Va'eira (Exodus 6:2-9:35 )
GOOD MORNING! When my eldest son, Avraham, was 6 years old his friend desperately wanted him to come play at his house. "Come to my home. I'll give you cookies and milk!" My son became very upset -- not because he didn't like the incentive, but because his friend had used the gambit before and hadn't delivered on his offer to provide cookies and milk.
"George, you are such a liar! You always promise and you never give. I'm going to call the police on you for lying and have them put you in jail!" He then got the phone number of the police -- and called them. "Do you put people in jail for lying?" he asked into the telephone. This was followed by, "Uhuh, uhuh, good, okay, thank you, goodbye."
Meanwhile, George is shaking in fright. "Are they coming to get me? Are they going to put me in jail?" My son answered, "No. The policeman said that is wrong to lie and that you shouldn't do it again!"
Where in the Torah is the prohibition to lie? In the Book of Exodus (23:7), the Almighty tells us, "Keep far away from a lying word." The Talmud, Sanhedrin 92a, expresses the severity of lying by comparing it to idolatry. Idolatry is defined by thinking that anything other than the Almighty has power to accomplish something; putting one's faith in his lies would be akin to idolatry. In another tractate of the Talmud, Sotah 42a, liars are listed amongst those who will not behold the Divine Presence in the World to Come. It brings support from the verse in Psalms (101:7), "He that spreads falsehood shall not be established before My eyes."
Yet, we see that there are times when it is not only permissible to deceive, it is laudatory. In the story of the spies, Caleb tries to quell the growing revolt against going up to the Land of Israel by posing as an ally of the other spies who had fomented the crowd. According to the Talmud, Sotah 35a, Caleb cried out, "Is that all that the son of Amram (a derogatory way of referring to Moshe) has done to us?" The crowd quieted to hear Caleb's calumny, but instead Caleb tried to turn around their sentiments by continuing, "He took us out of Egypt, split the sea, brought us the manna and gathered together the quail."
My friend, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, presents a nice compilation of the basic laws regarding lying in his book Love Your Neighbor (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at judaicaenterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242), I will share with you when it is permissible to tell an untruth:
- It is permitted to tell an untruth to make peace between two people who are having a dispute, or to save someone from harm. For example, you may tell someone that a person with whom he has quarreled now regrets his behavior, even if it is not true -- if you have no other option. Your words should be as close to the truth as possible.
- If your host was very hospitable, you should not tell an unscrupulous person about the hospitality extended, since he might take advantage of the host.
- When someone asks you for information that if you answered truthfully would constitute rechilus, talebearing (needlessly telling someone what another person said or did something against him) -- you should tell him a lie rather than relate that information.
- You are permitted to tell an untruth out of humility to not draw attention to yourself.
- You are permitted to deceive someone who is trying to deceive you in order to save yourself from being cheated. However, you may not deceive someone to revenge a past wrong he perpetrated upon you.
- You are allowed to praise something that someone has acquired, though it may not deserve that praise.
- You may lie to save someone's life.
- A teacher may say an incorrect statement to see if his students are paying attention or remember their learning.
- It is not lying to make a statement that everyone knows is an exaggeration, i.e. "I told you a thousand times."
By the way, my son calling the police on his friend worked. I saw my son's friend 20 years later and he grew into a fine young man!
Va'eira, Exodus 6:2 - 9:35
Here begins the story of the Ten Plagues which God put upon the Egyptians not only to effect the release of the Jewish people from bondage, but to show the world that He is the God of all creation and history. The first nine plagues are divisible into three groups: 1) the water turning to blood, frogs, lice 2) wild beasts, pestilence/epidemic, boils 3) hail, locust, and darkness.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that these were punishments measure for measure for afflicting the Jewish people with slavery: 1) The first of each group reduced Egyptians in their own land to the insecurity of strangers. 2) The second of each group robbed them of pride, possessions and a sense of superiority. 3) The third in each group imposed physical suffering.
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And the Almighty spoke to Moshe and Aharon and He commanded them about the Children of Israel." (Ex. 6:13)
Rashi, the French commentator (who lived from 1040-1104) clarifies that the Almighty commanded Moshe and Aharon to lead them gently and with patience. The Shaloh, a later commentator, writes that this is a lesson for any person in a position of leadership. Whenever you are in a position of authority, be very careful not to get angry at the people you are dealing with. Watch out that you do not scream and shout. The reward for a leader who has this patience is very great.
There are two possible attitudes for a person in a position of leadership. The first is personal power -- the person seeks leadership for his own ego. The leader demands that people listen to him because of his selfish vanity. Such a leader will become angry when people do not follow his orders: "How dare they disobey me!" His entire focus is on his own success. The only reason he cares about other people is because that is how he will be successful. The people he deals with are not his goal, but just a means to an end. The end being his own self-aggrandizement and power. Such a leader will get angry easily.
The Torah ideal of leadership is to help as many people as possible. The focus is to benefit people and to be of service to others. When they are suffering, the leader realizes that they are likely to be moody and complaining. The more difficult they are to deal with, the greater the need for patience and tolerance. That was the Almighty's command to the first leaders of the Jewish people. This is the model for all future leaders. Regardless of whether you have authority over a large group or a small group such as a class or your own children, this lesson applies to you. Every difficult encounter is a tool for growing in the trait of patience.
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Real eyes realize real lies