Keep it Under your Hat

Keep it Under your Hat

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  • October 14, 2018

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Hilchos Lashon Hara 2:11

We now return to the laws of shemiras halashon in Sefer Chofetz Chaim.

There are times when a person bows to pressure and reveals confidential information.

The shul has outgrown its quarters and the board has decided to double the size of the building. Two of the shul’s members, Mr. Fearman and Mr. Noble, are building contractors, and each is eager to be the one to build the shul’s extension. The board votes on the matter and Mr. Fearman is chosen. Noble is very upset.

He approaches a member of the board, Mr. Green, and says, “What’s with you people? Has anyone compared my work with Fearman’s? His buildings are poorly designed and of shoddy construction.”

Mr. Green replies, “To be perfectly honest, I voted for you. But what could I do? I was outvoted.”

Mr. Green has violated the laws of proper speech. A private meeting should remain private, unless everyone present agrees to reveal to the public what transpired at the meeting.

By telling Mr. Noble that he voted for him, Mr. Green is making it easier for Noble to figure out who voted against him. This is wrong.

The Chofetz Chaim makes another point. Imagine that the conversation between the two men had gone this way:

Noble: “What’s with you people? Has anyone compared my work with Fearman’s? His buildings are poorly designed and of shoddy construction.”

Green: “Mr. Noble, I’m sorry that you’re upset, but please under­stand that because you wanted this job so badly, it is impossible for you to be objective. I can assure you that we do recognize the quality of your firm’s work and before we voted, we discussed the matter at great length. There’s nothing wrong with your work. It’s just that the majority felt that for the shul’s needs at this time, it would be better to go with Fearman. And I want you to know that once the vote was taken, everyone agreed that the decision was a good one.”

In this conversation, Mr. Noble is made to understand that the decision was, in effect, endorsed by the entire board. Knowing this, Mr. Noble quite probably would have respected the decision and overcome his initial disappointment as time went on.

However, if Mr. Green bluntly states that he still disagrees with the majority who voted for Fearman, Mr. Noble will remain bitter and resentful towards the majority for making a “stupid decision.” This can lead to machlokes (strife), lashon hara, and other serious problems.

We live in a world where there is little respect for “confidentiality.” It seems that virtually every day, the media reports information “that was revealed by a source who spoken on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal this information.”

Why would someone reveal information with which he was entrusted and which he was expected to keep secret? The answer might be: a bribe, a chance to get even with someone, or the feeling of power that comes with revealing secret information. Of course, none of these rea­sons should interest someone who lives by the Torah. To the contrary, a Jew should derive a great degree of satisfaction from following the halachah and keeping a secret.

Self-control. It’s what being a Jew is all about.


Private discussions and votes should remain private.

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