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If someone we know has a serious medical issue, like they had a stroke or heart attack and the prognosis isn't good, and they ask that nobody should know except close family, do we have to listen?

The only reason we would not want to listen that I can think of, and am asking about, is that if they are having a critical medical issue, getting the community to pray for them would be of immense benefit to them. At the same time though, embarrassing someone is a serious offense and is akin to spilling their blood, so perhaps it is forbidden?

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    "and they ask that nobody should know except close family, do we have to listen?". The Chofetz Chaim explains that in the instance of a father-in law that has illness it must be revealed. This is the case with shiduchim. In other cases, why should one share it if not allowed? Community-prayers is one reason, but should you really reveal sensitive information because you want to pray for recovery in the community?
    – Shmuel
    Jun 16, 2023 at 18:13
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    The Nishmas Avraham (Chelek Even haEzer, Siman 2 Note 6 – 2nd edition) cites a fascinating ruling from Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l in this regard. Rav Shlomo Zalman noted that in a case where somebody is aware that another person is a heretic or licentious, the Chafetz Chaim ruled unequivocally that, “one is obligated to reveal it”. However, regarding illness he wrote merely that “one should reveal it” and that “a person who discloses [the information] has not transgressed the prohibition of Rechilus”.
    – Shmuel
    Jun 16, 2023 at 18:14
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    See: medicalhalacha.org/2020/06/24/…
    – Shmuel
    Jun 16, 2023 at 18:14
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    Similary, the Gemara (Nedarim 40a) says that Rava would say when he was sick: לָא תִּיגַלּוֹ לְאִינִישׁ - just don't tell it to anyone that I'm sick. Even Yisroel Steinsaltz puts this as "do not tell it, since people that hate me might rejoice in my sickness".
    – Shmuel
    Jun 16, 2023 at 18:20
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    Could be Aharon and Miriam didn't enjoy the description in the Torah at the end of Parshas Bhaalosecha; probably it was embarrassing to them. Rashi even says that Hashem spoke to them privately, not in front of Moshe, so they should not be humiliated. Nevertheless, the whole discussion is quoted verbatim in the Torah, as a lesson to us.
    – MichoelR
    Jun 18, 2023 at 13:19

1 Answer 1

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and they ask that nobody should know except close family, do we have to listen?

The Gemara relates a story with Rava, who was ill and said to this family (Nedarim 40a):

Do not reveal to any person that I am ill, so that his luck not suffer.

Rav Even Yisroel Steinsaltz explains this as:

"do not tell it, since people that hate me might rejoice in my sickness"

The Nishmas Avraham (Chelek Even haEzer, Siman 2 Note 6 – 2nd edition) cites a ruling from Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l and says:

Rav Shlomo Zalman noted that in a case where somebody is aware that another person is a heretic or licentious, the Chafetz Chaim ruled unequivocally that, “one is obligated to reveal it”. However, regarding illness he wrote merely that “one should reveal it” and that “a person who discloses [the information] has not transgressed the prohibition of Rechilus”.

The article goes on to explain:

According to the majority of the Poskim, a person must spend all of his money, if necessary, to avoid transgressing Lo Sa’amod Al Dam Rei’echa. However, this is only true when attempting to save someone from death or serious injury. When the issue is merely prevention of some sort of damage (for example, refusing to testify in Beis Din and thereby causing a monetary loss to one of the litigants), he would not be obligated to the same extent[4].

In the majority of cases, refraining from revealing medical information to a potential spouse, while causing untold harm to their quality of life[5], does not lead to a state of Pikuach Nefesh. However, the loss of a medical license is extremely damaging, as it leads to the loss of professional status, career, and income. HaGaon Rav Asher Weiss Shlit”a often says that a loss of livelihood should be treated almost as if it is Pikuach Nefesh. Therefore, there are grounds to be lenient and allow a doctor to refrain from revealing medical information for a Shiduch.

So, to summarize:

The Gemara discusses the illness of Rava. Rava foresaw that people that did not like him, would rejoice when his family members would tell to people that he was sick, so Rava said "Do not reveal to any person that I am ill". The Nishmas Avraham quotes Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt"l and says that in the case of illness, one should reveal it. One is not obligated to do so. Modern poskim, for example HaGaon Rav Ahser Weiss Shlit"a would say that a doctor is allowed to not tell information about a certain sickess, since that might lead to the loss of his professional status as a doctor. With regard to praying for someone in a community. If person a would tell you "Please don't tell others that I'm sick!", would you still tell people because you want to pray for the speedingly recovery of that person? Or would you accept the wishes of the sick person?

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  • Thank you Shmuel, clearly a lot of very relevant sources, so glad you found them. I am having trouble applying them though. Could you offer your summary?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jun 18, 2023 at 13:24
  • Thanks for the summary, but the last line sounds like you are asking my question. I'm still not sure what to do
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Sep 3, 2023 at 13:20
  • It was more of a retorical question after mentioning the views of the poskim. If someone says please do not mention my sickness in Shul etc... do you still do it, despite the wishes ?
    – Shmuel
    Sep 3, 2023 at 13:26
  • I'm not good at rhetoric, I have too literal a mind. Can you spell it out. Be as harsh as you like :)
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Sep 3, 2023 at 13:29
  • No problem :) Let's take this case, person a is a close friend of yours and he is sick. He goes to the same shul as yours and is a respected person in the community. He has a sickness that he would like not to take about, since he might shame himself for it. He asks you not to mention it in shul, since then everyone know about it and he might feel unconfortable. Would you honor his wishes, because you respect him, or do you ignore his wishes, and mention it in shul, so that the community can pray for him? I would take the first option, though.
    – Shmuel
    Sep 3, 2023 at 13:39

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