Sometimes we think we are "networking" when we share information about others. Did you hear about so and so? Oh yes, I can't believe it. What a tragedy. But what good is this kind of banter doing the world? Is it just satisfying our never-ending quest for information? Yes, it is. When we can Facebook, Tweet, email, text and chat online, there is no end to instant information. As a child I learned that less is best. Guess what—even according to the Sages, this is true also.
you never even asked
During a six-week class on medical ethics according to Judaism, I learned valuable information about how Torah views patient-doctor confidentiality versus the well-being of offspring who might be affected by disease. In these cases, regarding the lives of children who were directly in danger, it was fine to disclose truthful information about a patient's condition and hereditary risks if the children were in immediate danger. However, in any other case, it is none of anyone's business ... so much so that if this information were to get out, someone could be sued. Whoa. Does this stand in a Torah observant society? Yes, it does. If someone shares information with you that they wish for you not to repeat, you do not have a carte blanche to reveal it to anyone else. And it doesn't really matter if it is true: it is not your job to be the news delivery device. In a society where we have instant access to news and people's statuses, there seems no end to the amount of information we can find out about people. Torah and our Sages, however, do not agree with such methods. It is scandalous as well as degrading. The webs we weave with information that we spread are quite amazing. But how much do we have permission for? The answer: very little. Little said is best said.
water cooler shmooze
While we might feel like we are affecting the world in a positive way at the water cooler, we need to be more careful with our discussions. People's lives are a scroll of history; everyone wants the opportunity to write it in the best possible way. When we try and write our own version without all the information and the nuances, we taint history with a less than true version. We have an obligation to let people live the full course of their lives and make shuvah, if necessary, so that the story of their life can be written with a proper ending. When we get involved with our own dialogue, they don't get to to write their history as they wish nor do they get the last word. It is their life—don't they deserve to write their version?
frugal with our words
As we enter this week with truth, the best way we can enter is with frugality. Let people tell the stories of their lives with truth and with integrity. Give people a chance to enter their own dialogue regarding their situations. As we allow those around us to give their version of their story, we allow history to be written properly and the messages to be conveyed with integrity. As we network, may it be with true purpose to tell the right story and send true prayers. May we not be guilty of falsehood and false emotions. Allow truth to prevail and the real story to find its way into the world.