SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM
For the Sake of Peace
There are situations where refusal to answer a question would itself be a transgression of the prohibition against speaking rechilus. When, for example, one is asked whether or not a certain individual was the guilty party in a certain incident, remaining silent is no less revealing than an explicit “yes.” Here, halachah requires one to conceal the facts, and simply say “no.”
The obvious question is: Why is lying preferable to speaking rechilus when both are prohibited by the Torah? To answer this, we must gain a better understanding of the commandment, “Distance yourself from falsehood” (Shemos 23:7).
The Talmud (Shevuos 31a) notes that rather than command us, “Do not lie,” the Torah instructs us to distance ourselves from “falsehood.” In determining whether or not a given statement is “falsehood,” one must examine its end result more than its technical accuracy. A “little white lie,” for example, which is technically correct but intentionally misleading, is falsehood.
Maharal explains that the Torah views personal animosity as a form of falsehood. This attitude is clearly expressed by the Sages’ classic term for animosity: sinas chinam, baseless hatred.
Thus, a statement of rechilus which could be cause for sinas chinam is a potential cause of falsehood – and concealing or altering the facts to avoid rechilus is an advancement of the cause of truth. In the Sages’ words, “One may alter the facts for the sake of peace” (see Rashi to Bereishis 50:16).
It must be noted, however, that under no circumstances may one swear falsely – even for the sake of peace.
SEFER SHMIRAS HALOSHON
Like from a Fire
Anyone of even minimal intelligence should understand that one should flee the trait of anger like one would flee a fire. He should realize that without a doubt a tendency toward anger will ensure his condemnation on the Day of Judgment when he departs this world.
One whose sins exceed his merits is deemed a rasha, wicked person, and as our Sages state, “Whoever is given to anger surely has more sins than merits, as it is written (Mishlei 29:22), ‘And the master of anger has much sin (pesha)” (Nedarim 22b). In Scripture, this term for sin denotes willful sin with the intention of rebelling against and angering G-d. The term is used here regarding the man of anger, because in the heat of rage one has total disregard for Torah and mitzvos. Thus do the Sages state, “Whoever is given to anger has no regard even for the Divine Presence” (ibid.); and, “Whoever rips his clothing, smashes his vessels or disperses his money in a fit of rage should be in your eyes like an idol worshiper … Which verse alludes to this? ‘There shall be no strange god within you’ (Tehillim 81:10). Which ‘strange god’ is within the body of man? The evil trait of anger” (Shabbos 105b).