60 - Misleading Others Part 3

Hypocrisy is a despicable quality. Even outright resha'im fear and despise those who falsely present themselves as fine, religious, G-d-fearing people, whose “deeds as [evil] as the deed of Zimri, yet they expect reward like that of Pinchas.”

We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chuyos for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.


Last week’s stretch of the week was:  Give over all important factors about a monetary issue to those involved.

Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.

Taking A Deeper Look - Lesson #60


PART 3 – Personal Misrepresentation and “especially for you”


Hypocrisy is a despicable quality.  Even outright resha’im fear and despise those who falsely present themselves as fine, religious, G-d-fearing people, whose “deeds as [evil] as the deed of Zimri, yet they expect reward like that of Pinchas.”  Heavenly bais din punishes those who wrap themselves piously in a tallis and put on a show of religiosity while they conceal their evil deeds from others (Sotah 22b).

Even when we are not intentionally misrepresenting ourselves, we still have to be careful not to inadvertently give a wrong impression of what we are.  Therefore, we cannot accept praise for qualities that are actually lacking in us.  For example, if a talmid chacham comes to town and is received with honor due to someone who knows two masechtos, while in reality he only knows one, he is obligated to tell the townspeople his true level.  Needless to say, he may not intentionally mislead them into thinking he knows more than he actually does.  In practice, the minhag is to exaggerate a bit in titles awarded to a talmid chacham; in that case it is permitted to follow local practice.

We may not mislead a guest into thinking that, especially for him, we are opening a large bottle of wine or any package of food that is likely to spoil if not used up shortly, when we were planning to open it up anyway.  If we give the impression that we are doing so only in this guest’s honor, the guest will feel indebted to us for no reason. 

However, if the guest was so dear to us that we would have opened it for him even if we had nothing to do with the remainder, we do not need to inform him that in this particular case, we have a use for the rest of it.  Also, if we did not give any indication that we made special effort for him, yet he deluded himself into thinking that we went out of our way on his behalf and in his honor, then we are not obligated to set him straight.

A common application of this principle is if we go to a distant hospital to visit one patient, and while we are there we come across someone else we know who is hospitalized in the same facility.  On the one hand, we are not permitted to say, or even to hint, that we came especially to see the second person.  On the other hand, if the patient jumps to the conclusion on his own and thanks us for our trouble, we are not required to reveal the truth.  The same would be true if we have to be in a distant city on business and stop in at a wedding that is taking place there.  In fact, honesty in such cases may not be a virtue at all, since by being so open we may insult the other person deeply.

(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)

Story(based on a true story)

Whenever my parents come to visit, I feel like a fake.  

I like to think I’m a good person, kind to others, considerate of their needs.  I like to think I’m a good hostess too, providing my guest with whatever it takes to satisfy their quirks.  I smiled when the woman who came with her husband to stay for a local aufruf sat on my living room couch for the hour just before Shabbos staring at my kids playing on the floor, even though it meant I had to stay there with them because they were afraid.  I said, “Sure” when another stranger of a guest asked me for a meal five minutes after my husband and the boys left for shul in the morning--the only time I have to myself the whole Shabbos day--and then spoke with me for the whole twenty minutes she was eating the breakfast, until I had to dress the girls.  

But when my mother comes and tells me it was a little dark downstairs so she changed some light bulbs that weren’t working so there would be all four bulbs instead of just two, I can’t handle it, and ask her to please not touch anything anymore.  Apparently, I’m not tolerant of family; just strangers, or people I don’t see often.  

So when a friend is over for Shabbos lunch and I make sure to make enough gluten-free dishes for her son and she compliments me with a “You’re such a great hostess!” I usually beg off by saying, “Not always, but I try.”  It’s rude to regularly dismiss compliments, but this is the closest I can come to the truth because I know that I had to push myself to not serve our family’s favorite potato kugel when my mom came.  I couldn’t serve it because my mother said it tempted her too much and wasn’t on her diet.  So, after much discussion, I didn’t, but I felt like she was imposing too many restrictions.  My friends don’t know the me that lurks; the me who feels put out by making others comfortable by accommodating their quirks.  I cannot accept the label of “understanding, accommodating hostess.”  I’m not, especially where it counts.

A few weeks ago, there was a sale on yellow beets in the grocery store.  I figured I’d pick them up since they wouldn’t stain like the red ones do.  A couple of days later, I found these great white cherries that I thought my husband might like, since he’s a cherry fanatic.  As I was unpacking at home, the phone rang.  My parents wanted to come for Shabbos.

At the table two days later, I brought out my roasted vegetables and my mother said, “Yellow beets!  You remembered how much I love them and can’t find them!  Thank you for making those for me!”  I just smiled and said, “Aren’t they great?” and served her some.  At dessert, she again praised me for buying my father’s favorite type of cherries just for him.

I took the praise and smiled.  My mother’s misconception came to her on her own, with no help from me, and contradicting her on it would cause nothing but pain.  But at the same time, I took it as a wake-up call.  If I didn’t want people to praise me for a virtue I didn’t fully have, I’d best start working on acquiring that virtue. 

So the next time my parents came for Shabbos, I changed the bulbs downstairs and tailored my menu to them, and served the potato kugel to my kids and husband as an erev Shabbos snack while my parents were getting ready in their room.  And when a stranger of a guest complimented my hostessing a week later, I simply said, “Thank you.”

Discussion Question Options:

Under what circumstances might we be tempted to or actually misrepresent who we are to others?

When should we or should we not accept inaccurate compliments or assessments of our abilities?

How might causing someone else to think we do something “only for you” benefit us? How often do we think about this when we do it?

Stretch of the Week:

Stop yourself from implying you are something you’re not.


Stretch Of The Week