But aren't we all siding with Rabbi Akiba? It's true...it's true! Guess what? It doesn't matter if it's true. We do not have the right to say it. And we shouldn't have heard it. Oops again. Truth or not, it's lashon hara (evil speech). Wow...what a powerful tractate.
recovering from truth serum
So we have all been taught from youth to tell the truth. But what about those moments of tattle-taling? Guess what...they are wrong too. According to the laws of the Chofetz Chaim, even if it is true, we are not allowed to disclose it and rat someone out. Now, of course, there are exceptions. However, the exceptions have to do with if it is be life threatening in order to reveal information.
Now we find we are in a lurch as all those true and juicy morsels now have to go without saying. But as we reflect upon the story, truth doesn't always mean that everything is going to turn out happily. Sometimes, the truth is ugly and better left unsaid. And this is the point: rather than leave it up to us to know what is best, the laws of speech just make it very basic. If it is true, don't say it. If it is false, don't say it. If it will adversely affect someone and harm either livelihood or life, you must say it. But otherwise, shaaaa.
While in this case from the Torah it seems so easy to judge (how could he say that [hand over mouth]), the fact is we may not. Simply, the Torah records that someone dies due to picking up sticks. Does it matter who did it? No. What matters is the act and we all learn from it. Learning the name doesn't help us; rather, it puts a mark on the family name throughout history. Had there been silence regarding the guilty party, the family could have repented and been restored without damage to their reputation. But somewhere in the Divine plan, it was meant that this should be recorded in the tractate for our admonition. May it speak volumes to you — volumes of necessary truth.