CITE Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos rechilus chapter 2 halachos 1, 2.

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.

CITE Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos rechilus chapter 1 halachos 9-11

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.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos rechilus chapter 1 halacha 8

 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.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim Hilchis Rechilus chapter 1 halachos 4, 5

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.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim hilchos Rechilus, chapter 1, halacha 3

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.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim Hilchos Rechilus chapter 1 halachos 1, 2

Even though many halachos that apply to lashon hara will be repeated in Hilchos Rechilus but it’s worth it to repeat and not have you figure it out by yourself to ensure no mistakes. Essentially rechilus is tattletaling. It is a severe sin which is the main sin of “Don’t be a tale bearer amongst your people” (Vayikra 19:16). It causes much murder amongst the Jews as we see by the case of Does HaAdomi and that is why the pasuk right after this one is “You should not stand over the blood of your friend.” Because of Doeg HaAdomi a whole city of Kobanim, Nov, was wiped out. Doeg HaAdomi told King Shaul that Achimelech gave David bread and Goliath’s sword. This normally would not have been a big deal and if Shaul would have asked Achimelech if he gave David the sword when David was found with it he would have admitted to it since Achimelech thought he was doing King Shaul a favor by giving his son-in-law, who was respected in his household bread to eat and the sword of the enemy he defeated. However, Doeg knew that Shaul had insane jealousy for David and when he told King Shaul the news he knew Shaul would get upset and he murdered a whole city who was helping David. That is the power of rechilus.

 Besides this sin you are able to transgress other sins as discussed in the beginning of the sefer just like by lashon hara. What exactly constitutes rechilus? It’s peddling words from one person to another. For example, as the Sma”g (lav 9) states, If one tells you something in private about someone and then you go over to that guy and say, so and so was just talking about you and this is what he said about you (and said negatively) that is the classic example of rechilus, as the Shaarei Teshuva says (222). Also, if Reuvain says to Shimon, this is what Levi did to you, or I heard this is what Levi did to you or wants to do to you. All this constitutes rechilus assuming there is no positive purpose of telling what happened, which will be discussed in chapter 9.

What makes rechilus so bad is that if Shimon would have confronted Levi by himself then Levi might not have denied any allegations, or if Levi did nothing wrong and the truth is with him, or the intent is not what was originally thought then nothing bad could have come out. But now that Reuvain tells over the story to Shimon of what Levi said or did then he might put a negative spin on the issue and an argument will ensue or wrong implications will be concluded that will lead to fights and potential murder That is why rechilus is so bad.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 10 halachos 14, 15

 B’ezras Hashem next week I hope to finish the first part of Sefer Chofetz Chaim, the laws of lashon hara, and the week after starting the laws of rechilus.

Now that there is a permissibility to speak out in order to help the victims or for the sake of the truth to keep people away from doing this sin we have to. be super careful to meet the 7 rules stated in the beginning of the chapter which we’ll review now, but as an introduction you must first make sure the perpetrator didn’t do Teshuva and fix the problem then to speak out you have to meet the 7 prerequisites.

1. You had to have seen the incident yourself and not know of it from secondhand information because we know someone was damaged, but do you really know who did the damage.

 2. You have to do investigation to make sure the perpetrator had no justification for what he did, whether it’s stealing, hurting, or embarrassing someone etc. And the investigation must be through the lenses of halacha to see if he is really guilty or not. This is the hardest rule to get around because people very easily make justification that they know what they saw and understand what happened and know they are right, so it’s very easy to fall into the trap of lashon hara and tell others what happened for the sake of help, but they might have overlooked something.

3. If you think you can confront the perpetrator and resolve the issues you must do that before telling anyone. The Rambam and other Rishonim say this is the classical and simple application of the verse in the Torah of “You shall rebuke someone of your nation” (Vayikra 19:17).

4. Be very sure that the entire story you are telling is the truth without any trace of lie. One exaggeration whether adding something or leaving a fact onto matter how small might change the outlook of the listeners. Even if he is for sure guilty but he might not be as bad as your exaggeration implies so it’s a big sin of lashon hara to add or even subtract a detail that might change the impression people will have about the perpetrator.

5. Your purpose in sharing the information must be a positive one which is really the basis for this entire permissibility of speaking out. An added valid excuse to talk to someone is if one as to vent and get something off his chest if he has worries or anxiety in his or her heart, as Chaza”l say in Yoma 75a that if one has worries in his hear he should speak it out with others.

