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The Laws #93

Rechilus L’toeles: Criteria 5

If I know that you’re entering into a business deal or a shidduch with Reuven I’m allowed to tell you what I know about Reuven, that he’s a thief, or he’s not a reliable person, provided that I meet the five requirements. The first one being, I factually know it to be true. The second being I’m not exaggerating in what I’m saying. Number 3, I have to be נתכוון לתועלת, I have to have in mind the good and I have to know it to bring about a good result, or will most likely bring a good result. Number 4, I won’t be able to accomplish this same result in any other way. And Number 5 is that I can’t have come out from this more than what would happen if this fact was told in beis din.

So, explains the Chafetz Chaim, the fifth requirement is something that comes about many, many times. Let’s assume for a minute that I’m going to tell a certain piece of information about Reuven. Let’s in fact assume that I know that he’s a thief. I witnessed and watched, and factually know that he’s a thief. I know you’re going to enter into a business dealing with him. So I want to come tell you this information.

So I meet Criteria 1; I know it to be true. Number 2, I’m not exaggerating. Number 3, my kavanah is for the good. Number 4, assuming that I can’t do it any other way. But let’s assume I know that if I tell you this information you’re going to tell the world. Let’s assume that Reuven did such and such and you’re the type of person who has an open tongue and you’re going to tell the world about it. And the result is that everyone is going to now know that Reuven is a thief. His reputation is going to be ruined. And his whole parnassah, his whole livelihood is going to be shot.

Explains the Chafetz Chaim, it is forbidden in that situation for me to tell you. Even though I’m saying it for your good and even though I’m potentially protecting you from harm, I’m not allowed to do it. Why? Because if this information was divulged in beis din, then whatever is there, whatever beis din would do, I’m allowed to do because I’m not doing any worse. But I’m only one person. If one person came to beis din and said that we know that Reuven stole, since it’s one person beis din would not be able to accept it. And therefore, if this person is likely to accept it, what he’s doing is he’s accepting lashon hara, he’s now going to tell that over. It’s forbidden for me to say it, number 1, because I’m helping you be over an aveirah, namely, kabalas lashon hara. Number 2, I’m ruining Reuven’s reputation. I’m doing to him much worse than what would have been done in beis din.

And therefore, if I know that you’re the type of person who will immediately accept it and act on it by telling others and really blabbing that information throughout the town, automatically it’s forbidden for me to tell you, even if I know it to be true. Even if I’m מתכוון לתועלת, I have in mind the good, and even if I’m directly telling you, it’s forbidden because what’s going to come out is much worse than what would be in beis din. And therefore it remains absolutely forbidden.

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