The following case represents an all-too-common practice: Reuven works for a company which determines salary raises for its employees through an annual salary review. Today is the day when company managers meet to discuss Reuven’s performance and decide on his coming year’s salary. Among the managers at the meeting will be Reuven’s friend, Shimon. While Shimon is not among those who make the salary decisions, he will be privy to the discussion. Therefore, Reuven considers him the perfect source for inside information on what management is saying about him. As soon as the meeting is over, Reuven finds a chance to speak privately to Shimon. “What did they say about me?” he desperately wants to know.
The desire to know what others think about us is often deeply rooted. It can begin in childhood, develop in the self-conscious adolescent, and remain an issue for many people for the rest of their lives. Whatever the context, the Chofetz Chaim informs us that a person who inquires into what others are thinking or saying about him is guilty of asking someone to speak rechilus. He writes:
“How foolish are those whose nature it is to always seek to know what others are saying about them — even when such knowledge will have absolutely no effect on their future. When people do not want to reveal this information, they are pressured intensely until they finally reveal it. The person who wanted the information accepts it — in all its derogatory detail — as truth, and he and the subject now become bitter enemies.
“If we would list all the pitfalls and transgressions with which this person has involved himself, the page could not contain them all… One who stands over his friend and pressures him to speak rechilus — so that he himself can hear it and accept it — is a chotei u’Machati, a sinner who causes others to sin.
“Therefore, one should remain far, far away from such behavior and not seek such information, unless he is certain that he needs to know it for future purposes, in order to protect himself from that person’s plans.”