Compelling Situations

We have been discussing the issue of accepting rechilus, a report that somebody said something negative about you or did something harmful to you. In this segment, the Chofetz Chaim deals with cases where circumstances seem to indicate that the report is true.

Sitting among a crowd at a bar mitzvah, David says, in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, that Reuven did something which was damaging to Shimon. One might assume that since this announcement was made in public, it is probably true. Can Shimon believe David? No. Shimon has to discern if there is anything constructive to be gained from absorbing this information. If it will help him to prevent further harm, he is allowed to suspect that the information is true and he can investigate further. If the information has no relevance for the future, he should assume that it is not true.

The Chofetz Chaim then offers another case which has already been mentioned and bears repetition. You are talking to Reuven in the presence of Shimon and Reuven tells you that Shimon spoke negatively of you. Now, you know that Shimon is the type of person who is very confrontational; if someone accuses him of something of which he is innocent, he vocally defends himself. Today, on the other hand, as he hears Reuven tell you that he said something derogatory about you, he remains uncharacteristically quiet. What better proof can there be that Reuven’s report is true? The Chofetz Chaim tells us that even in this extreme case, you must dismiss Reuven’s report as false (assuming that there is no constructive purpose in according it your attention).

In previous segments, the Chofetz Chaim has offered us several possible reasons for rejecting such a report. Here, he reminds us of the most compelling one.

“Even if the report is true, Reuven is still a rasha (wicked person) for reporting it. As we have already learned, the average Jew has a chezkas kashrus; that is, he is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.”

The Chofetz Chaim then challenges us:

“Are you going to rely upon a rasha’s report to remove a fellow Jew from his chezkas kashrus and assume that he transgressed the sin of loshon hora and other related sins? Surely the speaker [Reuven], who is suspect regarding the sins of rechilus and loshon hora, is also suspect regarding lying — adding to the real story or turning the entire story around.”

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© 2020 Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation

© 2020 Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation

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