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Chapter 2: Speaking Rechilut to Groups

1. Speaking Rechilut to Groups is Forbidden
2. Avak Rechilut
3. Informing Someone of Public Knowledge Against Him
4. Informing Someone of What was Almost Done Against Him


1. Speaking Rechilut to Groups is Forbidden

It is forbidden to speak Rechilut in front of one person; how much more so in front of an audience of many people.

[In the footnotes, the Chafetz Chaim suggests that one might reason that Rechilut told to many people will certainly get back to the subject, so it is as if the Rechilut was spoken in front of the individual. Such reasoning is incorrect as Rechilut is still forbidden even when said in front of the subject.]


2. Avak Rechilut

Avak Rechilut (Rechilut-inducing speech, to be explained in detail in chapter 8) is also forbidden to speak in any case.

If the information one relates can be interpreted in two ways, if the speaker relates it such that his primary intention is to disparage the subject, such speech is certainly forbidden. Further, even if the speaker speaks in a way to indicate a different intention, not to insult the subject, even so if he knows the nature of the listener to be rather cantankerous (i.e. he constantly judges people unfavorably, and anything someone does or says he interprets as an action against him, as is described in Rabbeinu Yonah's Shaarei Teshuva), or if the listener already feels some ill will toward the subject and his sole purpose in listening would be to uncover something negative about the subject, relating it would be absolutely forbidden.


3. Informing Someone of Public Knowledge Against Him

Some people might say, that if someone spoke derogatory information against another in front of three listeners(1), then there is no prohibition of Rechilut to tell the one spoken about: "So-and-so spoke against you..." Since the information will ultimately be revealed, as "everyone has a friend," and one will tell another, and another - the next, until [the one spoken about] will know, and therefore the Torah did not forbid this as Rechilut. One must satisfy the conditions detailed in Hilchot Lashon Hara chapter 2 paragraphs 4 and on.

However, one should not rely on this opinion in practice, because the MaHaRShaL(2), in his commentary to the SMaG, wrote that many Rishonim(3) (such as Maimonides, the SMaG, and the Tosafot) object to this opinion and forbid [repeating information spoken in a group]under any circumstances, even to repeat it to a bystander if the repeater intends* to reveal the information - all the more so to repeat it to the subject himself(4).

* [Note by the Chafetz Chaim] If the speaker does not intend to reveal the information, we have discussed this previously in Hilchot Lashon Hara chapter 2, beginning with paragraph 3.

[Editor's notes:

(1) The idea of speaking publicly known information ("b'apei tlata" - in front of three) is discussed in greater detail in Hilchot Lashon Hara chapter 2.

(2) Initials are sometimes used to refer to an historical authority or commentator - Maran HaRav Shlomo Luria - Our teacher, Rabbi Shlomo Luria Sefer Mitzvot Gadol - writer of the Big Book of Commandments (there is another compendium of Torah commandments known as the Small Book of Commandments)

(3) Rishonim are the authorities of Jewish tradition who lived between 1000-1500 BCE. The Tosafot are the various Rabbinic figures who wrote commentary on the Talmud which complements that of Rashi.

(4) Telling a bystander would be Lashon Hara, while telling the actual subject what was said about him would be Rechilut. Because Rechilut is that which incites ill will between two people (in this case the original speaker and the one spoken about), it is a more severe prohibition.]


4. Informing Someone of What was Almost Done Against Him

Based on this [paragraph 3, that one shouldn't speak Rechilut even if the information is public knowledge], if one partner wants to separate from his involvement with the other, because he thought others would join with him, and in the end it didn't happen (and similarly in the case of a marital arrangement) - it is forbidden to inform the other partner. [Relating the partner's failed attempt to form a different partnership is forbidden] even though the matter has already been discussed in front of three people or even more, as we discussed in paragraph 3.

[The almost-eliminated partner] would certainly hold a grudge against his associate, because the associate wanted to disband the relationship. Such was the case with Yiftach (Judges 11:7): "Why do you come to me now, when you are severely oppressed?"(1) Informing [of the breakup-that-didn't-happen] could break up the partnership, or [the resentful partner] might cause his associate difficulties because of it. The Rambam (Maimonides) writes, "One who tells his friend things that cause ... [his friend] damage to his person or financial situation, or cause him anguish or frighten him, is guilty of speaking Lashon Hara."(2)

[Editor's notes:

(1)Yiftach was a previously banished warrior, approached to save the nation only after they had exhausted other possibilities. In the quote Yiftach points out that he is being selected as a secondary choice, and commentators note that his later actions as a leader indicate a rift between Yiftach and the Jewish people, very possibly due to resentment.

(2) Or in our case, Rechilut.]

HaLashon, Copyright (c) 1996,2003 by Ellen Solomon and Project Genesis, Inc.

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