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.
- 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
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].
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!
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.]
Telling Rechilut to either a Jew or a non-Jew is forbidden.
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 speak Rechilut.
HaLashon, Copyright (c) 1996 by Ellen Solomon and Project Genesis, Inc.
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