The Chofetz Chaim continues his discussion of the prohibition against accepting rechilus as fact. In this segment, he describes a very common scenario in the business world: a case of a buyer who is seeking the lowest possible price for an item.
The story begins with a gentile who negotiates a price with a Jewish wine merchant for several barrels of wine. They conclude on a price and the gentile brings his own empty barrels to be filled by the Jew the next day. That evening, the gentile goes to another Jewish merchant and, without telling him that he had already concluded the deal with the first merchant, prices this particular product. The second merchant is a bit more anxious than the first for some business, so he offers the wine at a slightly lower price. The gentile returns to the first merchant and cancels his order.
The merchant is astounded. “But we had a deal and you even have your barrels sitting here in my house! How can you break the agreement?” The gentile, not wanting to look bad, says, ”I’ll tell you the truth. I met your competitor on the street and he asked me, ‘Why don’t you buy from me? My wine is much better than that fellow’s merchandise and besides, my prices are cheaper!’”
This is all the first merchant needs to hear. “How could he have done such a thing?” he wonders about the other merchant. “He literally took the bread out of my mouth!” Having accepted the gentile’s word as fact, the first merchant harbors great hatred towards his competitor and feels fully justified in launching an all-out-war against him. He tells himself — and his friends — that his competitor is a wicked soul and that it is a mitzvah to speak against him and run him out of business.
Meanwhile, the second merchant responds in kind and a full-scale war erupts. And how did it all begin? By accepting one report of rechilus.
The Chofetz Chaim reflects: Had the first merchant told himself the truth, that the second merchant had no idea that he had already concluded a deal with the gentile, the story could have ended so beautifully. The first merchant would fulfill the positive commandment to grant a fellow Jew the benefit of the doubt. He would avoid transgressing several negative commandments, including accepting rechilus, harboring hatred towards a fellow Jew and seeking revenge. When the second merchant would be told of what the gentile did and of his competitor’s reaction, he would tell himself that in the future he would be careful to check that the buyer has not already concluded a deal with someone else. The result of all this would be: No loshon hora, no price wars, no hatred.
The Chofetz Chaim declares that this path would bring the two merchants blessing and joy both in this world and the World to Come. He cites the verse: “Who is the man who wants life, who loves days, to see good? Guard your tongue from evil…” (Tehillim 34:13-14). The Chofetz Chaim comments: “Who is the man who wants life”— in the World to Come; “who loves days”— in this world.
By contrast, the sin of one who accepts rechilus is even greater than that of the one who speaks it.