 6. If you can resolve the problem in some other way without telling anyone what happened then it’s forbidden to speak out. Even if you can resolve the issue with minimal guilt by not making the perpetrator look as bad as he really is then it’s a mitzvah to minimize the issue as long as the issue is fully resolved and won’t happen again. It’s a mitzvah, a nice thing to minimize guilt an example of this is in Choshen Mishpat 421:13 but it’s not an obligation because there is nowhere in Shas which clearly says minimizing guilt is the same as hiding it totally in regard to lashon hara.

7. You have to make sure that by speaking out to resolve the issue the perpetrator would not be punished more than what he would deserve if taken to court. However, if the perpetrator is very stubborn and he wouldn’t listen to Jewish courts then only with the consent and with the advice of Jewish courts one is allowed to take him to a non-Jewish court to fix the issue, see Choshen Mishpat 26:2.

The Chofetz Chaim warns that we see from all this that one is in great peril when he is faced with the position that he has to speak out because it’s very easy to mess up and speak lashon hara especially in terms of making sure you are correct about what you saw, and you don’t exaggerate one iota. This is what the pasuk in Mishlei 18:21 means that “Death and life is in the hands of the tongue.” One must think through and review in his head what he is going to say and how he is going to say it to be sure he meets all the rules because on the spur of the moment it is very easy to speak out angrily in this highly tenuous situation and slip up without thinking and be sure that you are only speaking out for the betterment of good and that’s all.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim Chapter 10, Halacha 13 footnote 3

The Torah allows someone to share a complete story in detail, even outside of court, if the listener can help you get back what you lost or protect you from future harm, even if it makes the alleged perpetrator look quite bad. This applies to helping yourself or helping others. For example, if you heard someone say, “If I meat Reuvain at the game I am going to start cursing and ranking him out.” If you know this guy is the type of guy who doesn’t just say baseless threats but takes action, you definitely can warn Reuvain if it can protect him from any embarrassment or harm. This is not considered rechilus, telling on others because your intent is just to remove any damage and to hush the fight, so to by lashon hara if the purpose is to protect yourself and other, not to denigrate the perpetrator then it is not lashon hara.

The Gemara in Kiddushin 59a is a perfect proof to this concept. There is a case of miscommunication. Rebbe Gidel was trying to buy a land and Rebbe Abba bought it right under his nose. Rebbe Gidel went to Rebbe Zeira to complain and told him what happened. Rebbe Zeira says he’ll go to Rav Yitzchak Nafcha and tell him. Rav Yitzchak Nafcha waited until the holidays and went over to Rebbe Abba and asked him, “What is the status of a person who grabbed a date cake off the floor while a poor person was running after to get it?” Rebbe Abba said, “That guy is a bad guy.” Rav Yitzchak Nafcha said, “Then why did you essentially do the same thing to Rebbe Gidel?” Rebbe Abba said he didn’t know Rebbe Gidel was trying to buy it.

This case is obviously not a case where Rebbe Gidel went to court ad complained to Rebbe Zeira, acting as a judge, because the halacha is both litigants have to be at the court case to present the case in trial and Rebbr Abba wasn’t there. So why isn’t it lashon hara what Rebbe Gidel told Rebbe Zeira, especially as we see that he got the story all wrong, and how then can Rebbe Zeira go over to Rav Yitzchak Nafcha, who parenthetically was Rebbe Abba’s rebbe, and tell him secondhand knowledge of what happened? It must be that it is not lashon hara to seek out help from someone. Why didn’t Rebbe Zeira just go over to Rebbe Abba himself, Rebbe eira was a great rabbi and surely Rebbe Abba would have listened to him? It must be that Rebbe Zeira knew he was to far away from Rebbe Abba and would see him, so he told Rebbe Abba’s teacher and he dealt with the matter. So even secondhand information can be told for the sake of helping others.

