Opening to Hilchos Lashon Hara and Rechilus (2)
Because of the great evil involved in this disgusting trait, the Torah specially warns against it with the negative command (Vayikra 19:16), “Do not go as a talebearer, etc,” as we will explain later.
It seems that there is yet another reason why the Torah specially warns against this. If we examine this specific, that is, lashon hara and rechilus, we will find that it just about includes all the negative and positive commands between man and his fellow, and many between man and G-d, as we will explain, G-d willing. Therefore, the Torah warns us explicitly so that we should not be caught in this evil snare, and I will explain this with G-d’s help, and this will incidentally also be of great benefit regarding other halachos. Also, through this the evil inclination will be chastened when it sees the great commotion and stumbling caused through one’s speech. This I will begin with Hashem’s help.
First, we must explain the general rules of these halachos – that lashon hara and rechilus are forbidden even if one speaks the truth, as we will explain later. Also, it is forbidden to speak lashon hara and rechilus whether in front of a person or not, and there is no difference between the speaker and the accepter as we will explain later. The accepter is someone who believes the story told to him in his heart even if he does not participate in the telling of the story but believes the lashon hara and rechilus he heard in his heart. This is called a sheima shav and one transgresses the negative command, “Do not accept an empty statement.” Each of these rules has roots and branches like the other parts of the Torah, may Hashem help us know them thoroughly.
Know, that when we write that a person transgresses negative and positive commands, and the three curses that fall upon him as we will write and explain later, we include both true and false lashon hara and rechilus, and this is what we will mean when we write everywhere in the Be’er Mayim Chaim, “In the four first ways.” We mean through lashon hara, rechilus, whether before him or not before him, both the speaker and the receiver, and whether it is true or false. Remember this.
First, we will explain a number of negative commands, afterwards a number of positive commands, and afterwards a number of curses that a person brings upon himself through this, in addition to a number of great transgressions caused by this. I will divide this opening into two. The main text is called Mekor Hachayim and the explanation around it is called the Be’er Mayim Chayim. I wrote the reasons for these names in the introduction. In the Be’er Mayim Chayim will be explained in what cases the negative or positive command applies and various other halachos. This I will begin with Hashem’s help.