Pirkei Avos (A Key for Success)

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Hillel said, ‘Do not say, I will reveal private information to a friend because no one will ever know what I said. – For ultimately it will become known.'”

The quality of our interpersonal relationships rests primarily on the nature of our conversations. If we speak pleasantly and positively, our lives will be filled with many good friends. On the other hand, if we speak unfavorably about others, havoc will ensue.

Often times we know some private information about another person, that he may not want others to know. During the course of the day, we might be tempted to reveal that personal information, even though he has not granted us permission to share this knowledge. We rationalize by telling ourselves, “I can say it because he will never know that I told others.”

The above passage tells us an invaluable rule: Do not say, “I will reveal private information, and no one will ever know what I said, for ultimately it will become known.” Meaning, any personal information about others that we divulge will eventually become known to the subject.

That is, even if we ask others not to reveal the private information that we discussed, invariably, the person who we spoke about will find out that you broke his confidence. When that happens, he will confront us. For example, he might say, “Why did you tell him about my marital problems?

At that point, we will suffer embarrassment and wish that we had never spoken about our friend. Even worse, our relationship with this individual is damaged and possibly may be beyond repair.

This insight of the Torah provides us with invaluable guidance towards establishing wholesome and durable relationships. May we have the discretion to guard the private information of our friends. In turn, we will save ourselves much unnecessary trouble. Even more, we will preserve our relationships and live together in peace, respect, and friendship.

Today: Avoid revealing any information about another person unless he has given you permission.

Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Zvi Miller and the Salant Foundation


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