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The Secret Of Keeping A Secret

Happens all the time. A tells B "It's a secret. I will tell you if you promise not to tell anyone." "OK!" Then B runs to C and tells him the same thing before divulging the secret. C runs to D and tells HIM the secret [possibly leaving out the part about not passing it on]. Within a day or two EVERYBODY knows. And it started out a secret!!

The Medrash [Tehillim 114] says that one of the merits in which the Jews left Egypt was that they didn't divulge secrets. Wow. Today? Well you are Jewish, you decide. [My own opinion is that there are communities in which almost everybody knows almost everything. And there are communities in which things remain private. And of course it varies from individual to individual].

I know that it is difficult to hold on to a juicy piece of information and refrain from sharing it with anybody. What I do is very simple. When someone shares with me private information I try to immediately put it out of my mind. This way I have no Yetzer Hara to share it with anyone else. It works for me.

That is my secret. I give you full permission to share it with anyone else!

I heard Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn speak about keeping Secrets and he quoted from a university of Notre Dame Psychology Department Study that found that while most people think it's cathartic to release themselves and tell secrets because of the percieved notion that it is "unhealthy" to keep secrets inside because it will drive someone crazy, the study actually found that keeping secrets inside is perfectly healthy. The study spoke a little bit about Mark Felt or "deep throat" who was Woodward and Bernstein's clandestine source in the Watergate scandal and how he lived with this secret for decades without "going crazy."
Rabbi Einhorn was quick to add that there are 3 types of secrets and that some secrets should be told. The first type of secret is one that protects someone and that should be kept a secret. The second type is a secret about something that we fear - we need to face our fears - and let that type of secret out to the appropriate people of course. For example Moshe Rabbenu killed the Mitzri and the pasuk says that Moshe looked this way and that way and saw that "ki ein ish." The next 40 years we know nothing about the greatest Jew ever except that he was a shepard in Midian. WHY? because he was afraid to confront his past secrets. He was afraid to confront what he did. When the Pasuk says "vayare ki ein ish" it doesn't mean that moshe physichally looked at saw there was no man - it means Moshe rabbenu looked inside himself and saw that there was no man! And he ran away to Midian. It was only after 40 years that the burning bush reminded moshe that this "secret" had to be confronted. This demon he was hiding he couldn't ignore. He had to become an "Ish" and he became the greatest "ish" who ever lived. The third type is the Secret that is Hashem. Moshe Rabbenu was told he could only see so much of Hashem - meaning he could only understand so much - even the great moshe rabbenu whom the medrash says is the greatest who ever lived. (Sorry Muhammad ALi) (although King David is mentioned and some say he is the greatest)
So Secrets at times need to be confronted and shared and at times need to be kept private.

I hear the דרשה about כי אין איש but I'm not sure that it just superimposes modern values upon the greatest man of all time. I thought he ran כי מבקשים נפשו (implied by their ceasing to search).

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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