Never Tell A Lie
The Seal of the Almighty is Truth (Shabbos 55). With these words, the Rabbis, obm, elevate the concept of truth to the heights and impress on us the evils of falsehood. In fact, so abhorrent were lies to the rabbis that they said:
“Everything in this world did the Almighty create, except for falsehood, which was created by mankind in his heart.”
Lying is a terrible trait, and even when one intends to do good thereby, he should nevertheless avoid falsehood.
The Son Who Meant Well
Rav was married to a woman who was a shrew. She was constantly causing him aggravation, especially when it came to meals. Thus, if he would say to her: “Let me have beans,” she would serve him peas; if he would as for peas, she would inevitably serve him beans.
Thus, things continued for many years, until Rav’s son, Hiya, who was a clever lad, saw how his father was being aggravated, and decided to help him. From that moment on, when his father would tell her to prepare peas, Hiya would tell her to prepare beans, knowing that she would do the opposite, and thus his father would get what he really wanted.
As Rav saw that his wife was serving him what he really wanted, he was amazed and constantly surprised.
Commenting on this to his son, he said: “It appears that your mother has improved and mended her ways.”
“In reality it was I who helped her, Father,” answered Hiya. “You see, every time you would ask for beans I would tell Mother that you wanted peas, knowing that she would thus prepare beans.”
Rav smiled as he heard his son’s words and exclaimed:
“This is what the people mean when they say: ‘The one who comes out from you (your descendant) teaches you wisdom.’
“Nevertheless, though you meant this for my benefit, you should never do it, for the prophet Jeremiah castigated the people who ‘taught their tongue to speak falsehood.’”
The Power of Truth
To keep from speaking lies is not only important in itself it also is a powerful weapon in keeping you from committing other sins.
We are told that Rabbi Shimon Ben Shetach (who was one of the earliest Tannaim), was sitting in his study one day engrossed in Torah, when a student ushered in a stranger.
“O Master,” cried the man, “There is some thing that I must discuss with you privately. It is of great importance.”
Sending everyone else out of the room, Rabbi Shimon asked the stranger to be seated.
“I need help desperately,” began the man. “I come from the home of wealthy and good parents. In my youth, however, I disobeyed them and the commandments of G-d and followed the dictates of my heart. My parents tried to reason with me, but it was all to no avail. I lied; I cheated; I stole. Finally, my heartbroken parents banished me from their home.
“I fell in with a band of thieves, and together we stole and robbed and beat people. I became so adept at this that I won favor in the eyes of the group, and they appointed me their leader.
“So things continued, and I fell deeper into the ways of evil. One day, we decided to rob the home of a wealthy family in a certain town. Breaking in, we pounced upon the family and bound them with thick ropes. We then began to plunder and ransack the house. Entering an upstairs bedroom I saw a child asleep, and as I came close to his bed, he muttered in his sleep:
“‘The of the Almighty is turned to the doers of evil to erase their memory from the Earth.’”
The Robber Shaken
“I was shaken as I heard these words, and a fear of G-d came over me. Awakening the child I asked him:
“Where did you learn these words?”
“These are the words of King David,” he an-swered, “and I learned them from my rabbi in school.”
“And what else have you learned there?”
“I have learned: ‘They cry out, and G-d heard.’
“Hearing this,” continued the robber, “I was again shaken, and I ordered my comrades to release the captives. When we returned to our hideaway, I felt a deep pain in my heart, and I resolved never again to do the evil things that I have done. I took leave of the other robbers and left for a village where I resolved to find honest work and redeem myself.
“However, my evil inclination is very powerful and I am tempted to return to my ways of evil. I have come to you, therefore, to help me to conquer it. Show me the way to remain honest and not give in to my temptation.”
Rabbi Shimon answered: “You are to be blessed for what you wish to do. Listen now carefully to what I have to say, and you will be able to conquer from your inclination and keep from evil.
“Remember always: ‘Keep from falsehood.’”
The robber stared at Rabbi Shimon: “Is this all you are going to tell me? Is there not more powerful advice and help to give?”
“You will see,” replied Rabbi Shimon. “If you but listen and keep from falsehood, you will not steal again.”
Back To His Dwelling
The man was still unconvinced, but he had no choice but to go to the room he rented and hope that Rabbi Shimon was correct.
That night, he grew very hungry and went to the apartment of the lady from whom he was renting his room. He knocked, hoping to get some food. Since there was no answer, he opened the door and walked in.
The apartment was empty as the family had left, but in the corner was a great wooden chest. Walking over to it and opening it, the man gasped as he saw a whole treasure of jewelry and other valu-able items. Hastily pocketing a handful of valuables, he tip-toed back to his room and lay down on his bed.
“When the woman comes to me and asks if I was home during the theft, I will simply say that I was out and know nothing about it.”
Suddenly, however, the man remembered the promise that he had made to Rabbi Shimon that he would always speak the truth. How then could he lie to the woman and say that he was out during the theft? On the other hand, if he did not lie, he would become the primary suspect.
Then it dawned upon him. This was what Rabbi Shimon meant! It would be impossible for him to steal if he never lied. Jumping up from his bed, he ran back to the woman’s apartment and returned the property he had stolen.
“Bless Rabbi Shimon,” he said. “He is indeed a wise man. Now I know that if I but adhere always to tell the truth and never tell a lie, I will be saved from the sin of robbery.”
Such is the power of truth – and falsehood. It can change our lives for good or evil depending upon whether we are true or false to ourselves and to others.
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Page last updated - 06/02/2006