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Living a Torah Life of Honesty and Integrity - Part 2

by Rabbi Paysach Krohn on behalf of the Sefas Tamim Foundation


The Sefas Tamim Foundation is a new, wonderful organization whose sole focus is to emphasize everyday Emes: in thought, in speech and in business matters. On behalf of the Foundation, and in this continuing series of articles, I look forward B’ezeras Hashem, to continue to discuss this fundamental Mitzvah with you.

In our first article, we discussed the source, parameters, and the impact of this Mitzvah on others. We learned that this Mitzvah is unique, insofar as it mandates us to “stay clear”. We addressed how we may routinely fall victim to falsehood; how we seek Hashem’s help to avoid it in our Tefillios; and the great reward in store for those who are vigilant in its observance. We then addressed how our words and actions become teaching moments to those who look to us for guidance.

Misleading, Misrepresenting, Betraying Trust

How often do we mislead others when it is convenient for us to do so? How about the persistent Meshuloch on the telephone that we seek to cut off by responding, “OK, send me an envelope!” Yet, we have no intention of making a donation, but only wish to close down the call. Or, to mollify an anxious customer, we represent: “Don’t worry, the [item] will be in store by next Monday…” when you know for sure that the item will not be in stock by then. These statements are Sheker.

Reb Yaakov Kamenetsky was an Ish Emes. He was once asked whether someone could participate in a government program that would provide him with significant benefits but for which his eligibility was not totally clear. Reb Yaakov advised him not to apply. But the person insisted: “This is just a routine government program that everyone uses, even the goyim”. Reb Yaakov answered quickly: “But you are forgetting one thing, you were at Sinai and they were not.”

His son, Reb Binyamin, once asked him whether it was permissible to lower the Mezzuzos on the doorposts for the first graders to enable them to kiss the Mezuzah. Reb Yaakov was unequivocal, “Without question this is wrong. You will be teaching them Sheker! Better to teach them the correct location for the Mezzuzah, and where it can be done safely, have them stand on a chair to kiss the Mezzuzah, rather than mislead them.“

There was a time when Reb Yaakov needed to call Reb Moshe Fienstein to seek a Brochoh for his wife, who was soon to undergo a medical procedure. He repeatedly called Reb Moshe’s house line, but not surprisingly, the line was always busy. Family members noted the time and effort expended by the Rosh Yeshiva in making this call. Someone then remembered that Reb Yaakov had Reb Moshe’s personal, unlisted phone number, which would have allowed prompt access to Reb Moshe. “Why don’t you use the unlisted phone number?” Reb Yaakov answered, “Reb Moshe gave me this special number for those instances when we need to discuss urgent matters affecting Klal Yisrael. I have no right to use this number for my own personal use.”

How about when we sign our name to something, are we careful to ensure that everything we are signing to is true? In the 1950s, they brought a declaration to Reb Zelig Reuven Bengis to sign regarding opposition to the Israeli army drafting women. Reb Zelig Reuven looked, and looked, and looked at the document but he wouldn’t sign. They asked him what his hesitation was. Reb Zelig Reuven said, “The declaration says, ‘Hachosmin B’dimah (We have signed in tears)’, I have not cried about this matter so I can not sign.”

In 1952, Reb Chatzkel Levenshtien, had a nine year old grandson that passed away. I think it was on Shabbos and Reb Chatzkel found out about it on Sunday. Reb Chatzkel was distraught and overcome with grief. On that very day, they told him that he needed to give the Hesped for Reb Issac Sher, the Rosh Yeshiva of Slabodka, for the commemoration of the Shloshim. Reb Chatzkel said he was unable to give the Hesped. They insisted, “But they already announced that you would be giving the Hesped!” Reb Chatzkel replied, “If I give the Hesped, I will do so in tears, and people will think that I am crying for the Rosh Yeshiva, but I will really be crying about my grandson and Ich halt nisht by falshe threrren (I am not holding by false tears)”.

We may not reach the exalted levels of our Gedolim. But certainly, we can all learn from their ways.

Promises Unkept

Our words should be our bond. People rely on our representations. Reb Shmuel Greinerman used to attend a daily Mincha minyan at the home of the Chazon Ish. One day, the minyan was slow in forming. Reb Greinerman nervously checked his watch; soon he had an appointment and would be late for it, if he stayed for the minyan. He asked the Chazon Ish what he should do. If he left the house now, the Chazon Ish might be left without a minyan. The Chazon Ish said without hesitation, “Leave immediately. If you are late for your appointment, it is Sheker!”

How often do we stroll into a doctor’s or dentist’s office well after our appointment time, oblivious to the commitment we have made? Do we realize that the patients who have appointments after us will be inconvenienced by our actions? Let’s make it a point to keep our appointments which is an important and practical way of putting Emes into practice every day.

I look forward to discussing with you other important aspects of Emes in my final column in this series next week.

For more information on the Sefas Tamim Foundation and its mission of emphasizing everyday Emes, please contact Boruch Delman at 718-200-5462 or info@everydayemes.org.

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