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