SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM
Overt and Covert
As with other forms of loshon hora, halachah does not differentiate between rechilus that is stated explicitly or merely inferred. A statement in which names are omitted is still rechilus if the listener can deduce the identities of the people involved. Also, it is forbidden to communicate rechilus through body motion, sign language or any other means. Likewise, it is forbidden to make available written or recorded material if awareness of its contents could create ill feelings between individuals.
SEFER SHMIRAS HALOSHON
The Folly of Dishonesty
Above, we spoke of the great reward for avoiding strife in situations where one has clearly been wronged. And what of the one who committed the wrong, who profited at the expense of his neighbor’s loss? He acted wickedly and foolishly, for his sinful tactics will not earn him one cent more than what has been decreed for him on Rosh Hashanah. By denying his neighbor that which was rightfully his, he will ultimately be denied that which had been decreed for himself. In the end, his wrongful gain will cause his rightful earnings to become lost as well, for, as the Sages teach, the punishment for forcing one’s personal burden upon another Jew is the loss of one’s possessions (Succah 29b).
The Sages further teach: “If you take that which is not your own, your own will be taken from you” (Derech Eretz Zuta ch. 3). To be dishonest in financial matters is to exchange the channel of sustenance that Heaven provides for one that is sinful. Hashem declares: “It is not enough that the wicked rob, but they even inconvenience Me to return the money to its rightful owner” (Sanhedrin 8a).1
The above is illustrated in the episode of Yaakov and Lavan. Before fleeing Lavan’s house, Yaakov was shown in a prophetic dream that the birth of unusually colored sheep in his flock was Divinely decreed compensation for Lavan’s ill treatment of him. As Rashi explains, an angel had brought colored sheep from Lavan’s flock to Yaakov’s so that this would occur. As justification for such Divine intervention, Yaakov was told in his dream, “… for I have seen all that Lavan is doing to you” (Bereishis 31:12). And as Yaakov later told Lavan directly, “I served you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages a hundred times” (ibid. v. 41).
1. Obviously, nothing is difficult for Hashem to do. “They inconvenience Me” means that the settling of accounts might require changes in the natural course of events (see Maharsha, Ben Yehoyada).