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: If you are a guest in someone's home, be sure to express your gratitude.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Taking A Deeper Look - Lesson #58
גניבת דעת - ISSUR G’NAIVAS DA’AS – MISLEADING OTHERS
One of the three categories of people whom HaShem despises is the one who is echad bapeh ve’echad balev-someone who says things that he does not believe in his heart. We are not allowed to speak in an insincere manner or in a smooth, manipulative way. Rather, what we show on the outside should reflect how we feel on the inside; our words should be a mirror of our heart. If we mislead our friend, giving him the impression that we’ve done him a favor or spoken highly of him when we did not really do so, we are guilty of g’naivas da’as.
The poskim differ regarding the source of the issur, defining it as an offshoot of either g’naiva-theft, ona’ah-cheating or hurting verbally, or sheker-falsehood. The issur of g’naivas da’as may be violated without saying a single word; even if we mislead our fellow man through our deeds, or by remaining silent when we should have spoken up, we are guilty of transgressing this prohibition. We are not permitted to deceive anyone, Jew or non-Jew, when the halacha considers it g’naivas da’as.
One manifestation of the issur of g’naivas da’as is verbal misrepresentation. An example is giving a friend the impression that we are doing him a favor or that we are speaking up on his behalf when in fact we have not done so, so as to cause him to feel beholden to us without reason.
Verbal misrepresentation involves intentionally misleading someone regarding our deeds or intentions toward him. This includes offering something insistently when we know the other person will refuse, such as begging the person to join us for a meal or to accept a gift when we are sure they will not do so. Similarly, we should not offer him wine or some other drink from an empty container when we know he will decline the offer anyway. We put the other person in a position of feeling grateful to us when there is no reason for him to feel that way.
What is prohibited is requesting in a manner that is excessive. A polite request expressed once or twice, as a matter of protocol or as a gesture of respect, is permitted and is common practice. In fact, if we fail to do so it may be perceived as an insult to the other person’s honor. Still, we should only offer if we do have the gift to give. Otherwise, even a polite offer would be considered g’naivas da’as. If we are sincere in our requests, and would really like our friend to join us, then we are permitted to plead with him to accept our offer. Even if he declines and is left feeling indebted to us, his gratitude is well-founded, as it was not gained by deceitful means.
(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)
Story: (based on a true story)
The preparations for our first son’s bar mitzva were in full swing. Our invitation list for the formal meal had been giving me hives for weeks and we finally got it done, after some painful cuts. We were on a budget, and to avoid conflict we wanted to have parity between the two sides of the family. First cousins on one side meant first cousins on the other without their kids on either side.
A week later I spoke to my mother, who had some issues with my list. Apparently, we had to invite the full families of all of the first cousins on her side. That was simply how it was done, and they would be insulted otherwise. When I reminded her that this would increase our numbers by over sixty because we would need to invite all the other first cousins’ kids, she said, “It’s different on my side. The rest, you don’t have to invite.” And when I pointed out that they would see at the bar mitzva that some had been invited but not others, she said, “Oh! Don’t worry! Your cousins won’t actually come. They’re in Canada and it’s too far away. You just have to invite them.”
There were too many things to address in all this logic, but I started from the end. We didn’t have room for all these people in the hall if they decided to come-it was still fifteen extra people. How could we invite them when we didn’t actually want them to come, and weren’t planning for those numbers?
“Well, it’s for shalom in the family,” she answered. “That’s important.”
True, I thought, but so is the issur of g’naivas da’as. I had learned that you can’t invite people to make them feel good when you know they won’t come and aren’t planning to accommodate them. And the truth is my mother wasn’t actually advocating that because I knew that if I asked her, “What if they do come?” she would answer, “So you make room.”
Because we were afraid of potential conflicts between the branches of the family from uneven invitations, we put our foot down and kept our list as it was. I called each set of cousins and told them that unfortunately we had to invite this way because of space limitations but would love to have them all if they came to town. Since many of them couldn’t come at all, my son spoke with them and their children the day of the seudas mitzva meal. My mother wasn’t thrilled, but she saw that we tried hard to make sure it wasn’t a slight.
Later I found out that we might have been able to do as my mother asked. In many cases, you can invite someone who you know won’t come for their kavod, even if you don’t actually want them to come, as long as you don’t lay the invite on thick. We would not have been giving a false impression of positive feelings. We would have been glad to have them there if there were more space and money; g’naivas da’as is about false impressions. And if one of the families had decided to come, we could have accommodated them, though we couldn’t have them all. We should have asked a sh’ayla.
Discussion Question Options:
What situations might prompt us to give someone a false impression that we think positively of them? How might we benefit from doing this? What are the pitfalls?
When might we offer others something we don’t have?
Why might we invite someone who we don’t want to come, or for whom we don’t have space or time? What can we do instead?
Stretch of the Week:
Show someone you care about them, without offering time or resources you don’t have.