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!
Halacha 1: Rechilus is an issue whether spoken to an individual or in a group. Don’t make an excuse that if I am willing to say what someone else did or said about someone to a group and they will hear what happened so it like saying it in there face it is now permissible. It’s not permissible, or appreciated.
Halacha 2: Avak rechilus, where a statement could be taken in two ways, positive or negative is also forbidden to say in cases where it is taken negatively. Examples will be discussed in more detail in chapter 8. But certainly if you try giving it a negative slant it is forbidden, but even if you try giving a positive slant but you know the people you are talking to will take it negatively wither because the person talked about they have a previous history if no liking, or the listeners themselves knowingly have a predisposition of always thinking negatively so whatever they here they will just take it negatively then you can’t tell them even if you try to give a positive spin. It is in fact transgressing the sin of placing a stumbling block in front if the blind by telling avak lashon hara to such people who are called a nargan in Hebrew.
If the way the sentence was said was pareve, meaning no slant negative or positive and the people listening would not automatically judge negatively then it might be possible to say it definitely if it’s more possible for the listener to judge favorably like in the case of Bava Kamma 99b where a guy gave a butcher a cow and Rav poskined the meat is treif and the butcher doesn’t have to compensate the owner. Rav Kahana and Rav Elazar bumped into the owner and told him that Rav did two things for you. That was all they said, that could be negative or positive. The gemara questioned how they can say this if it’s negative and you can’t tell the litigant what the judges decided because it’s rechilus. Rather those word could be taken positively that, for one thing Rav stopped you from possibly eating something prohibitive. Since there line could be taken in a positive light and the owner had no reason to think otherwise, especially since Rav was known to be an honest and trusted sage that is why they were able to say what they said. However it might be only in a situation like this where there is more of a reason to judge favorably since Rav is a trusted sage but in general one has to be very careful when making pareve statements if they can be said at all, to avoid them being taken the wrong way. It also might be dependent on whether you are willing to say this statement of avak rechilus in front of the person you said say it or did. If you are not embarrassed to repeat what you heard or saw from him then you can say it if not you are forbidden to say it to anyone else.
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.
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 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 speaking rechilus.
Another clear-cut 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 rechilus.
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.