SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Hilchos Rechilus 6:1-2
Does anyone know why the air conditioning is off when it’s 90 degrees outside?” Gabi wanted to know.
“Yes,” replied Tzvi, in a loud voice that could be heard throughout the large company office. “The boss is trying to save money and doesn’t care if we all pass out from heat exhaustion or dehydration.”
From different parts of the office, grumbling could be heard. “The boss doesn’t care about us. He probably has a private air-conditioning unit for his own office. He doesn’t care if everyone else is sweltering, as long as he’s comfortable.”
“Sure he wants to save money. His daughter is engaged and he needs to throw one of those $100,000 affairs. I guess he’s gonna pay for it by cutting expenditures at the office.”
The next day, every employee found a note in his memo box. “To my dear devoted workers: My deepest apologies for what happened yesterday with the air conditioning. I want you to know that I discovered the problem on Sunday and paid a repair company double the usual fee to come in on the weekend to fix the problem. However, a part was needed that had to be shipped from out of state. The part first arrived last night and the repairs were made during the night.
“Once again, my humble apologizes.”
Tzvi’s outburst, which angered his co-workers and left them with bad feelings towards their boss, was rechilus. They should not have believed Tzvi’s words, despite the fact that he said them publicly for all [except his boss] to hear. The fact that someone makes a forbidden statement in public does not give anyone the right to believe it.
What if Tzvi was the company manager for the last forty years, was the boss’s first cousin, and therefore was certain that he would never get fired? This would allow the scenario to be played out differently …
Everyone was sweltering in the heat when the door to the boss’s private office opened and the “man himself” stepped out. “My, it’s hot out here,” he said, looking a bit embarrassed.
“What do you care?” Tzvi shot back. “As long as the air conditioner in your office is working, everything is fine. You treat your workers like slaves, and if one or two passes out from heat exhaustion, it’s no great loss. I told you a few days ago that something was wrong with the air conditioning and that you should call the service to come before it broke down in the midst of this heat wave. Well, you ignored my warning and look what happened!”
The boss quickly returned to his office and closed the door.
“He didn’t answer me,” said Tzvi, turning to his co-workers, “because everything I said is 100% true and he knows it.”
The next morning, there was note inside every memo box: “To my dear devoted workers: My deepest apologies for what happened yesterday with the air conditioning. It is true that Tzvi did bring the matter to my attention a few days ago. Tzvi is not aware that I did call the repair service as soon as he alerted me to the problem. The service informed me that with the onset of the heat wave, they were overloaded with repair requests and could not get to our facility until tomorrow at the earliest. I offered to pay twice the usual fee if they would come right away, but they said that money was not the issue, they simply did not have the manpower.
“I want you to know that I felt very guilty having my office air conditionerrunning while all of you were sweltering. I do not like publicizingmy personal situation, but trust me that my current state of healthmakes it dangerous for me to be exposed to heat for too long.
“Once again, my deepest apologies.”
The fact that Tzvi’s tirade was uttered in the boss’s presence and the boss did not respond did not give anyone the right to believe it. The boss was probably too embarrassed.
The Chofetz Chaim points out that we are not permitted to believerechilus even when the speaker is relating it for our benefit (so that wecan protect ourselves from future harm) and therefore, is not sinning by relating it (assuming that his report is accurate). We are permitted only to investigate the matter and take precautions on the chance that it might be true. In our example, Tzvi’s tirade was clearly forbidden by halachah; nothing was to be accomplished other than to get everyone angry at the boss. Tzvi did something sinful, and certainly his words should not be believed
IN A NUTSHELL
We are not permitted to believe rechilus, even when it is related in public or in the subject’s presence and he remains silent.
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