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The Laws of Rechilut


  1. Introducing a Derogatory Perspective to Information
  2. Repeating a Conversation
  3. Repentance for Speaking Rechilut

This chapter discusses Rechilut that reflects information already revealed to the listener, and also how to make amends for such speech.

  1. Introducing a Derogatory Perspective to Information

    The prohibition against speaking Rechilut applies even if the speaker does not inform the listener of anything new. Any communication that causes hatred between individuals is considered Rechilut. Therefore, to give the listener a newly resentful or otherwise negative perspective about something he already knows about would be forbidden.

    For example, Reuven lost a court settlement, and Shimon asked Reuven for details. Shimon then said the settlement didn't seem fair to Reuven, which made Reuven think about the settlement further and the judges who decided the case. Shimon spoke Rechilut because he caused Reuven to feel animosity toward the judges.

    [Rechilut might not even require anything new at all, but merely rekindling an old dispute, as the Chafetz Chaim points out.]

  2. Repeating a Conversation

    If someone told an audience of two people something derogatory about another, and one of the listeners repeated the conversation to the one spoken about (violating the prohibition against Rechilut), it would be forbidden for the second listener to do the same. Hearing the same information a second time generally strengthens one's belief in it, and increases the likelihood of causing a controversy.

    It would be an even greater violation of Rechilut for the second teller to spice up the story by adding details the first "neglected."

    Also, it would be forbidden to resolve a doubt. For example, A talked about B, to C and D. B approached D and asked, "Is it true that A deprecated me to you and C?" D would be forbidden from corroborating whatever C said, as that would be Rechilut.

  3. Repentance for Speaking Rechilut

    A bit of background:

    Often, commandments of Jewish Law are divided into two major classifications, Mitzvot Bein Adam L'Makom (commandments between man and G-d) and Mitzvot Bein Adam L'Chaveiro (commandments between man and fellow man). The first category reflects those commandments which only affect one's relationship with G-d, while the second category reflects those which impact another individual as well.

    Repentance for any sin requires three steps: (1) remorse for one's actions, (2) confession of one's sin privately to G-d (this is called "Viduy" and performed in a formal manner throughout the day of Yom Kippur), and (3) commitment not to repeat the sin in the future. These steps are required to appease G-d in response to our misdeeds.

    Repentance for Mitzvot Bein Adam L'Chaveiro has the additionally requires that the sinner appease the person he wronged, as well as reverse most damages where possible. For example, if someone stole property from another, he would be required to return it and might also pay him a fine; he would also have to apologize to the person he robbed, perhaps multiple times until that person forgives him.

    Interesting side note: In a case in which someone stole from public funds, since he cannot identify the specific individuals he robbed to repay them, he might have to provide some material benefit to society. Building a facility, or even carrying around a large supply of pen to give to "the public" whenever someone needed one, are possible examples. (I actually heard of something similar to carrying around pens.) Of course someone seeking repentance must seek the guidance of an halachic authority to determine an appropriate action.

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