Q: I told Reuven specific information regarding Shimon’s family. The information was culled from the popular Interior Ministry website. Eventually I heard that though it wasn’t a secret and his acquaintances know about it, Shimon was offended that this was discussed. The Interior Ministry’s website is available nowadays to anybody interested, and has become an accepted, reliable source of information.
Have I transgressed the prohibition of revealing secret information? I stress that Shimon doesn’t know that I spoke about him, and I am uncomfortable approaching him to ask for forgiveness. What could I do?
A: If there was no purpose in relaying the information, other than for a juicy topic of conversation, then the laws of lashon hara apply. People do not regularly check out information about others on the Ministry of Interior’s website, and the information is therefore not considered api t’lasa — lashon hara said before three people. Even if an additional three people know these details, there are still many reasons why it would be assur to publicize them, especially since Shimon is offended that the information is circulating.
You must therefore repent by admitting the sin, being remorseful of the misdeed, and accept upon yourself to do better in the future. You must also seek Shimon’s forgiveness. If you’re really uncomfortable, then wait for Erev Yom Kippur to ask for forgiveness in general.
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