We have seen that it is permissible for a beis din, rabbinical
court, to use certain forms of social pressure to persuade an
individual to abide by its ruling. However, it is forbidden to use
social pressure in order to bypass the court process and force a
thief to return what he stole. It is wrong to cause the community
to take a stand in a monetary issue on the basis of an individual's
word alone; only through the psak (ruling) of a beis din may the
community take a stand. Thus, it is correct to ensure that the
parties come before a beis din, but it is forbidden to personally
orchestrate the enforcement of what one believes to be justice.108
The following segment is a translation from the Chofetz Chaim's writings on the philosophy of proper speech from the Sefer Shmiras Halashon.
A Swindler Comes to TownPeople who speak loshon hora tend to rationalize their sinful
behavior with the contention that the listener wanted to hear the gossip
and that he obviously enjoyed it. Moreover, the two remained good friends
after their discussion. Could one really be guilty of causing his listener
harm when he obviously had such a good time? The fallacy of such thinking
can be explained with the following parable:
A swindler came to a certain town and disguised himself as a respected
leader of the community. When a visitor arrived in the town, the swindler
welcomed him like an old friend and invited him to a local inn where the
two could enjoy each other's company. At the inn, the swindler said, "It's
been so many years since the last time we saw one another. My joy is
indescribable. This calls for a celebration! Please, go to the counter and
tell the manager to serve us the very best of everything he has to offer!
Of course, I'll pay the bill.
The two wined and dined until they had both eaten more than their fill. At
that point, the swindler slipped out the door, leaving his "guest" with the
enormous bill to pay. The poor fellow explained to the manager what had
transpired, but to no avail. "All I know,' said the manager, "is that you
came to the counter and ordered all that food and drink. Whatever happened
between you and that other fellow is of no concern to me. Pay up!
One who listens to loshon hora is like the visitor in our parable.
The listener is happy and feels no enmity toward the speaker, who seems to
be entertaining him free of charge. The listener sees the speaker as his dear
confidant, who tells him private information that he might not divulge to
others. But all this is only on this world, while "the shop is open, and the
Merchant extends credit" (Avos 3:20). In the next world, however, where "the
ledger is open ... and the collectors make their rounds,' one will have to
stand judgment for having listened to and accepted forbidden talk. Every word
that he listened to will be recorded there, and he will have to pay a very heavy price.