ARCHIVES: HILCHOS MIDVAR SHEKER TIRCHAK
(Halachos of speaking and acting truthfully)
BELOW ARE THE HALACHOS FROM THE DAILY EMAILS THAT WERE SENT OUT TO THE “HALACHA FOR TODAY” DAILY EMAIL LIST
The Torah is referred to as “Toras Emes, A True Torah”. (Tehillim 119:142)
The seal of Hashem is “Emes, truth” (Talmud Yoma 69b)
The highest accolade one can bestow upon a Jew is that he/she is an Ish Emes, a man or woman of truth.
Lying is one of the most disgraceful sins. So much so that the Torah doesn’t simply say not to do it, rather the Posuk (Shmos 23:7) tells us to distance ourselves from untruth, Midvar Sheker Tirchak, an admonition not found by any other prohibition in the Torah.
The Talmud tells us that Hashem despises one who [habitually] lies. (Pesachim 113b)
Being untruthful is not the Torah way and is halachically unacceptable. However, not everything that is seemingly “a lie” is considered Sheker, and not everything is seemingly “the truth” is considered Emes.
We shall now begin to discuss some of the Halachos that pertain to the prohibition of lying and B’Ezras Hashem get some clarity in this topic.
HALACHOS FOR SUNDAY, APRIL 18 2010
1) It is a biblical prohibition to speak untruths. (See Chofetz Chaim Pesicha to Mitzvos Asei 13. See Smag Mitzvos Asei, Mitzvah 107, Smak Mitzvah 227, Sefer Chasidim Siman 1060, Sefer HaChinuch Mitzva 74, Mesilas Yesharim Perek 11)
2) One who is careful to speak truthfully is emulating Hashem and is acting in accordance of the positive commandment (in Devarim 28:9) of “V’Halachta B’Drachav, you shall follow [Hashem's] ways” (See Chofetz Chaim Pesicha to Mitzvas Asei 14)
HALACHOS FOR MONDAY, APRIL 19 2010
1) The prohibition of lying applies not only to speaking untruths with the mouth, but also to writing untruths in letters, newspapers etc.
(See Chofetz Chaim Klal 1 Se’if 18 and Pischei Teshuva Choshen Mishpat Siman 34. If lies are printed and distributed there is an additional sin of being a “Choti U’Machti Es HaRabim, sinning and causing others to sin as well”, see Shulchan Aruch and Mishna Berura Orach Chaim Siman 307:16 for more details)
Likewise, lying via a gesture with the hand or eyes is also prohibited. (See Chofetz Chaim Klal 1 Se’if 18 and Sefer Chasidim Siman 1058)
2) Even if the lying is done in jest and/or without malicious intent, it is still prohibited. (See Mesilas Yesharim Perek 11 and Chofetz Chaim in Sfas Tamim Perek 6 and Pele Yoetz, “Sheker”. However, if it is evident to everyone that what was said is a joke and isn’t true, there may be room for leniency)
HALACHOS FOR TUESDAY, APRIL 20 2010
1) Even if one doesn’t intend to speak untruthfully, but somehow as the words came out they ended up being lies, the prohibition of lying has been transgressed.
Every Jew must carefully measure and examine their words before speaking them to ensure that they will not contain any falsehood. (See Rabbeinu Yonah in Sha’arei Teshuva Sha’ar 3)
2) The above is true even if no gain has been had by the one saying the lie, and no harm has befallen anyone else either due to this lie. (See Rabbeinu Yonah ibid. Chelek 4 and 9 and Sfas Tamim Chapter 6)
HALACHOS FOR WEDNESDAY, APRIL 21 2010
1)The prohibition to lie applies equally to men and women. Children as well should be trained to speak truthfully. (See Talmud Sukkah 46)
2)There is no difference if the lies that are spoken are directed at a man, woman or child, or even a non Jew, they are still forbidden. (See Sefer Chasidim Siman 426)
Thus, one should not promise a reward to child for good behavior and then not follow through with the promise as doing so is lying as well as teaching the child that one doesn’t need to keep their promised word. (See Talmud Sukkah ibid. See also Sefer Ahavas Chesed from the Chofetz Chaim Perek 9 that aside from lying there may be other transgressions involved)
HALACHOS FOR THURSDAY, APRIL 22 2010
1) It is permissible [and according to some Poskim, even considered a Mitzvah] to lie for purposes of keeping the peace (Darkei Shalom), if there are no other alternative ways to ensure the peace. (See Talmud Yevamos 65b, Sefer Chasidim Siman 426 and Chofetz Chaim Hilchos Rechilus Klal 1:14)
2) Some Poskim maintain that when doing so it should not be done with an outright lie, rather by bending the truth in such a way that the one hearing it will understand it as a lie. However, many Poskim allow saying an outright lie. (See Aruch LaNer to Yevamos 65b, Mogen Avrohom Siman 156 and Chofetz Chaim Hilchos Rechilus Klal 1:8. See also Sefer Ohel Yaakov from the Dubna Magid Parshas Emor where he writes that although it is permitted to say an outright lie in this case, it is still more becoming of a G-d fearing Jew to not do so if possible)
HALACHOS FOR EREV SHABBOS KODESH, APRIL 23 2010
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh
1) The Talmud (Bava Metzia 23b) teaches us that there are three other instances where lying is permitted, and refers to them as “Maseches, Puria and Ushpiza”
If someone asks you if you are versed in a certain tractate of Talmud [for the purposes of testing you], even if you are, you may humbly say no. (See Rashi to Gemara ibid. Dibur Hamaschil B’Maseches. See also Drisha to Choshen Mishpat Siman 262)
If someone is learning a certain topic and is questioned as to which topic they are learning, they may lie and say they are learning something else in order to avoid having to answer questions on the real topic they are learning. (Sefer Toras Chaim Bava Metzia ibid.)
