SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM
Vigilance without Acceptance
The fact that a derogatory statement was made for a constructive purpose does not permit the listener to accept it as fact. It is permissible to listen to negative information for toeles, a constructive purpose; however, it is not permissible to believe such information. One may act upon such information on the possibility that it might be true.
It is for this reason that the first precondition for speaking constructively is that one have firsthand knowledge of the negative information he is conveying. Since one cannot believe derogatory information as fact, he cannot present it to others as such. In situations where it is permissible to relate secondhand information one is required to say that he heard it from others and could not be sure of it’s accuracy.
SEFER SHMIRAS HALOSHON
The View from Above
Thus far, our parable has shown how Reuven has ceased to speak disparagingly of Shimon after hearing that Shimon is held in high esteem by a leading Torah sage. The parable continues:
Some time later, Yehudah tells Reuven, “I was privileged to be present when Shimon met with the Sages of the Mishnah — Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, Rabbi Meir, and others — men endowed with Divine inspiration, who are akin to angels and cannot possibly be deceived! I saw how they too accorded Shimon great honor and showed him deep love and admiration.’’
A shaken Reuven responds, “I have erred. Obviously, it was my evil inclination which caused me to bear ill will toward Shimon.’’
Yehudah then adds one last point, “The Sages of the Mishnah are often visited by the prophet Eliyahu. They mentioned that Eliyahu had related how he had heard the Holy One, Blessed is He, express his deep love for Shimon.’’
“Woe is me!’’ exclaimed Reuven. “I have harbored ill will and spoken against someone who is loved by Hashem! I now see things in a different light. Either I was mistaken in thinking that Shimon had wronged me, or I was correct but had failed to attribute his actions to an inadvertent error on his part, for surely he would not have wronged me intentionally! I have sinned grievously in speaking disparagingly of such a man.
“I deeply regret my feelings and actions and will strive to develop a true love for Shimon.’’
Scripture states: “‘I loved you’ said Hashem” (Malachi 1:2); and “You are children to Hashem, your G-d” (Devarim 14:1). This is the intent of the phrase “I am Hashem,’’ at the conclusion of the verse which prohibits harboring ill will and commands us to love our fellow Jew. Just as Hashem has a deep unwavering love for every Jew, so too must we develop within ourselves a deep unwavering love for each other.
On this earth, a person sees others clothed in their physical garb, and thus tends to look down upon them and focus on what he perceives as their faults. Hashem, however, sees the essential holiness of every Jewish soul, which, as often stated in the holy Zohar, is awesome. Hashem’s love and regard for each soul is predicated on this knowledge, and thus is exceedingly great.