Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai turned him into a pile of bones because he should not have told his family anything. Also in Sanhedrin 29a it sounds like you can’t tell anyone the results of each judge after a verdict, not just the guilty party because the guilty party will find out who was on his side and who wasn’t and will have hatred in his heart for those against him. Now even if you tell people don’t repeat what I have said and they are trustworthy then it must mean What was said is not so good even if it has a pareve or possibly positive slant to it, why then would you tell them to keep it a secret therefore it is still lashon hara. All the more so you can’t tell the relatives of what someone said about their son, parents, or even aunts, cousins etc. Because it is the nature of family to feel anguish out of hearing such things and to hate the people who speak about their family which will cause fights. This is straight out rechilus. There is a source in Shir Hashirim Rabba 1:39 that a father never wants to hear anything negative about his children even if told not to repeat. The medrish actually talks about how Hashem does not want to hear lashon hara about His children. Also we find a Sifri in Re’eh (87) that says that even though a child won’t be a messenger to give physical punishment to his parents for any other sin but for the sin of convincing others to do idolatry, if one of his parents try convincing him, he is the first in line who will have to stone them and cannot cover up and have mercy on them even though it’s a natural feeling. All other relatives it’s just logical that you will want to defend them if you hear lashon hara about them. Even though if a burglar is breaking into your house to steal you can kill him before he tries to burglarize you because since you are protective of your money your instinct is to defend it and then the burglar will want to defend himself and kill you so you can kill him first, and this we, assume applies even if the burglar is a relative or even your son, the natural instinct of protecting your property is so strong still in all in general a person is quick to defend his relatives against others attacks. The one exception to the burglary rule is if the father is the burglar because the father has such mercy on his child that even if he is a burglar he would not kill his son to defend himself if his son would try to defend his property, therefore his son cannot kill him.
Halacha 4: If the purpose of telling others how Shimon spoke lashon hara about Reuvain is so that people will rebuke Shimon that was discussed earlier (part 1, chapter 10, halacha 4) how to deal with that issue.
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!