The End Result

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Hilchos Rechilus 9:5-6

In Day 107, we discussed the case of Mr. Stein who was on the verge of hiring Kregler Construction to build an extension onto his home. Mr. Willenstein was permitted to warn Mr. Stein of Mr. Kregler’s dishonest business practices, provided that he fulfilled the five conditions of rechilus l’to’eles.

What if the contract has already been signed and work has already begun? Can Mr. Willenstein now inform Mr. Stein that Mr. Kregler is going to ask him for the balance of the money and then disappear for months without finishing the job? On the surface, it would seem so. Why not warn someone that he is dealing with a dishonest person so that he can take the necessary steps to protect himself?

Once again, the Chofetz Chaim advises us to proceed cautiously. Mr. Stein might react to the news by saying, “Thank you for warning me. If Mr. Kregler does ask me for the balance before he finishes the job, then I am going to have witnesses there when I make the payment and have him sign a document that the work will be completed within ten days from when the payment was made.” This would be an excellent strategy, and Mr. Willenstein would have done a mitzvah by forewarning Mr. Stein.

However, Mr. Stein’s reaction might be altogether different. “Thanks for the tip. As soon as Kregler asks me for the balance, I’ll fire him and find someone else to finish the job. No one’s gonna play games with me!”

This would be contrary to halachah. If a contract has already been signed for the entire job, neither party would have a right to break the contract without going before a beis din and presenting his arguments to them. Beis din would hear the claims of both parties and then determine who is right.

If Mr. Willenstein knows that Mr. Stein may act against halachah and break the contract without going to beis din, then he should not inform him of Mr. Kregler’s past history.

The Chofetz Chaim makes a very interesting point. Even if two valid witnesses know of Mr. Kregler’s dishonesty and know that beis din would allow Mr. Stein to break the contract, they would not be allowed to inform Mr. Stein if they know that he will break the contract without going to beis din. Since breaking the contract without beis din’s authorization is a sin, to inform Mr. Stein would be to aid a sinner.

There is a well-known story of a famous talmid chacham, whom we will call “R’ Dovid,” who became involved in a disagreement over money. The two sides agreed to go to a beis din to resolve the matter. Upon hearing the arguments of both sides, the av beis din arose, went to a bookcase, and withdrew a sefer written by none other than R’ Dovid. He turned to a certain page and showed R’ Dovid that in an identical case, R’ Dovid had ruled that the argument he himself had just put forth was incorrect!

R’ Dovid was honest and G-d-fearing. The problem is that when someone is personally involved in something, it is virtually impossible for him to see matters clearly; his reasoning will automatically bend in his own favor.

No one who signs a contract should ever break it without speaking to a rav or going to a beis din. Even if the person considers himself a talmid chacham, he should realize that his reasoning may be influenced by his personal interests. When it comes to money matters, there is simply too much room for error.

IN A NUTSHELL

One should not relate rechilus l’to’eles to someone who will act contrary to halachah and not take his case to beis din.

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© 2020 Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation

© 2020 Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation

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