SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Hilchos Rechilus 9:7-9
In this segment, the Chofetz Chaim stresses certain points relating to rechilus that seem quite obvious. Even if someone has robbed or cheated someone, it is permitted to relate this information to the victim only if the five conditions listed above have been fulfilled.
There is no difference whether the victim asks for a report of what happened, or if the witness volunteers the information on his own. When there is true to’eles (constructive purpose) it is permitted to relate the information even if the victim has not inquired about it. If there is no to’eles, then it is forbidden to relate it even if the victim is insistent that he be told the information.
When there is no to’eles, then it is forbidden to speak rechilus even to a third party to whom the information is not relevant, as explained above in Day 91.
One may wonder why the Chofetz Chaim found it necessary to mention points that either have already been mentioned or that seem rather obvious. One reason may be that it is all too common for people to feel confident they are not saying anything forbidden when, in fact, they have not fulfilled the five conditions of to’eles and therefore are committing a sin.
There may be another factor that compelled the Chofetz Chaim to state the obvious. It is told that an elderly Jew from Radin who knew the Chofetz Chaim once remarked, “What is the difference between the Chofetz Chaim and me? I believe in Olam Haba and the Chofetz Chaim believes in Olam Haba. To me, Olam Haba is a distant reality, while to the Chofetz Chaim, Olam Haba is as real as the room next door. He sees it before his eyes.”
We know that the effects of lashon hara and rechilus in Heaven are devastating, far worse than that of other sins. This is something we believe. To the Chofetz Chaim, it was “as real as the room next door.” He saw the destructiveness before his eyes, and in his love for his fellow Jews, he cautions us about that which we might not have understood on our own.
Rabbi Aryeh Levin, famed tzaddik of Jerusalem a generation ago, related the following:
When I was young boy growing up in Lithuania, our town was visited one day by the holy Chofetz Chaim. I was in the town shul when the Chofetz Chaim was escorted inside for the first time. He noticed that the sign at the chazzan’s amud with the verse “Shvisi L’Hashem l’negdi tamid” (I set Hashem before me always) was charred at the edges from the smoke of the candles that burned at the amud. The Chofetz Chaim asked why the sign was not protected by glass. Someone responded, “For a long time we’ve wanted to put glass there, but the stubborn shamas refuses to listen to us!”
“Lashon hara!” the Chofetz Chaim exclaimed — and he ran out of the shul as if from a fire.
To the Chofetz Chaim, the damage caused by lashon hara and rechilus was no less than that caused by a raging fire.
IN A NUTSHELL
When there is no to’eles, we may not speak rechilus to anyone, for any reason.
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