Mishmeres HaSholom: Ask the Rav

Q: Some time ago there was a question in this column about a gemach owner who referred someone who was looking for a specific medicine, to a different borrower who hadn’t returned the medicine.

I wanted to ask if it this doesn’t constitute a breach of privacy of the first borrower, since people often prefer keeping confidentiality regarding medicines they take. I recently noticed a sign in a local clinic that people should stand some distance from the receptionist’s desk in order to allow for the privacy of patients ahead of them. If so, perhaps it was forbidden for the gemach owner to refer someone to the first borrower of the medicine.

A: The questioner is quite correct. In the abovementioned question, the discussion was only regarding the lashon hara attributed to the gemach owner regarding the borrower who was late returning the medicine, and the rechilus attributed to the current borrower who revealed that the gemach owner told him who was the borrower who hadn’t returned the medicine. The discussion was about standard medicines which are likely to be found in every home at times, such as various antibiotics, painkillers (even strong ones) for toothaches or migraines, etc., where there is no question of revealing secrets.

If, however, it was a matter of medicines that people generally keep confidential (as in medicine for depression, panic, epilepsy, etc., or even simple relaxants, like valium or various sleeping pills) and the gemach owner revealed to the new borrower the name of the original borrower who takes them, this would constitute additional lashon hara — on top of the lashon hara about the borrower’s not having returned the medicine. Since the gemach owner also told about the delay, his transgression is manifold, and “shomer piv u’lshono shomer mitzaros nafsho.”

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.