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Recently, the Princess of Wales announced that she has cancer. In a video recorded in Windsor, the former Kate Middleton disclosed her diagnosis in order to put an end to speculation and gossip that began online but was then embraced and promoted by mainstream media about the state of her health and marriage. One of the perpetrators responsible is popular television host Stephen Colbert, who promoted unsubstantiated rumors about the princess and her husband.

When she revealed her diagnosis and the reason for her absence from public life, Colbert said on his show: “For the last six weeks, everyone has been talking about the mystery of Kate Middleton’s disappearance from public life and two weeks ago, we did some jokes about that mystery and all the attendant froufrou in the reporting about that, and when I made those jokes, that upset some people even before her diagnosis was revealed… I don’t know whether her prognosis is a tragic one, she’s the future queen of England and I assume she’s going to get the best possible medical care, but regardless of what it is, far too many of us know that any cancer diagnosis of any kind is harrowing for the patient and for their family, and though I’m sure they don’t need it from me, I and everyone here at ‘The Late Show’ would like to extend our well wishes and heartfelt hope that her recovery is swift and thorough.”


Besides his monologue being a textbook example of a lame non-apology, the damage was already done. A woman was essentially bullied into disclosing something personal and private because enduring the gossip and conspiracy theories were worse and even harder to deal with.

It happened because people felt they had the right to know something that was actually none of their business. Colbert and members of the media weren’t the only ones who inquired where they didn’t belong. Three staff members at the prestigious private London hospital in which she had her surgery are accused of accessing her private medical records to satisfy their curiosity about what was going on in her life.

The Torah places great value on people’s right to privacy. Jewish law demands that we conduct ourselves with the presumption that all that we are told, even in pedestrian, casual conversation, is to be held in confidence unless it is explicitly articulated that we are free to repeat what we heard. The laws of hezek re’iyah forbid a person from looking into his or her neighbor’s property in a way that violates their privacy. We are instructed not to speak lashon ha’rah or rechilus and spread gossip, even if the information is absolutely true and entirely accurate. The Talmud (recent Daf Yomi – Bava Metzia 23b) goes so far as to tell us that we are permitted to distort the truth in circumstances where someone is prying for information that is none of their business and that they are not entitled to have.

This phenomenon expresses itself in many scenarios. When some hear about a couple getting divorced, their first response is, “What happened?” as if they are entitled to a full report about the most personal and private details of a couple (and often their children) going through a difficult time. Many pay a shiva call and feel a need to ask, “How did he/she die?” Certainly the mourner is free to volunteer the cause of death if they like, but is it really our business and do we truly need to know? When we ask, “Why did he lose his job?” or “Why did they break their engagement?” or “Why is she still single?” are we asking because we care about them, or is finding out somehow satisfying something in ourselves?

For some, the need to know stems from a sense of information as a source of power. Information is social currency and the more we know, the richer and more powerful we are. For others, the need to know stems from an inability to live with tension or mystery. And yet, for others, the need to know is similar to whatever draws us to slow down and look at the accident on the highway even though it has nothing to do with us at all and only creates traffic for others.

If we are really curious and want to inquire about something, it shouldn’t be about private information that doesn’t belong to us, it should be about the well-being of people who are eager for us to care enough to ask about it.

As the war continues to rage in Israel and the lives of our brothers and sisters remain radically interrupted, one of the things that compounds pain is a sense that those in chutz la’aretz have moved on. I have heard from Israelis how meaningful and powerful it is when people check in, inquire how they are doing, ask about their children who are serving and fighting. Conversely, when they receive a text or a phone call asking for advice about where the best restaurant is in Yerushalayim or about an activity for Pesach or upcoming trip without even mentioning how are you doing, how are your children, it hurts and it stings. Similarly, there are people living in our communities who have children and grandchildren living in Israel or fighting in Gaza. When they come to shul or meet not just acquaintances but friends in the supermarket or at an event and they aren’t asked about how their family is coping and how they are managing, they feel isolated and alone.

There are things that are none of our business, we aren’t entitled to know and we shouldn’t ask, push or bully others into disclosing or sharing with us. And then there are things we should feel are all of our business, all of our responsibility, the well-being of people we love and care about.

Let’s always remember the difference and channel our curiosity into the questions that will lift people up instead of making them feel down.

{Reposted from the Rabbi’s site}


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Rabbi Efrem Goldberg is the Senior Rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue (BRS), a rapidly-growing congregation of over 950 families and over 1,000 children in Boca Raton, Florida. BRS is the largest Orthodox Synagogue in the Southeast United States. Rabbi Goldberg’s warm and welcoming personality has helped attract people of diverse backgrounds and ages to feel part of the BRS community, reinforcing the BRS credo of “Valuing Diversity and Celebrating Unity.” For more information, please visit