Shlach 5765

June 23, 2009

< 1 min read


Shlach (Numbers 13-15 )

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GOOD MORNING! &nbsp; 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, ok, 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 this week's Torah portion, 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 or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242), I will share with you when it is permissible to tell an untruth:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. When someone asks you for information that if you answered truthfully would constitute rechilut, talebearing (needlessly telling someone what another person said or did something against him) - you should tell him a lie rather than relate that information.

  4. You are permitted to tell an untruth out of humility to not draw attention to yourself.

  5. 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.

  6. You are allowed to praise something that someone has acquired, though it may not deserve that praise.

  7. You may lie to save someone's life.

  8. A teacher may say an incorrect statement to see if his students are paying attention or remember their learning.

  9. 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 the kid 20 years later and he grew into a fine young man!

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Torah Portion of the Week

The Jewish people received the Torah on Mt. Sinai and were ready to enter the land of Israel. There was a consensus of opinion amongst the people that we should send spies to see if it was feasible to conquer the Land. Moshe knew that the Almighty's promise to give the Land included a guarantee to conquer it. However, one of the principles of life which we learn from this portion is: the Almighty allows each of us the free will to go in the direction we choose. Even though one man and the Almighty is a majority, Moshe by Divine decree, sent out the princes of the tribes (men of the highest caliber) to spy out the land.

Twelve spies were sent. Ten came back with a report of strong fortifications and giants; they rallied the people against going up to the Land. Joshua ben Nun and Calev ben Yefunah (Moshe's brother-in-law) tried to stem the rebellion, but did not succeed. The Almighty decreed 40 years of wandering in the desert, one year for each day they spied in the land of Israel. This happened on the 9th of Av, a date noted throughout Jewish history for tragedy - the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain amongst them.


Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And Moshe called Hoshea, the son of Nun, Yehoshua." (Numbers 13:16).

What did Moshe hope to accomplish by changing his name? What can we learn from it?

Rashi tells us that Moshe called him Yehoshua because Moshe prayed that the Almighty should save him from the plans of the other spies. Targum Yonason (an Aramaic commentary on the Torah) comments on this verse that Moshe called him Yehoshua when Moshe saw Hoshea's humility.

Rabbi Avraham Mordechai of Gur explained that the nature of a person with humility is not to be stubborn about his own opinions and wishes. He is compliant and will easily give in to the opinions and wishes of others. The other spies were all very distinguished and important men. Moshe feared that Yehoshua might concede to their opinions and be swayed by them even though he felt differently. Therefore, Moshe especially prayed for Yehoshua not to be negatively influenced by the others.

When a question of Torah ideals is involved, one must not budge. That is when it is appropriate to resist. When dealing with basic principles, remain steadfast and do not allow others to sway you. One needs wisdom to know the difference between situations when it is proper to give in to others and when it is not. For this we need the Almighty's assistance.

(or Go to

Jerusalem 7:12
Guatemala 6:14 - Hong Kong 6:50 - Honolulu 6:56
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New York 8:11 - Singapore 6:54 - Toronto 8:43


False words are not only evil in themselves,
but they infect the soul with evil.
--&nbsp; Plato, Dialogues, Phaedo

In Honor of
Alan Richardson

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