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by Rabbi Yissocher Frand on behalf of the Sefas Tamim Foundation

I would like to thank the Sefas Tamim Foundation for the opportunity to present, over the course of a series of articles, a speech I gave about how powerful truth is. Truth gives us meaning and direction throughout life. It nourishes our souls and gives us good children. And it stands us in good stead long after we are gone from this world. I gave this speech over twenty years ago. It is just as relevant today as it was back then[1].

The Gemara tells us (Nedarim 8b), “There will be no gehinnom in the next world. Rather, the Holy One, Blessed Is He, will unveil the sun. The righteous will be healed by it, and the sinful will be punished by it.”

Rabbi Zev Leff of Yerushalayim explains that the sun in this allegory is a metaphor for the light of the truth. In the future, Hashem will shed the light of truth upon the world. There will be no more subterfuges, no more excuses, no more dissimulation, only the unadorned truth. There will be no place to hide, and we will have to face the truth. The righteous will be vindicated by the truth, but the sinful will be condemned by it.

At that time, we will all look back over the long span of our lifetimes, and we will understand what our lives really meant. And if we discover, Heaven forbid, that for all those years we were living a lie, it will be incredibly painful, more painful than any external rebuke could possibly be.

There was once an executive who worked in middle-level management for a small but prestigious company. He was very devoted to the company and did everything in his power to climb the corporate ladder. One day, without any forewarning whatsoever, the company went out of business. The decision to liquidate had been made behind closed doors in utmost secrecy and was immediately implemented. One day it was business as usual, and the next day all the employees were asked to clear out their desks and seek employment elsewhere.

A security guard was posted at the door to make sure the employees took nothing belonging to the company. When it was the executives turn to pass through security, he walked right past the guard and headed for the door. “Excuse me, sir,” the security guard called to him. “I have to inspect your box. I have to make sure it contains nothing belonging to the company.” The executive spun around in a rage. He ripped open his shirt and bared his chest. “You want to see what belongs to this company?” he cried out, pounding his chest. “This belongs to the company. My heart! I gave 30 years of my life to the company. I was here day and night, and holidays, too. I gave the company everything. And suddenly you just go out of business? For this I gave my life? For this I have to suffer the indignity of being treated like a thief? You're worried that I might take some pencils, but what about my heart? What about the best years of my life?”

What had pierced this man so deeply? Was it the loss of his job, his prestigious position, his retirement benefits? No. It was much more than that. All of a sudden, this poor man had been hit with the awful truth. All of a sudden, he realized that all the time he had stolen from his family - all the weekends he had spent in the office, all the nights he had spent with clients - were all for nothing. How could he have done this to himself and his family? How could he have frittered away the best years of his life for a mirage? How could he have allowed himself to live a lie? The awful truth stared him in the face, and it was more painful than he could bear.

How do we become conditioned to facing the truth? How do we avoid the nasty surprise of discovering we have been living a lie? Of discovering that we have wasted our lives away by deluding ourselves? It all begins with our attitude to speaking truth. If we are scrupulous in the words we speak, making sure that we speak only the truth, then we are better able to recognize truth when it stares us in the face. But if we rationalize about the little falsehoods, the line between truth and falsehood becomes blurred in our minds. Then we can no longer differentiate truth from falsehood very easily, and we are missing the truth that stares us in the face.

In times gone by, there were people who knew the meaning of honesty, of truthfulness. There were people who cared about the integrity of every word they uttered.

Do you know when the Chofetz Chaim got semicha? Late in life, he applied for a passport to travel from Poland to Eretz Yisrael. The passport application asked for the applicant’s profession, and the natural answer for the Chofetz Chaim was rabbi. There was only one problem. Although he had already written Mishna Berurah, and was acknowledged as the leading Halachic authority for all of Klal Yisrael, he had never received semicha.

If there was any person in the world who was entitled to call himself rabbi, it was the Chofetz Chaim. Yet he refused to do so. Officially, he was not a rabbi. So he sent a telegram to Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski in Vilna asking him for a semicha based on his works. Reb Chaim Ozer immediately telegraphed him a semicha, and the Chofetz Chiam was able to apply for a passport. Amazing! Until the Chofetz Chaim had that telegram in his hands, he absolutely refused to represent himself as a rabbi, because technically, it was not true.

B’ezras Hashem, in next week’s article, we will discuss the deep effects that falsehood has on our soul and the importance of truth in our daily affairs.

The Sefas Tamim Foundation’s mission is to underscore the centrality of truth, emes, in our daily affairs. For further information regarding the Sefas Tamim Foundation and its mission of emphasizing everyday emes, please contact Boruch Delman at 718-200-5462 or

[1] This speech was also included in my book “Listen to Your Messages” and what follows has been reproduced from the book and used with the permission of the copyright holders Artscroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.


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