Q: I am a high-school student. Last year I had a terrible experience when a classmate spread rumors about me. The words caused me untold damage and indescribable pain. Things got so bad that I had to switch schools.
A: while ago that very girl knocked on my door and told me that she was the one who had spread the rumors, and begged for forgiveness. Am I obligated to forgive her? (How can I?) Additionally, how can I give the benefit of the doubt to those who believed her and cut off all contact with me? And above all — how can I clear my reputation?
A: I will answer according to your description of what seems like a clear case of hotzaas shem ra — passing around false information. (However, if the facts were true and were told l’toeles, your grievance has no basis and you should forgive her.)
Halachically, there is no obligation to forgive one who spread false rumors (Shulchan Aruch 606, 61), but a humble person will forgive even in such circumstances (Mishnah Berurah 111). Therefore, in the case of one who comes to beg for forgiveness, you should certainly try and forgive her wholeheartedly, and in exchange Hashem will forgive your sins.
Though emotionally it is extremely difficult to forgive one who caused you such distress and shame, bear in mind that all occurrences are Heaven-sent. Messengers who cause us humiliation serve as a kapparah or come in place of harsh decrees and increase our merits for the World to Come when the affliction is accepted graciously.
After a thorough study of these ideas it is easier to forgive and forget, and maybe even to feel compassion towards the individual who caused you shame — for not having merited “megalgelin zechus al yedei zakai” and instead being a vehicle for negativity.
We can learn from the example of Dovid Hamelech: When Shimi ben Geira cursed him and Avishai ben Tzruyah wanted to kill him for his rebellion against the king, Dovid restrained him, saying: “Hashem told him to curse.” More than all that he accomplished in his lifetime, this strength of character that Dovid Hamelech displayed earned him the place as “regel revi’i l’merkavah.”
In order to clear your reputation, you can request of the one who originally spread the rumors that she retract her words so that all who believed the gossip will recognize it as false. Hashem will take care of the rest.
The following questions asnd answers were taken from the Mishmeres Hasholom pamphlet in Israel. For details and inquiries please e-mail us at email@example.com or call 972-2 5379160.
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