SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Hilchos Rechilus 6:8-10
In Hilchos Lashon Hara, the Chofetz Chaim discussed two situations where one would be inclined to think it would be permissible to accept lashon hara as fact. One is where lashon hara is uttered as a casual remark and therefore appears to be true. The Chofetz Chaim stated that this leniency cannot be relied upon, as the sin of lashon hara is a Torah prohibition. Therefore, it is only in the most extreme cases that we would permit someone to accept lashon hara as fact.
Another situation that might permit leniency is the case of “devarim hanikarim” (recognizable signs), where evidence proves that the lashon hara is true. As with lashon hara, devarim hanikarim would permit us to believe rechilus only if the following conditions are met:
• The evidence must be relevant evidence that the listener personally witnessed.
• Based on the evidence, the person’s actions cannot be explained in a positive light.
• The information is important to know l’to’eles, for an important constructive reason (such as, so that the listener will know to keep his distance from the person).
• The listener cannot rely on the information to attack the person physically, or to cause him a financial loss without taking him to beis din.
In today’s segment, the Chofetz Chaim bemoans a situation in which people sometimes take action which is clearly against halachah:
When a person suffers a financial loss in business because someone informed on him (to government authorities), and strong evidence points to a certain Jew as the guilty party, the victim responds by informing on the alleged culprit! For, as the saying goes, “If he informed on me, I can inform on him.”
The Chofetz Chaim explains why this response is terribly wrong: One cannot rely on devarim hanikarim to take action against another person. Only if one personally witnessed the culprit informing on him, or if two valid witnesses testified in beis din to this effect, would one be permitted to take action. Even then, it would be permitted only l’to’eles, for a constructive purpose, such as to prevent him from informing in the future. Certainly, it is forbidden to inform on someone out of revenge.
IN A NUTSHELL
We may not believe rechilus related as a casual remark.
We are permitted to believe rechilus that is accompanied by strong evidence only when certain conditions are met.
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