Hilchos Rechilus — Closing Illustrations (continued)
It is remarkable that the verse which begins “Do not go as a gossipmonger among your people” concludes with “Do not stand by as your brother’s blood is being shed.”
In its plain meaning, this second prohibition forbids us to stand by idly when we see that a Jew’s life is in danger.
Obviously if the Torah placed this prohibition in the very same verse as the primary prohibition against speaking lashon hara and rechilus, there must be some connection between them. Earlier in this sefer, the Chofetz Chaim explained that rechilus can “kill” three: the speaker, the listener, and the subject. The Torah is telling us: “Don’t cause your brother’s blood to be spilled by speaking evil of him.”
We know that a single verse of the Torah can be interpreted in a variety of ways. In today’s segment, the Chofetz Chaim sees a completely different connection between “Do not go as a gossipmonger among your people” and “Do not stand by as your brother’s blood is being shed.” The Torah is telling us that although speaking lashon hara is usually a terrible, destructive sin, there are times when one must speak lashon hara, in order to prevent someone from being harmed. In these situations, if one chooses to remain silent, he will have transgressed the sin of standing by idly while his fellow Jew’s blood is being spilled.
For example: A couple is engaged or on the verge of becoming engaged, and one knows that the chasan has a serious internal illness of which the kallah’s family is unaware; or, one knows firsthand that the chasan, who gives the appearance of being a G-d-fearing Jew, is actually an apikores (non-believer). In these cases, one is obligated to relate the information. If one chooses to remain silent so that the marriage takes place and the kallah’s life is ruined, then he is guilty of “Do not stand by as your brother’s blood is being shed.”
Of course, the same would apply if one knows such information about the kallah.
If someone is seeking a shidduch for his daughter and inquires about a certain young man’s level of learning, then those who are asked are required to respond honestly. However, if the family did not make any inquiries, one should not offer such information. If it was really important that their daughter marry a talmid chacham, the parents would have investigated the matter properly on their own.
The following actually happened:
A few teenage classmates were engaged in light conversation. One of them said, “You know, I heard that our rebbi’s sister has a heart condition.” Later, that sister was suggested as a possible shidduch for a brother of one of those boys. The boy told his parents, “I don’t think you should consider this suggestion. I heard she has a heart condition.” The parents accepted their son’s report as fact and called off the shidduch.
Later, it was discovered that this young woman did not have a heart condition. She had been congested one day, and was panting for breath. Someone assumed that her shortness of breath indicated a
heart problem and that person carelessly “spread the word.”
Yes, lashon hara can be very destructive, especially in sensitive matters such as shidduchim.
IN A NUTSHELL
There are times when one should offer negative information about a shidduch without being asked, and there are times when one should remain silent.
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