SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Hilchos Rechilus 5:6-7
The “Thursday Night Clan” made their way to the school auditorium for their weekly get-together. Each week, they would sit and watch a famous talmid chacham deliver a shiur on the weekly para-shah that was beamed live via satellite. Tonight, they had convinced a few friends to join them for what was sure to be another informative, fascinating evening.
To everyone’s shock and dismay, the auditorium was locked. Someone went to find Greg, the school custodian. “Greg, could you please open the auditorium? The weekly program is going to start in only five minutes!”
“Sorry, young fella, I’m not opening it. Rabbi Berman said he don’t want you guys using the auditorium no more. And what Rabbi Berman says goes! Good night!”
The boys were furious. “Why does it bother RabbiBerman if we watch the shiur?” one of the newcomers asked.
“Who knows?” a regular to the shiur replied. “Maybe he doesn’t like the speaker, or maybe he just wants to save money on electricity.”
The Chofetz Chaim has already informed us that often, when a person speaks or accepts lashon hara, he transgresses the mitzvah of “Judge your fellow favorably, “which requires us to give others
the benefit of the doubt. In today’s segment, we learn that this applies to the sin of believing rechilus as well. Often, people believe rechilus and feel bitterness towards the one who allegedly has caused them harm, because they fail to judge the person favorably.
In our example, the students cannot think of any valid reason why the principal would deprive them of an activity that was educational and informative.
Perhaps they overlooked something.
The previous week, one of the group decided to celebrate his birthday at the Thursday night get-together. He came with a large pot of cholent, assorted cakes, and soda. The boys ate the food as they sat enjoying the shiur. When the shiur ended, they left behind dirty bowls and cups, and a couple of benches in need of cleaning.
This was the second time this had happened.
Rabbi Berman was not planning to cancel the shiur permanently. He wanted the boys to apologize and to assure him that this would not happen again. If they would have approached him to ask why the auditorium was closed, he would have been happy to explain this to them.
Had the boys thought of their obligation to judge others favorably, they would have said to one another, “If Rabbi Berman locked the auditorium, he must have had a good reason. Let’s try to think what we could have done wrong.”
It probably would not have taken them long to figure it out.
And what if someone has already believed rechilus and now has thoughts of teshuvah?
Says the Chofetz Chaim:
He can correct his sin by strengthening himself to purge the information from his heart so that he no longer believes it. If he finds it difficult to believe that the speaker fabricated the information, then he should tell himself that perhaps the speaker added or deleted a detail, or omitted a few words [that would have put a positive spin on things]; or perhaps he should have repeated the perpetrator’s statement in a different tone which would have changed it from negative to positive.
The listener should accept upon himself to refrain from accepting lashon hara or rechilus about any Jew and he should confess his sin before Hashem. All of the above will serve to correct his sin — provided that he did not repeat the information to anyone else.
IN A NUTSHELL
Not giving others the benefit of the doubt is a prime cause of speaking or accepting rechilus.
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