In the previous segment, we learned that we are permitted to listen to rechilus—without accepting it as fact—in order to protect ourselves from possible harm. In the laws of loshon hora (Day 63), we learned about Devarim Hanicarim (recognizable signs), evidence which seems to point to an individual’s guilt. Here, the Chofetz Chaim informs us that if such evidence gives us reason to believe that someone is attempting to harm us, then we are permitted to investigate the matter even though this may force others to speak derogatorily about the person.
In Be’er Mayim Chaim, the Chofetz Chaim adds that this license is not limited to people who exhibit outright suspicious behavior. Even if someone is simply behaving in an unusual way, which could possibly mean that he is planning to cause us harm, we are allowed to inquire about him, though we may hear rechilus in the process. This applies even if no ill will was known to exist between the individual and ourselves.
Once again, the Chofetz Chaim stresses that in such cases, we are permitted to take action on the possibility that our suspicions are correct. We are not permitted to assume that our suspicions are correct. The Chofetz Chaim says more: We should not even view the matter as “50-50,” with an equal possibility of the person being innocent or guilty. The average Jew has a chezkas kashrus; that is, he is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. When we act upon our suspicions, it is only on a slight chance that there is cause for concern.
The Chofetz Chaim concludes: “Therefore, it is forbidden to do anything against the person, to cause him any sort of harm or shame, neither large nor small. Even to hate him in one’s heart is forbidden by the Torah. Certainly one has no right to free himself, because of rechilus which he hears, from any obligations which he has towards that individual. He is required to benefit that person with every good thing which the Torah commands us to provide to any Jew—for this man’s worth should not be lowered in our eyes, not in the slightest way.”