The Enraged Poritz

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Hilchos Rechilus 6:3-4

Dear Chatzkel: This is to inform you that our contract for your rental of the inn and its surrounding gardens is being terminated as of the end of this month. This means that by the last day of the month, you, your family and all your belongings are to be off my property.

I must say that I was shocked by the report I received this morning from Zanvil. He was kind enough to inform me that for the past six months, you have been running a liquor business on my property without informing me of this! Of course you didn’t inform me, because had I known, I would have demanded a percentage of the profits.

I am shocked that after we have known each other for so many years and I have treated you so well, you would go and do this behind my back. Don’t forget to drop off a check for any furniture that may have broken during your use of the inn.

signed with great anger, the Poritz

Chatzkel is fuming. “That Zanvil! He’s jealous that my inn has been doing so well while his business is failing. So he makes up a story about me!”

Chatzkel’s friends take up his cause. Soon, they confront Zanvil and berate him for his slandering Chatzkel. Zanvil remains silent with his head bowed, proof that the poritz wrote the truth when he reported that Zanvil had spoken against Chatzkel.

Wrong, says the Chofetz Chaim.

He points out that if Zanvil is innocent, he should say so. The Torah states: “And you shall be guiltless before Hashem and Yisrael.” If the poritz’s version of what happened is true, then Zanvil is a moser (informer), a most despicable, sinful individual. His silence does seem to indicate that he is guilty.

Nevertheless, we cannot be absolutely certain that he is guilty until we have proof. Zanvil may have chosen to remain silent because he feels that no one will believe his denial; or, that his denial will cause his accusers to say worse things about him. Therefore, even in such a case, we can only suspect that the poritz’s words might be true and take pre­cautions for the future. In the meantime, everyone is obligated to accord Zanvil every courtesy and service as if nothing had happened.

This would be true even if two or more people report (outside of beis din) that they witnessed Zanvil visiting the poritz in the middle of the night. It would be true even if the two inform Chatzkel that they overheard Zanvil telling the poritz about the secret liquor business. Chatzkel cannot believe this report as fact even if the entire community is in an uproar over the alleged dealings between the poritz and Zanvil.

This may seem an impossible challenge for Chatzkel. His source of livelihood is being taken from him. The poritz’s accusation against him is absolutely false. And the entire town seems to be pointing an accusing finger at Zanvil.

One thing is certain. Only Hashem can help Chatzkel to find a new source of income that will allow him to provide for his family. The best way for Chatzkel to earn the siyata diShmaya (Divine assistance) that he needs is by faithfully adhering to the laws of rechilus and not believing the terrible reports about a fellow Jew.

IN A NUTSHELL

We are never permitted to believe a rechilus report related by a gen­tile, even if the entire community is in an uproar and the subject of the report is silent.

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© 2020 Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation

© 2020 Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation

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