SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM
The commandment Do not accept a false report, prohibits the acceptance as fact of any negative statement concerning a person or group of persons. Accurate interpretation of a person’s actions and/or words demands thorough knowledge of the setting in which the action occurred and the events which led up to it, an understanding of the person’s mindset and manner of speech, and much sensitivity. This is obviously impossible unless one has witnessed the action and accompanying remarks. Reliance on the sensitivity, objectivity, integrity and wisdom of an alleged observer of an improper act is rejected by the Torah as foolish and wrong. Certainly, if the speaker is committing the sin of speaking loshon hora, his integrity is suspect and one cannot accept his words as true and accurate. By Torah law, only the testimony of two valid witnesses accepted by a beis din (rabbinical court) can be believed as fact.
SEFER SHMIRAS HALOSHON
A Change of Attitude
You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a grudge against the members of your people; you shall love your fellow as yourself — I am Hashem Vayikra 19:18).
What does the concluding I am Hashem represent?
Ostensibly, the commandments in this verse present great difficulty. Suppose that one desperately needs his neighbor’s help in a certain matter. The neighbor, who is in a position to provide that help, refuses to lend a hand, and instead does something to upset the person. Can the person really be expected to bear no grudge toward his neighbor, and even to love him as oneself?!
Since the Torah does require this of us, then obviously such character development is within our reach. The way to attain it can be explained with a parable:
Reuven bore ill will toward his neighbor, Shimon, and made a habit of speaking disparagingly of Shimon. One day, Yehudah, a respected man known for his truthfulness, tells Reuven: “I was recently present when Shimon paid a visit to R’_____, a leading Torah sage of the generation, who is known for his great wisdom and piety. The sage accorded Shimon great honor and showed him genuine love. After witnessing this, my friend, I must conclude that your opinion of Shimon is grossly incorrect.’’
After digesting this information for a few moments, Reuven responds, “It may well be that I am mistaken. My conviction that Shimon has wronged me may be due to man’s natural inclination to see himself as correct in any dispute. On the other hand, it may be that Shimon is so clever and deceiving that he is able to deceive even a sage into thinking that he is an upright individual.
“In other words, your report has given me reason for thought, but I’m not fully convinced. In any case, I’ll cease from speaking disparagingly of Shimon, at least for the time being.’’
Reuven’s response indicates only the beginning of a change in attitude. As our parable continues, we shall see how, with a proper outlook, it is possible for one’s attitude towards others to undergo a complete transformation.