2) However, if the questioner is asking a Halacha question for purposes of Halacha L’Ma’aseh he must answer the question if he knows. (Tosefos Bava Metzia ibid. Dibur Hamaschil B’Maseches)
HALACHOS FOR SHABBOS KODESH
1) According to Rashi Puria means, if one is asked if they had marital relations, which if answered truthfully would be lacking in Tznius, modesty, he/she must lie.
Likewise, a woman who is asked if she pregnant with a child, may lie to protect her privacy.
2) According to one interpretation in Tosefos it means, If one didn’t attend the Bais Medrash due to being impure (Tumas Keri) and needing to immerse in a Mikvah, he may lie and say he was ill or another valid excuse if asked about his absence.
HALACHOS FOR SUNDAY, APRIL 25 2010
1) The third area that the Talmud (Bava Metzia 23b) teaches us that there lying is permitted is:
If one was a guest at someone’s home, and is asked by someone else how the accommodations were and if they were treated ok, he may lie and say they weren’t ok as to prevent the questioner from being an “unwanted guest” at the host, and thus cause him an unwanted monetary loss. (Rashi Bava Metzia 24a Dibur Hamaschil B’Ushpiza. However, according some Poskim do not rule this way and do not accept this interpretation of “Ushpiza” as this is prohibited due to Lashon Hara. See Chofetz Chaim Klal 9:3 and Dibros Moshe from Rav Moshe Feinstein Bava Metzia ibid.)
The Rambam and others interpret “Ushpiza” as follows: If one was a guest at someone’s home and he is asked where he stayed he may lie and say he stayed a different person’s house in order to prevent “unwanted guests” from taking advantage of the real host.
2) It is permissible to lie in order to save another Jew from embarrassment, but if possible it should be done in a way that doesn’t seem like a lie is being said. (Sefer Chasidim 642)
HALACHOS FOR MONDAY, APRIL 26 2010
1) It is permissible to lie in order to prevent another Jew from transgressing a sin.
For instance if one knows that a certain person is lax in the observance of a certain rabbinical prohibition, they may say to him “Rav so and so [who you know is respected by the person] ruled that this is forbidden”, even if the Rav never ruled on the matter. (Sefer Midvar Sheker Tirchak page 61 quoting the Orach Meisharim)
Likewise, if one is offered food whose kashrus is questionable, he/she may say ‘ I am fasting today” in order to avoid eating the food. (Kaf HaChaim Siman 565)
2) A Torah teacher may lie and teach his students misinformation for the purpose of sharpening their minds (i.e. to have them figure out the errors) or testing them (i.e. to see if they will pick up on the fact that he taught them incorrectly), provided he will give them the correct information at the end. (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah Siman 246:12)
HALACHOS FOR TUESDAY, APRIL 27 2010
1) Often, appeals are made in Shul for various Tzedaka organizations, whereby pledges are called out loud. Some people call out large sums of money, even though they have no intention of giving that large a sum, in order to encourage others in the Shul to match or beat that sum.
Although their intentions are noble, doing so is prohibited and considered lying. (Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak Vol. 3 Siman 97
2) If one is shipping a Sefer Torah via airmail, and wants to ensure that it isn’t thrown around and treated disrespectfully, he may write “fragile” or “glass” on the carton in order that it should be handled carefully and this is not considered lying. (See Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos Vol. 2 Siman 523. See extended Teshuva regarding if this is an acceptable way to transport a Sefer Torah in the first place)
HALACHOS FOR WEDNESDAY, APRIL 28 2010
1) If one does something that his/her mother asked them to do, and afterward his/her father is upset that it was done and asks “who told you to do this?”, he/she should lie rather than say that the mother asked that it be done and risk having the father get angry at her. (Sefer Chasidim Siman 336. He also writes there that if indeed you tell your father that your mother asked you to do it and he gets angry at her, it is as if you yourself got angry at your mother.)
2) One may say to a groom that his bride is beautiful, even if isn’t the case, as to make the groom love his bride even more. who explains that “beautiful” can be referring to her actions and Middos as well as to her physical beauty, and thus it isn’t totally a lie.) (Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer Siman 65:1. See Bais Shmuel Os 2
(It is forbidden for a male to gaze at a bride (or any other woman for that matter) (Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer Siman 65:2)
Likewise, if a person purchases an item, you may tell him that it is nice or that he got a good deal even if it isn’t the case. (See Talmud Kesubos 17a)
HALACHOS FOR THURSDAY, APRIL 29 2010
1) An extension of the prohibition to lie is the prohibition to cheat and be dishonest in business.
It is prohibited to fool, mislead or deceive customers, clients or any other people in the process of conducting business or any other interpersonal matters. This is referred to in Halacha as “Geneivas Da’as “(literally: stealing knowledge)
The prohibition of Geneivas Da’as applies to men and women and to Jews and non Jews alike. (See Talmud Chulin 94a-b, Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat Siman 228)
2) If one is selling merchandise that has a defect, they must notify the prospective buyer of this defect. (See Pele Yoetz, Topic: Sheker, Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim Siman 156:1 and Aruch HaShulchan 156:3)