Informers

In this segment, the Chofetz Chaim introduces us to a particularly deadly strain of gossip, a brand of loshon hora which is instinctively abhorrent to the average Jew. We are referring to the words of a malshin, a Jew who informs on another Jew to government authorities. While such a scenario is very rare, nevertheless, it too is covered by halachah and the Chofetz Chaim saw fit to include it in his sefer. To better understand the issue at hand, we offer a modern-day example.

A certain businessman decides to get rid of his competition the old-fashioned way — he informs on him to the IRS, the Board of Health or some other governmental body. His competitor is now in serious trouble and faces heavy fines which will consume his capital and possibly cause his business to collapse.

The victim has many problems to face. Uppermost in his mind, however, is one question: “Which one of my competitors did this to me?” He investigates a bit and discovers what, to his mind, is strong evidence pointing to one man’s guilt. He decides to give the man a “taste of his own medicine” and informs on him to the authorities.

The Chofetz Chaim explains the seriousness of his error:

“In truth, this is a complete mistake for a number of reasons:

“To inform on the other person would only be permissible if it could accomplish something constructive for the future, so that the perpetrator would not inform on him again — and would be allowed only if there was no other way to accomplish this. However, if his intention in informing on him is revenge, it is absolutely forbidden (as explained in Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 388:9).

“Furthermore, to inform on the person (for a constructive purpose) would be allowed if he knows firsthand that this man is the guilty one — for example, he was actually present when the man spoke to the authorities about him. However, circumstantial evidence — even strong evidence — would not permit this. Certainly he could not inform on the alleged informer based on reports which he received from others, for he cannot even believe the reports in his heart, unless they were offered as testimony in beis din (rabbinical court)… One cannot rely on such reports to cause the person even the slightest loss …”

Even in the most difficult situations, the laws of the Torah must be upheld. Those who withstand the test and refrain from accepting rechilus in difficult circumstances will merit reward to which no earthly pleasure can compare.

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© 2020 Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation

© 2020 Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation

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