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AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH – PART 2

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. I gave this speech over twenty years ago and it is just as relevant today as it was back then[1]. In part 2 of this series, we will discuss the deep effects that falsehood has on our soul and the importance of truth in our daily affairs.


“Because speaking falsehood is an enormous transgression,” Rabbeinu Yona explains in Shaarei Teshuvah. “We are obligated to uphold the truth, because it is one of the fundamental elements of the soul.” What are the building blocks of the soul? Of what material is the soul constructed? The Rabbeinu Yona tells us the answer: Truth. The soul is made of truth. All souls are taken from beneath the Kisei Hakovod, the Divine Throne of Glory - from Hashem Himself, so to speak, and Hashem’s seal is truth. Therefore, lying, cheating and deceiving are all antithetical to the soul. They are destructive. In this light, we can understand Rabbeinu Yehudah Hachassid’s advice in Sefer Chasidim. He writes that a person should do his best to avoid telling a lie even when the halacha permits doing so, for example: in certain circumstances, mipnei hashalom, for the sake of maintaining peace. There may be no transgression in lying under such circumstances, but the lie is nevertheless destructive to the soul.


In our day and age, the standard of truthfulness has sunk to new lows. That is really not surprising. It is generally agreed that we live in the predawn of the Messianic age, and the Mishnah (Sotah 49b) tells us that one of the hallmarks of our age is the disappearance of truth. And indeed, if we look around contemporary society, we are struck by the total bankruptcy of truth.


Tragically, the disease of untruthfulness has infected the Jewish community as well. There was a time when the word of a Jewish person was sacrosanct. There was a time when people preferred to do business with observant Jews, because they were assumed to be trustworthy. Is that still the case? Unfortunately, it is not. Today, we hear Jews saying that they would rather do business with gentiles than with other Jews. What a Chillul Hashem this is!


The Sma writes that when Hashem finally brings the Jewish people back to Eretz Yisrael, the nations of the world will say, “Hashem is right to choose the Jews as His people, because they are a truthful people.” But if the Jews will lie and cheat, the nations of the world will say, “What is this that Hashem has done? Why has He chosen to associate himself with thieves and liars?” Apparently, in the view of the Sma, the geulah will be delayed until the nations of the world will gladly attest to the honesty and integrity of the Jewish people.


All of us know full well where we have to improve. We have to be honest with our employers. We have to deliver 60 minutes of honest work for every hour of pay. Our employers, for the most part, are not paying us to go to mincha on their time. Our employers are not interested in providing us with free long-distance telephone time. We have to be honest with our employees as well and give them everything to which they are entitled.


We have to be honest with the government. And if we perceive the government as being wasteful with our tax dollars, we are not exempt from being honest with the government. Which government was more corrupt than that of Czarist Russia? And yet, Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky, when he was a Rav in Lithuania, always told people to make sure they gave the government every cent demanded by law.


We have to be honest with our schools and shuls. It is unconscionable to be less than absolutely truthful on a tuition-reduction form. It is beyond me how people can rationalize stealing from Torah institutions. It is beyond me how people make a large pledge during an appeal in shul, basking in all the admiring glances, and then neglect to pay up. What has become of us?


We have to be honest with ourselves. It is dishonest to pay lip service to the truth and then employ all sorts of clever subterfuges to avoid it. All the shtick and the gimmicks do not emanate from the realm of truth and they are destructive to the soul. All too many Jews protect one image in the neighborhood and the shtiebel but take on an entirely different persona when they go to work downtown. All too many Jews keep vulgar language, ribald humor and a dash of flirtatiousness in their briefcases to be unpacked when they reach the office.


Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch once commented that some Jews have become reverse Marranos. The Muranos were gentiles on the outside but Jews on the inside. Some of us have become Jews on the outside but gentiles on the inside. The image is there, but with no substance behind it. Where is truth?


It's about time we stood up and told people who we really are. It may be a little hard at first. It may take special effort, but it will be worth it - especially for our children. B’ezras Hashem, in next week’s article, we will discuss the profound impact that honesty has on raising good children.

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 info@everydayemes.org.


[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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