SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Hilchos Rechilus 5:3-4
In Hilchos Lashon Hara, we learned that a person is permitted to investigate if he suspects that someone may be trying to harm him, even if this will cause others to speak [what would normally be considered] lashon hara. The same applies if others will be forced to speak rechilus.
As with lashon hara, the person seeking the information is not permitted to believe the rechilus until it is confirmed as fact. Without conclusive proof, he has to assume that the report is probably false. However, he should protect himself on the chance that the report is true.
Because he is not allowed to believe the report, the person may only protect himself; he cannot take any action against the person. He may not cause him personal or financial harm, and he may not embarrass him or cause him any sort of discomfort.
He may not withhold any assistance that he would normally give him, and he may not feel any ill will towards him.
This may seem like a tall order. I cannot bear a grudge against someone who might have harmed me, or might be attempting to harm me? Why, I heard from a reliable source that this fellow is no good and is out to hurt me!
From the great among us we can learn that it is possible not to bear a grudge even against someone whom we know with certainty has caused us harm.
Rabbi Tzvi Genot of Jerusalem was a great tzaddik from whom we can learn this lesson. In his eulogy of R’ Tzvi, Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein related the following:
Someone committed a wrong against R’ Tzvi. How did the tzaddik respond? Every day for one month, he would write down two good things about that person. At the end of the month, he reviewed all sixty points he had written about the person. When he finished, he said to himself: “What am I, a fool? How can I bear a grudge against someone who has so many wonderful qualities?” And with that, R’ Tzvi forgave the man with all his heart.
Surely, if we make the effort, we can rid ourselves of any hard feelings towards someone whom we suspect of having wronged us.
Another reason why great people are able to refrain from bearing a grudge is that they have a deeper understanding of the greatness of every Jewish neshamah. The tzaddik sees in every Jew the indestructible spark of G-dliness that is waiting to be fanned into a huge flame.
Rabbi Sholom Noach Berezovsky, the late Rebbe of Slonim, once went to pray at the Kosel HaMaaravi on a day when the Kosel plaza was crowded. Someone asked the revered tzaddik if he would like someone to vacate a spot right by the Wall so that the Rebbe could stand before its stones without anyone in front of him.
The Rebbe smiled and replied, “Is there a problem with a Jew standing between me and the Kosel? Can a Jew be a chatzitzah (something that causes a separation)?”
A person with great ahavas Yisrael will find it easy not to bear a grudge.
IN A NUTSHELL
While we are permitted to protect ourselves against someone who may be seeking to harm us, we cannot believe the information about him without proof, and we cannot bear a grudge against him.
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