Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bending the Truth

A certain man felt quite tired of being grilled by strangers who wished to know his name and family even though it was of no consequence to the questioner. He wondered if he was permitted to lie about his identity. When he asked Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, the Rav ruled that it is permitted.
On another occasion a certain man was at a loss to know how to deal with visitors at times when this was inconvenient for him. The easiest way to deal with such a caller would be to ask his wife to say that he is not at home, yet one would think it is forbidden because it is definitely false. When this man put his question to Rav Shlomo Zalman, he was very surprised at the answer. “It is permitted to say the husband is out since the only reason why they wish to avoid telling the visitor that the husband doesn’t want to see him is so he should not be insulted or get angry. This is definitely a case of darkei shalom, for which one may bend the truth as we find in the gemara in Yevamos.”
Rav Shlomo Zalman added a relevant anecdote. “I heard that when Rav Hoffman, zt”l, would lie down for a nap, he would tell his rebbetzin to say that he was preparing the shiur and was not to be disturbed. He reasoned that not everyone really needs to know what he is doing and in truth his sleep was also a way to prepare since he was better able to teach when well rested!”
The rav concluded with a small lesson from the “fifth section” of Shulchan Aruch. “It is obvious, though, that one should give his wife such instructions—and the mother should never tell what her child knows to be an out-and-out lie when a child could overhear her—since this is teaching the child to lie even when there is no heter.”


OOR said...

I don't believe this post, aside from lo tishakru the Torah says midvar sheker tirchuk, but it does remind me of...

There is a joke by one of the popular badchunim today, it goes as follows. I once asked a famous posek if I can tell over a story as if it happened to me in order to make it funnier for my parnassah. He replied that it is mutar, in fact I have taken it so far that even this story is made up.

I will assume that what you heard was a victim of broken telephone.

Micha Golshevsky said...

Of course one needs proper boundaries and to honestly find out what is truly permitted.
But you are mistaken in supposing that this post is a violation of m'devar sheker tirchak in any way, or that it is something that I merely heard from someone.
First of all, the gemara discusses bending the truth in various contexts. (One famous example from Bava Metzia 87 is brought in Rashi in Breishis 18:12. There are many others.)
I translated the stories in the post from Shalmei Moed, pg. 531 & 539 (from the chapter about halachos of truth.)
In case you are unfamiliar with Shalmei Moed I will give you a little background. It is a collection of halachic rulings by Rav Shlomo Zalman with enthusiastic haskamos from Rav Shmuel Aurebach, Rav Azriel Aurebach, Rav Zalman Nechemiyah Goldberg, Rav Yehoshua Neuwirth, and Rav Avigdor Nevenzal. Two of the Rav's son's, his son-in-law and two of his most well known talmedim muvhakim; hardly the type of sefer likely to fall victim to "broken telephone."
In addition, most of this piece is printed in Ma'adanei Shlomo, Orchos chaim, pg. 151 and Titein Emes L'ya'akov, chapter 5, seif 24, (this entire sefer is about the halachos of truth.)
I will be glad to answer any questions you may have about this issue if you wish.
(By the way, what is "lo tishakru"?)

OOR said...

Lev. 19:11

I mean no disrespect to Rav Auerbach, but I have a feeling that something is missing here. For your first example would you be happy finding out say 20 years from now that someone who you knew for 20 years lied to you about their name? It may be harder for him to say I am really uncomfortable discussing my background but think about the hurt and negativity that a simple non-truth can cause. As far as the second case, I tell people all the time "I am sorry but now is really not a good time, please try back later." Again, imagine your boss/client/donor stops by your house unannounced and your wife says you are not home. He goes to his car to drive away and his phone rings and instead of driving away immediately he finishes the call in front of your house. 15 minutes go by and you walk out your front door to go to Maariv... That doesn't strike me as darkei shalom.

Micha Golshevsky said...

I phrased my question poorly and I apologize for this. Instead of asking what’s lo tishakaru, I should have written, what does lo tishakaru have to do with this?
I know it sounds strange but lo tishakaru is in the context of a verse discussing stealing, and Chazal seem to have understood it, only in that context.
I have never seen this fragment of verse taken out of context or used to express a prohibition to lie. The Tashbtz, (asayin 59) for example, writes that one who lies violates two prohibitions. Mdevar sheker tirchak, and v'hin tzedek yihiyeh lachem, which is a bit later in the very same chapter in Kedoshim. He doe not not refer to the more obvious seeming verse "lo tishkru" a little over twenty psukim before. The reason why he ignores it is because it does not refer to lying without some form of theft.
If you have a source that applies lo tishakru to lying that is not connected to a stolen object, please let me know. (As you probably realize there is nothing conclusive in Rashi there; quite the contrary.)

Micha Golshevsky said...

Now as far as your other point. I am sorry if the post brought up unpleasant memories or made you feel uncomfortable. This is especially since in truth your words in your second comment are largely correct. The Shela Hakadosh writes that one can only change his words for darkei shalom if there is no other recourse--and even then it comes out of the Maharsha in Yevamos that one must not regularly bend the truth even for darkei Shalom. So your example of a better way to deal with such a situation. But sometimes this is simply not possible. When a person visits a Rav or neighbor, they may be very pushy if they hear that he is there but does not come to the phone\door. In such an instance one may be meshaneh for darkei Shalom.
As for the case with the boss, I really don't understand. if the husband was feeling a bit ill, must the wife have to tell the boss that he is indisposed? What is wrong with saying he isn't home? Why should his boss worry? What if the husband arrived home for a moment and then went out to ma'ariv? What if he had a chavrusah nearby or was speaking to a neighbor? Can't the wife say the husband is not home? Why shouldn't the boss be dan l'chaf zechus? And why would the boss drive to his employees house without first finding out if the timing is good for him?
I know that these and many other halachic details were not discussed in this piece. Yet as I mentioned earlier, there is an etire sefer written on these halachos. I actually most liked this piece because of the little known ending--it may be mutar to lie sometimes but that does not make it good chinuch!

Spiritual Dan said...

I would have thought, l'chatchila, one should not flat out lie, so saying "he is not here", would seem to be a lie. But if by "here" the person means, "this room", there is no lie at all (assuming they are the only person in the room). Just because the listener assumes "here" means the entire house, that is their assumption and they need not be corrected. R. Dovid Castle suggests something similar in relation to quality of goods purchased but don't quote me.

I think both Oor and you (Micha) agree that Darchei Shalom is the guiding force; the question is what is the derech to get their. Oor seems to be concerned that in 20 years there are issues of shalom, or when the listener finds out they were duped, they will become angry. But anyone who gets angry in such a situation is committing a second avera - not only did they ask a question that caused someone to "bend the truth", now they are getting angry as well?? They should look inward at their own sins and do teshuva.