While Lashon Hara causes damage to the subject (in reputation,
finances, emotional anguish or other), Rechilut causes hatred
toward the subject, or between the listener and the subject.
Hilchot Rechilut: Chapter 7
- Identity of the participants - Speaker, Listener, Subject
- Learnedness of the subject of rechilut
- Telling relatives of a victim that he was victimized
- No distinctions between listeners/victims
- Regarding the prohibition of accepting rechilut
The Prohibition of Speaking Rechilut
1. IDENTITY OF THE PARTICIPANTS - SPEAKER, LISTENER, SUBJECT
Regarding the prohibition against speaking Rechilut, there is no
distinction between different speakers - man or woman, close [to
the one harmed] or distant. Even if the individual heard something
against his parents (or Rabbi), and it distresses him greatly that
their honor is damaged, it is a violation to tell them about it.
Also, it is forbidden to speak about anyone - man or woman, adult
or minor - as we discussed in Hilchot L"H 8:1-3.
Many incorrectly assume that the prohibition against speaking
Rechilut does not apply in certain circumstances. For example, if
an adult sees two children fighting, and goes to the parents of one
child to tell them that the other child was hitting their son, this
causes much harm. Typically the informed father then defends his
child by striking the other, and then a feud develops between
the parents of the children.
The sins resulting from this one act of Rechilut are too numerous too
count. Even if the speaker knows which child is right in the situation,
it is forbidden for him to speak to the parents of either child, unless
all the conditions in chapter 9 are met [coming soon].
2. LEARNEDNESS OF THE SUBJECT OF RECHILUT
The prohibition against speaking Rechilut also applies when the
subject is an "Am HaAretz" (ignorant of Jewish Law). For example,
if the speaker knows that an Am HaAretz spoke against someone
without just cause, the speaker would be forbidden to tell the
person who was wronged. It is forbidden to speak Rechilut about
someone (even an Am HaAretz) even if the information is true.
It is a more severe violation to speak Rechilut about a Talmid
Chacham (Torah scholar), for the following reasons:
(A) The Rechilut itself is worse. It is worse to speak Rechilut
that includes falsehood (exaggeration or "embellishments"). A
Talmid Chacham is assumed to act in accordance with Halacha (Jewish
Law), and would not speak about someone or cause other harm without
halachic justification. Therefore, when the speaker says that a
Talmid Chacham acted against his listener inappropriately, he is
adding false information to the Rechilut he speaks.
(B) It's inappropriate behavior toward the Talmid Chacham. The
Torah teaches us to closely affiliate with Talmidei Chachamim, to
invite them to eat at our tables and to marry our daughters to
them, and to treat them with great respect. Certainly one should
be careful not to stir up hatred against them and put them in the
midst of disputes [which is what speaking Rechilut causes].
(C) It has more severe impact than "average" Rechilut. If someone
is told that an Am HaAretz or an ordinary person wronged him, he
may or may not take action against the offender. But if the
listener hears that a Talmid Chacham acted against him, he is
certain to feel hatred toward the Talmid Chacham and initiate a
dispute with him. Certainly if the Talmid Chacham in question is
the Rabbi of a city, the Rechilut will definitely cause severe
damage within the community; how many times our nation has actually
destroyed itself because of acting in this manner!
3. TELLING RELATIVES OF A VICTIM THAT HE WAS VICTIMIZED
It's also Rechilut to tell the wife or close relative of a victim about
who harmed him, since they will also hate the subject (who spoke against
or otherwise harmed the victim) of the Rechilut. Even if the speaker
tells the relative not to tell the victim it is still Rechilut.
[This broadens the scope of Rechilut. The typical definition of
Rechilut is telling someone what was said about him. But as we have
seen previously, the prohibition of Rechilut also includes telling
the victim what was done against him. Here we see it includes
telling anyone who will take the action against the victim personally
and therefore hate the subject.]
4. NO DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN LISTENERS/VICTIMS
Telling Rechilut to either a Jew or a non-Jew is forbidden.
5. REGARDING THE PROHIBITION OF ACCEPTING RECHILUT
The prohibition against accepting or believing Rechilut is the same
as the prohibition against accepting Lashon Hara, as discussed in
Hilchot L"H 8:13-14.
It is important that one take care not to accept Rechilut from anyone,
including a spouse. Accepting Rechilut from a spouse is especially
dangerous, for if the listener appears to accept the information gladly,
the spouse will be encouraged to report more Rechilut; this will put the
listener in a position of listening to Rechilut constantly, resulting in
many sins. Therefore, one must reprimand his family members when they
HaLashon, Copyright (c) 1996 by Ellen Solomon and Project Genesis, Inc.