Monday, June 6, 2011

When are you allowed to lie? and Yehuda and Payson do Torey Pines

Yehuda and Payson do the private part of Torey Pines

GOOD MORNING! When are you allowed to lie? A friend told me a story about his  eldest son, Avraham, when he 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!" Avraham 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, "Uh...huh, uh...huh, 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?" Avraham  answered, "No. The policeman said that is wrong to lie and that you shouldn't do it again!"

Where in the bible 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 who 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 coming up int he bible soon, 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."

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin presents a compilation of the basic laws regarding lying in his book Love Your Neighbor . Here are the parameters:

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 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.

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, Avrahm calling the police in front of his friend worked. I saw the kid 20 years later and he grew into a fine young man!

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