SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM
We have seen that a derogatory statement about someone is not to be believed as fact even for a constructive purpose. One is to take the necessary precautions without changing his attitude towards the subject.
We have also learned that to cause another Jew to transgress is to violate the prohibition, “Before a blind person do not place a stumbling block.”
Consequently, when one relates negative information for a constructive purpose, he must be careful not to cause the listener to sin by believing the information as fact.
The proper way to convey negative information for a constructive purpose is to preface it with a statement such as, “Don’t take my word for it – I may be mistaken – but do take the matter under serious consideration”.
SEFER SHMIRAS HALOSHON
Measure for Measure
Scripture relates how the prophet Eliyahu was forced to hide in a cave to escape the designs of the wicked King Achav and his queen, Izevel. When G-d appeared to Eliyahu in a vision, the prophet said: “I have been exceedingly zealous for HASHEM, the G-d of Legions, for the Children of Israel have abandoned Your covenant …’’ (I Melachim 19:10). It was because of this indictment of his people that the role of transmitting the Divine word to the generation was transferred from Eliyahu to his disciple Elisha (Yalkut Shimoni 217).
Years later, when Elisha prophesied the end of a famine, an officer of the king declared, “Behold! If HASHEM makes windows in the heavens, can such a thing be?’’ (II Melachim 7:2). The Midrash (cited by Sefer Charedim 47:23) understands the officer’s words as meaning: “Surely it is within G-d’s power to bring this about. However, the generation is like the generation of the Flood, regarding which it is written, ‘And the windows of heaven were opened’ (Bereishis 7:11). How can it be that a generation so wicked should merit a miracle so great?’’ Because he spoke this way of the Jewish people, the officer was told by Elisha, “You will yet see the miracle occur, but you will not eat from the food that will result from it.’’