CITE Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 10 halachos 12, 13

Halacha 12: If it’s not so easy to talk about someone who proactively did something against you, then all the more so to tell people how other didn’t do you a favor, like not lending money, or giving tzedaka, or not inviting you into their house as a guest, or even just not being friendly and going over to you with a smile saying hello. In all these cases and the like you cannot repeat them to other people especially if you are condemning an entire community who might be good kosher Jews who believe in Hashem. For example, to say people in New York are cold and not friendly, they are always in a rush and never say hello to strangers even if I am a guest in shul, that would be lashon hara even if it is true. (This example of New York is not to hint at anything specific. I just chose a location with a high concentration of Torah observant Jews all living in the same area.) However, the one exception would be that if you tell people of authority who will be listened to and they are able to speak out in the town and reprimand or inspire them to be nicer then you can tell them because it’s for a positive purpose, assuming your attitude is to try to help and create a positive outcome and you meet all 7 prerequisites. For example, if a person drove through a town with a Young Israel shul and no one went over to him to say hello. If he tells people in the next town what happened would be lashon hara but if he would go to the Young Israel headquarters and tell them and they have the clout to go over to this shul and speak to them to reprimand or inspire them to change their ways, that would be productive and permissible. (The Young Israel example is only given because it’s an easy example to make of an umbrella organization with many Shuls under its name, I was not trying to send any message across.)

Halacha 13: Now, one is absolutely and totally permitted in monetary cases to tell the authorities or people of influence like relatives of the perpetrator or anyone that can help him get his money whether stolen, damaged, or a bad business deal. He can even tell them of a threat so that they can help him avoid losing money or being hurt, as well as if they can help avoid future problems. A person has every right to protect himself and his money and get it back or compensated if owed to him or her. It is not lashon hara to tell the truth to people who can help you. Even in a nonmonetary situation for example to avoid being embarrassed or cursed at you can tell people, even his own family what happened and why you suspect this guy will go after you and scream at you, if you have a convincing story and they can help you avoid being yelled at and embarrassed then you are allowed to tell them the story so that they can convince the person not to confront you or wrongly speak out against you. This is whether to avoid an anticipated argument or to stop an ensuing argument or any embarrassment you think could be caused to yourself in the future. You can go over to them privately and not in a group of at least 3 because Rabbeinu Yona in Shaarei Teshuva (228) only says you need 3 for the sake of the truth to teach others lessons not to do bad things, if otherwise speaking out in public could be misconstrued as flattery or not convincing of being truthful, but in this case your story of a plea for help, even asked in private should be pretty convincing.

Sefer Chofetz Chaim chapter 10 halacha 11 conclusion of footnote 31

Without going into too many details of each of the gemara’s the Chofetz Chofetz Chaim brought in his Be’er Mayim Chaim, there are a number of lessons that can be derived from these cases where at first glance it seems Rabbanim complained to others that they were personally insulted

  1.  It is very important for the listener to ask “how did this all start” to get a picture of what’s going on and it’s possible that the entire story could change. This is even if the gadol hador, the leader of the generation who is for sure honest is the one complaining, aw we saw with the stories of Rav Anan, in Keubos, who was a rabbi from the time of the gemara who Eliyahu Hanavi even spoke to.
  2. Various reasons why these cases from various gemaras were not considered lashon hara ranged from the fact that in one case (Kesubos 69a) Rav Anan was just asking advice, from Mar Ukva what could he have done wrong to be insulted in that way by Rav Huna.

Another time (Kesubos 79a) Rav Anan intent was for the sake of the truth to go to Mar Ukva the head of the court to stop Rav Nachman from mistakenly ripping up documents that Rav Anan thought were in fact valid and the point was for Mar Ukva to investigate deeper into the matter. If it’s possible to potentially make peace and judge favorably then it’s a mitzvah to listen to complaints in order to potentially resolve an issue.

Another reason to complain is if you know he won’t listen to your rebuke but he will listen to someone else’s rebuke as we saw (Kiddushin33a) Rebbe Shimon bar Rebbe complain to his father Rebbe how Rebbe Chiya didn’t treat him with proper respect as kavod haTorah would dictate and he knew Rebbe Chiya wouldn’t listen to him, so he asked his father, Rebbe Yehuda HaNasi, the leader of the generation to rebuke Rebbe Chiya.

It’s also possible in certain circumstances to believe honest rabbis since they are like witnesses and then rebuke the perpetrator as we saw in Bechoros 30a.

 3. Bottom line we have no proof that you are allowed to tell others of someone who accosted you personally in whatever way if it won’t amount to anything productive, but we have proofs that it is forbidden. The clearest example in conclusion was from Gitten 7a where Mar Ukva, the head if the court approached Rebbe Eliezer for advice of what to do about certain people who were threatening him and he had the power to turn them over to the non-Jewish authorities but he didn’t tell Rebbe Eliezer their names because he didn’t need to know them because Mar Ukva knew he could take care of the problem himself once he got the advice what to do. So, in this circumstance where re his life might have been in danger, he still didn’t spill any names then one must be very careful to not say anything wrong in these types of circumstances.