If, last week, we had all known what we now know  - would it have happened? I’d like to think not, and that is because I am far from the only member of West London Synagogue to have been deeply upset that Catherine, Princess of Wales, was so hounded by gossip, speculation and falsifications that she had to break with her much-needed recuperation - not to mention requested time away from the public eye - in order to disclose that she was being treated for cancer. We need to ask ourselves what sort of world we live in when people, irrespective of whether they are public figures, feel left with no alternative other than to share their private medical business for the sake of their own and their family’s wellbeing? Have we learnt nothing from the many ways that the previous Princess of Wales was maltreated by the media and by all those gossip-mongers who relished stirring controversy at every turn.

 

Judaism is very clear - we are neither allowed to share speculative gossip nor to tale-bear. In Leviticus this is known as rechilut and it is specifically forbidden. Rabbinic Judaism further prohibits motzi shem ra - defamation - and adds the sin of lashon hara - weaponising cruel language in order to destroy a reputation or a relationship. With this in mind, I hope that a serious lesson has been learned by all those in the media and on social media who jumped to conclusions about the state of a marriage and who pored over a family photograph seeking to find disunity where none existed. Compare that destructive behaviour with the dignified way our Princess of Wales spoke about her own struggle with cancer and her heartfelt respect for the courage of millions of others living with cancer treatment.

 

This week, we have all been reminded of something which had been forgotten the week before, that we can and should be better than this. On behalf of the whole West London Synagogue community I want to express our profound support for Princess Catherine - she has our admiration for her courage, our respect for her privacy, and our heartfelt prayers for a full and speedy recovery.