CHOFETZ CHAIM — Hilchos Rechilus 5:1-2
Doeg HeAdomi is one of the most tragic figures in all of Tanach. He was a great Torah scholar but a jealous person, and this proved to be his undoing. In particular, Doeg was jealous of Dovid, even before Dovid had ascended the throne as King of the Jewish people.
Doeg convinced Shaul HaMelech that Achimelech, the Kohen Gadol, was aiding Dovid against the king. Shaul accepted Doeg’s slander as fact and ordered the murder of Achimelech and the other kohanim of Nov.
Shaul sinned in accepting the rechilus spoken by Doeg. Our Sages tell us that because of this tragic episode, Shaul later died in war and Doeg lost his share in the World to Come. This illustrates the Sages’ teaching: “Lashon hara kills three: the speaker, the one who accepts the report, and the one of whom it was spoken.”
As with lashon hara, there are times when it is permissible to listen to rechilus for a constructive purpose. However, one is not permitted to accept the report as fact. Instead, he should investigate the matter, and in the meantime take whatever steps are necessary to protect himself in case the report is true.
At Yeshivah Anshei Chesed, fifth-grader Ari was given detention for throwing an eraser out the window. A week later, Ari’s mother met a friend whose son, Asher, was in the same class.
“Asher told me that your son was punished for throwing an eraser out the window. He also told me that two other boys did the same thing before your son did it, but nothing happened to them. Maybe the principal didn’t catch them.”
That night, Ari’s mother wrote a letter to the principal, repeating what she had heard and concluding that obviously, her son had been unjustly disciplined since he was merely copying others. To herself she said, “I think the principal just has it in for my son.”
The next morning, the principal called Asher into the office. “I hear that two boys threw the eraser out the window before Ari?”
“Uh, that’s what Efraim told me. I wasn’t there when it happened.”
Minutes later, the principal was questioning Efraim about the incident.
Efraim, looking a bit uncomfortable, explained. “Actually, they didn’t throw the eraser out the window. They were having a catch with the eraser in the classroom, then Ari grabbed it and threw it out the window.”
Before we get angry over something that we have been told, we should first make sure that the information is correct. In our example, before repeating her son’s words to Ari’s mother, Asher’s mother should have asked him, “How do you know they threw the eraser out the window? Did you see it?” Her next step could have been to ask Asher to double-check with Ephraim that the story was accurate.
Ari’s mother also should have realized that information related by children (as well as adults) is not always accurate. Therefore, she was wrong to believe the report as soon as she received it.
IN A NUTSHELL
We are permitted to listen to rechilus l’to’eles without believing it as fact. We must check that the facts are correct before drawing conclusions.
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