I'm in an ethical quandry.
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine from college got engaged to a local guy. The engagement fizzled out, reasons are unimportant, but obviously, on a personal level, although I don't blame him, I'm on her side. I think it was a fairly amicable breakup anyway. Being the type of person I am, I've forgotten the business half of his name.
Now I've come across through completely unrelated channels a guy who might potentially be this guy, he no longer lives in the same place, but near as I can tell, he was in the right place at the right time and has the correct first name. Do I ask my friend for more details about her ex in an attempt to figure out if it's the same guy? Or do I be stoic and resist the impulse to pry and tell myself the odds are way too high against this being the guy, and let it go?
I keep asking myself what would the Chofetz Chaim do? I think he would let it go. Even if it was the same guy, there's absolutely not need to worry my friend about or may bring up bad memories, that's all I'm saying. I need to let it go. But I'm dead curious. Not that it matters either way. If he wants my help, I'll render whatever I can in the way of humanitarian aid, just like I would for anyone. But....inquiring minds want to know.
And this is something that both the Chassidim and the Litvakim can agree on. The Ba'al Shem Tov has a story about something like this. A man is plagued by stray thoughts during prayer. He goes to the Ba'al Shem Tov and explains that he can't concentrate for all the stray thoughts going in and out of his head. The Ba'al Shem Tov sends him on a trip to see a particular guy in a nearby town. The guy travels all day, rests for a few hours during the night, and continues all day the next day, arriving just at evening. He goes directly to the guy's house. He knocks on the front door, but there's no answer. He goes around to the back and sees the guy sitting in the kitchen not doing much of anything. He knocks on the back door, and there's no reply. He knocks louder, practically banging the door down. The guy doesn't so much as look up. Eventually our hero gives up and finds himself a place to stay the night. The next day, he returns to the house and knocks on the front door. Almost immediately it's opened by the guy he saw in the kitchen the night before who greets him kindly, welcomes him to the house, offers him refreshments and makes him comfortable.
Our hero is burning with anger and finally bursts out, "When I knocked yesterday, why didn't you let me in? I was knocking and knocking!"
The guy says, "So you knocked. Big deal. Why do I have to let you in?"
So just because I'm curious, doesn't mean I have to let it rule me.
Of course, there is always the off-chance he'll respond to the introduction with, "Hey! I know you! You're my ex-fiance's buddy from Boston! I remember you!"
Or the Arthur Dent classic line, "We've met."