Mishmeres Hasholom

Q: One of my classmates was looking for her pencil case. I knew that a certain girl had the pencil case, because I’d seen her take it (as a game). Is it okay that I went to my classmate and told her who had her pencil case?

A: From the words of the questioner, it seems that it is a common (and absolutely unacceptable!) practice in her class to take an item and conceal it “just for fun,” leaving the poor victim to hunt for it… The questioner is concerned as to whether it was prohibited to reveal to the owner who the taker was. But she didn’t specify what exactly she is concerned for: Speaking lashon hara about the snatcher? Violating the prohibition of revealing a secret? Or, also, for spoiling the “fun”?

But the truth is that, one way or another, one must reveal this information. First of all, it is important to know that a “game” of this kind is totally forbidden. It contradicts halachah and Torah hashkafah for several reasons: a. The prohibition of stealing and robbing, even if the intention is to eventually return the article. b. The prohibition of ona’ah, causing pain, which includes several positive and negative Torah mitzvos. c. It seriously corrupts one’s middos. d. It is the diametric opposite of chessed, a middah which the Torah is filled with, and about which the Chofetz Chaim elaborated in his sefarim hakedoshim.

In light of the above, it is clear that the questioner did the right thing by revealing to her classmate who had the pencil case. Even though this would seem to be rechilus and lashon hara about the taker, it is still forbidden to stand aside and remain silent, since doing so would be a violation of the prohibition of “Do not stand aside while your fellow’s blood is shed.” Therefore, this rechilus is l’to’eles, for a constructive purpose, and is permitted l’chatchilah. Of course, the speaker must have the to’eles in mind and no other purpose (such as getting even with the girl who took it).

Even if this activity has become the accepted practice in the class and, each time, a different girl is the “victim” of this lowly game, one cannot argue that it takes place with mutual agreement, because even so, each girl feels deeply hurt when she is the one to whom it is done. (If they really want to play such a game, they can take an item and designate it as the object of the game, to be hidden and then searched for. But articles should not be “stolen” from people for the purpose of the game.)

The questions and answers above were taken from the Mishmeres Hasholom pamphlet in Israel. For details and inquiries please e-mail us at office@hasholom.org or call 972-2 5379160.

The views expressed are of the individual author. Readers are encouraged to consult their own posek for guidance.

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