SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Hilchos Rechilus 9:1-2
In this, the concluding chapter of Sefer Chofetz Chaim, we will learn when halachah permits us to speak rechilus l’to’eles, for a constructive purpose.
Consider the following example:
The Steins are considering building an extension onto the back of their house. They have met with Yosef Kregler of Kregler Construction, and are on the verge of signing a contract with him. Mr. Stein’s good friend Henoch Willenstein is dismayed. He had a terrible experience with Mr. Kregler when he made extensive renovations on his new home. When the job was eighty-percent done, Mr. Kregler requested that the balance be paid in full. Mr. Willenstein complied, and after receiving his money, Mr. Kregler vanished for six months. When he finally reappeared, he offered no explanation, other than to say, “I couldn’t get to this job until now, but now I’ll finish it fast.” It took another two months until he finished the week’s work that remained.
The Chofetz Chaim lists five conditions that need to be fulfilled for Mr. Willenstein to be allowed to share this information with his friend, Mr. Stein.
1. He must be certain that Mr. Kregler actually was at fault. If, for example, Kregler had taken ill and this was why the work dragged on for an additional two months, it would be wrong to mention this at all.
2. He must not exaggerate.
3. His intention must be to protect Mr. Stein from harm, not to “get even” with Mr. Kregler.
4. If there is a way to protect Mr. Stein without speaking badly of Mr. Kregler, then he must take that course of action. For example, he might recommend another contractor with a sterling reputation and make no mention of Mr. Kregler.
5. He must be certain that the only result will be that Mr. Stein will not hire Mr. Kregler for the job. In other words, Mr. Kregler will not suffer any loss other than this particular job which he had been hoping to get. However, if Mr. Stein is known to have a temper and will publicly humiliate Mr. Kregler the next time they meet, then Mr. Willenstein should not provide any information.
Now, let us consider the following scenario:
Mr. Willenstein decides that his opinion of Mr. Kregler is absolutely correct and he must warn Mr. Stein. However, Mr. Stein’s reaction is, “I refuse to believe such rechilus. I have known Mr. Kregler for twenty years. I can’t believe that he wouldn’t honor his commitment. Most probably you did something to really get him upset and that’s why he was slow in finishing the job.”
Mr. Kregler was hired, and sure enough, after collecting the balance of payment, he disappeared for six weeks without completing the job. Mr. Stein finally contacted him, lost his temper, and said, “I see that Willenstein was right when he said that you would vanish once you got your money. I never should have trusted you!”
If Mr. Willenstein knows that it is unlikely that Mr. Stein will take his warning seriously, with the result being that Mr. Stein will later speak rechilus, then he should not warn him.
IN A NUTSHELL
Rechilus may be spoken l’to’eles only if all necessary conditions are met.
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