Secret Votes and Shady Deals

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Hilchos Rechilus 9:14-15

The Chofetz Chaim begins this segment with the following case:

Reuven was wronged in some way, and he does not know the culprit’s identity. He asks Shimon, “Who did this to me?” Though Shimon knows that Reuven suspects him, he is not allowed to reveal the cul­prit’s identity even if he witnessed the act. All he can respond is, “I didn’t do it.”

Of course, in a case where the five conditions of Day 107 have been met, Shimon would be permitted to reveal the person’s identity.

The Chofetz Chaim cautions: If the leaders of a community vote on a certain issue and someone in the community is upset with the outcome, it is forbidden for any of the leaders to tell him, “Don’t blame me — I voted against it, but majority rules.” This is rechilus, for it may allow the person to deduce who voted in favor, and he will feel anger towards them.

Such votes should be kept confidential.

The Chofetz Chaim then bemoans a tragic situation that should never happen:

A peddler brings merchandise to town and many are interested in purchasing his wares. One man picks out an item he wishes to buy and tells the peddler, “I don’t have any money with me. Please put this aside and don’t sell it to anyone. I’m going home to get money.” The peddler agrees to hold the merchandise for him.

The customer returns with his money later that day. The peddler tells him, “So-and-so came along and begged me to sell him that item. I didn’t want to, but he was so insistent; he threw the money on the counter, and practically forced me to sell it to him. I didn’t want to get into a fight with him so I gave in and let him buy it.”

Assuming the peddler’s account is true, he would still have been guilty of speaking rechilus. The sale was a valid sale and nothing is to be gained from telling the original customer the name of the person who wrongfully took the merchandise.

The Chofetz Chaim notes that in many such situations, the peddler is not telling the truth. He sold the item willingly for a better price, but rather than admit it, he places the blame upon the customer.

It would even be forbidden for the peddler to say, “I sold it to So-and­so, and it’s my fault. I knew he would give me more money, so I didn’t tell him that I already agreed to sell it to you.” The Chofetz Chaim says that even in this case, the original customer may feel ill will towards the man who bought what rightfully should have been his.

IN A NUTSHELL

Secrets ballots should remain secret.

When someone is upset over losing a purchase, do not tell him the purchaser’s name.

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