Ethics

For the week ending 23 February 2008 / 17 Adar I 5768

When Not to Be an Informer

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: Someone in my class in a Yeshiva high school did something childish which upset the teacher in our General Studies department and I am the only one who knows who it is. The head of the Yeshiva demands that I reveal his identity. The guilty party, however, is a serious student who just slipped this one time and I am afraid that my revelation may lead to his expulsion, which can create an unnecessary addition to the list of dropouts. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: At a recent conference for educators on the subject of avoiding improper speech sponsored by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation a case similar to yours was mentioned by one of the speakers.

Your counterpart in this true story was also instructed to inform on his classmate and he too had your reservations. After refusing several times to his Rosh Yeshiva's demand that he reveal the identity of the offender, the rabbi got up from his seat, gave him a kiss and told him:

"Well done! I did what I had to do and you did what you had to do."

What the Rosh Yeshiva was saying is that he trusted the judgment of the youngster before him that the damage such a revelation would cause to a really good boy would outweigh any gain to the school by disciplining him. You too must make such a calculation and hold your tongue unless your classmate's behavior is a serious threat to other students, in which case you have an obligation to cooperate with the school authorities.

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