The Chofetz Chaim has already informed us that we are not permitted to speak rechilus even when pressured to do so. In this segment, he tells us that if possible, one should evade the issue without resorting to an outright lie. However, if it is obvious that the other person will not accept such an answer, one is even permitted to lie. Our Sages teach that though “the seal of G-d is truth” and we are commanded to distance ourselves from falsehood, it is permissible to lie for the sake of peace (Yevamos 65). This is derived from the episode in the Torah where the angels (disguised as wayfarers) informed Avraham and Sarah that they would be granted a child. Sarah laughed incredulously, for how could a couple so old be granted a child? Hashem was displeased with Sarah’s laughter, and He confronted Avraham, asking, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Can it be true that I will give birth when I am old?’” (Breishis 18:13). In fact, Sarah had also said, “… and my husband is old.” As Rashi states, Hashem altered the truth for the sake of peace, for Avraham may have felt hurt that his wife referred to him as “old.”
From this, we see the incredible importance the Torah attaches to maintaining peace within the Jewish people, whether among friends, family or communities. In instructing us to alter the truth for the sake of peace, Hashem is not asking us to transgress. Truth, from the Torah’s perspective, is more than words. Maharal explains that from the Torah’s perspective, animosity is a form of falsehood. This attitude is expressed by the Sages’ term for animosity: sinas chinam, baseless hatred. Peace itself is a form of truth, and strife is a form of falsehood. When we speak with the goal of avoiding strife, we are preserving truth and rejecting falsehood.
The Chofetz Chaim makes the crucial point that though we can lie to avoid rechilus, we may not swear for this purpose.
This segment concludes with the case where someone is seeking just one piece of information which will complete the picture. He knows that someone has spoken behind his back, he knows what was said, but he does not know who said it. To supply this piece of information would be rechilus. The same would apply if one were to relate the story without mentioning names, but the listener could deduce the identity of the culprit.