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The Truth About the Truth - Part 1

by Rabbi Ephraim Eliyahu Shapiro on behalf of the Sefas Tamim Foundation

I am grateful to the Sefas Tamim Foundation for giving me the opportunity, through a series of articles, to address the topic of Emes and Yashrus. We have tremendous gratitude to this organization for bringing a heightened awareness about these incredibly important Middos to Klal Yisrael. B’ezras Hashem, through the work of the Sefas Tamim Foundation, we should indeed become far more meticulous in these Middos.

The Possuk in Tehillim states (Tehillim 85): “Emes, MeiEretz Titzmach” - truth will sprout from the Earth. The Pupa Rav was once asked, that if truth is sprouting from the Earth, then it would appear that we should have it in abundance. That being the case, why isn't there more Emes in the world?

The Pupa Rav gave a powerful reply - that in order to grasp something that's sprouting from the Earth, a person has to bend down to reach it, and many people aren't willing to bend.

Many people are not willing to change. So yes, it is true that Emes, truthfulness, is going to sprout and be in abundance. However, to attain truthfulness, we have to work at it. We have to bend down to get it - we have to change.

My father, HaRav Mordechai Shapiro ZT’L used to say regarding Emes, that sometimes a person thinks that it was just a small thing which he said that was not totally Emes. It was only a little bit of Sheker. To that, my father would respond that Ivory soap advertises that it is 99.44% pure. He used to say that 99 and 44 hundredths pure is good for soap, but not for Emes, because something that is only 99.44% Emes is 100% Sheker.

My father would bring a fabulous gematria to intensify this concept. The gematria of the word Emes is 441. The gematria of the word Sheker is 600. If you subtract 441 from 600, you have 159, which is the exact gematria of the word Katan, a small thing. The difference between Emes and Sheker is Katan – often only a small thing.

Being meticulous to ensure that we do not mix even small amounts of Sheker in how we speak and act – having an acute sensitivity to 100% Emes, is really what the Sefas Tamim Foundation is accomplishing. We become more cognizant of small things - things that perhaps we were not so aware of, or sensitive to.

Many years ago, milk used to be delivered by a milkman, which as the name implies, is a person who would go door-to-door delivering milk. There was a Yid who felt that he could dilute the milk with water and deliver it to his customers, and hopefully, they would not taste the difference. By doing this, he now had more “milk” on hand, and would be able to increase his profits.

Unfortunately, after a while, someone in the milkman’s family took ill. The milkman went to the Rav and asked the Rav to daven for the choleh. The Rav asked if there is anything that the milkman could do to improve his ways. When the milkman confided in the Rav that he was diluting the milk that he delivered, the Rav immediately advised him to discontinue this practice, and commit to delivering 100% milk. Then, B’ezras Hashem, the family member would have a Refuah Shlaimah, a complete recovery.

The milkman listened to his Rav. He started to deliver 100% milk to all of his customers and Boruch Hashem, his family member recovered. However, the story does not end there. To his surprise, his customers complained, “What have you done to your milk! It tastes terrible!”

The milkman’s customers were so used to the diluted milk, that they could no longer appreciate the real thing. When a person is involved with Sheker - when a person is involved with things that are unscrupulous, they cannot even taste the Emes. Sometimes we think that we are speaking Emes, but we have diluted it with a little bit of Sheker that we think is inconsequential. However, when a person gets used to Sheker - when a person gets used to leading a life that is not 100% scrupulous and meticulously honest, they cannot even taste and appreciate Emes when presented with it! So how do we become more honest? In our next article, we will discuss how we can learn to bend - to change our ways - to grasp at the Emes that is sprouting from the Earth in abundance, as we discussed when we began our presentation.

The Sefas Tamim Foundation’s mission is to underscore the importance of living a life of 100% Emes through the learning of Halahca, Mussar, and Chizuk. For further information regarding the Sefas Tamim Foundation or to subscribe to its weekly newsletter, please contact Boruch Delman at 718-200-5462 or


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