Q: My roommate inadvertently, with a slip of the tongue, revealed to me that one of the other boys in our room has a certain chronic illness. (He told this to me as top secret and warned me not to tell a soul.) I’m very curious to know who the boy in question is. I wanted to ask if I’m allowed to try and “track” the conduct of my roommates, on the assumption that I am very likely to uncover signs attesting to the illness and thereby find out who it is.
A: It appears that the questioner should not do so. Below we will explain the reasons:
- One is forbidden to snoop and seek out his fellow’s private and mysterious matters (see Shu”t Halachos Ketanos, part 1, 276), and particularly in the subject at hand, where it is clear that the roommate is very careful to conceal his illness.
- If the questioner should succeed in revealing who it is, he will thereby complete the revelation that his friend made to him inadvertently, and in this way, cause him to be guilty of reporting his friend’s flaws not for a constructive reason, which is a violation of lashon hara.
- When he reveals the secret information, he also completes the issur of “revealing a secret,” which the friend had violated in part when he inadvertently revealed the information — the issur of “Bal yomar,” not to reveal what one was not explicitly permitted to say, since it was due to the hint that he leaked out that the entire secret was eventually uncovered.
For all the reasons we enumerated, the questioner should to overcome his urge and not try to find out which boy has the illness. If he does so, every moment of restraint will be considered for him as fulfillment of many mitzvos aseh and mitzvos lo sa’aseh, amounting to many thousands of mitzvos. How fortunate he is and how good is his lot!
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The views expressed are of the individual author. Readers are encouraged to consult their own posek for guidance.