AY - Lesson 12 - Misrepresentation - Issur G'naivas Da'as

We are not allowed to speak in an insincere or manipulative manner. Rather, what we show on the outside should reflect how we feel on the inside; our words should be a mirror of our heart.


We are here to improve our relationships with others

in order to transform the Jewish people in these urgent times.


Last week’s Stretch of the week was:  Pay close attention to your words to ensure that you aren’t “stretching the truth” out of laziness or convenience.  One night this week, think about your day to assess how you did.

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


Lesson #12

Misrepresentation - Issur G’naivas Da’as


One of the three categories to describe people despised by G-d (HaShem) is someone who says things that he does not feel in his heart.  We are not allowed to speak in an insincere or manipulative manner.  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 misrepresentation, or g'naivas da'as.  There are varying rabbinical opinions regarding the source of this violation, defining it as an offshoot of theft (g'naiva), falsehood (sheker), or causing pain with words (o'na'a).

The prohibition of misrepresentation may be violated without saying a single word.  Even if we mislead someone through our deeds, or remain silent when we should have spoken up, we are guilty of transgressing this prohibition.  This applies to monetary matters as well, such as deceiving someone in a business exchange by concealing a defect in the item being sold, even if the final price is not more than the accepted price for a defective item.

Verbal misrepresentation is also prohibited, such as falsely giving a friend the impression that we are doing him a favor or that we are speaking up on his behalf, causing him to feel obligated to us without reason.  Intentionally misleading someone in regard to our deeds or intentions toward him is forbidden as well.  For example, we should not beg a friend to join us for a meal or to accept a gift when we are certain that he will not do so.  When we do this, we put the other person in a position of feeling grateful to us when there is no reason for him to feel that way.

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

Story(based on a true story)

My friend Rina and I were chatting at her oldest son’s bar mitzva.  The tablecloths, the flowers, the centerpieces and the sparkling china were perfectly coordinated with her daughters’ dresses and the ties of her husband and youngest son.  Suddenly Rina’s attention turned toward the front door of the hall.  “Oh, Shira, I’m so thrilled to see you!” Rina gushed to her cousin who had just arrived.  “You’ve made my evening!  I’ve been standing at the front door just waiting for you to arrive.  Your presence has literally made my night!  Let me seat you with the rest of the cousins!”  After Rina helped Shira get settled with the rest of her family she returned to the conversation she was having with me.

I was surprised by the degree of enthusiasm Rina had shown toward Shira as she had shared with me many times that the two of them weren’t exactly on speaking terms.  I was impressed that Rina had been able to put aside any negative feelings and repair their relationship.  “I’m happy to see that you’ve made up with Shira,” I remarked.  “Made up?” screeched Rina.  “I hate that girl with a passion!  I can’t stand her now and never really could.  I just want to make sure they write a generous check for my son’s bar mitzva since they have so much money.  What I was saying to her face has nothing to do with how I actually feel about her.  My goal is to cash in big time!  I’m a brilliant actress, aren’t I?”

“Yes, a good actress if you were on stage,” I thought to myself in disgust.  In real life, that kind of performance isn’t going to win her an award, just a reputation for being an inauthentic person who misleads others for personal gain.  I tried hard not to judge her unfavorably and to use this experience as an opportunity for my own spiritual growth.  I firmly believe that sometimes HaShem exposes us to the undesirable behavior of others just to give us a perfect example of something we, as Jews, should never want to do.

Discussion Questions:

In what ways do people try to give others the impression that they are something they aren’t?

How would people gain if they were more straightforward and honest with others? 

In what ways are people deceptive for financial gain?

Stretch of the Week:

Every day this week, try to remember to say at least once, "HaShem, You are the only one I need to impress."


Stretch Of The Week