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: Catch yourself before saying something not-quite-truthful for your own benefit.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Taking A Deeper Look - Lesson #48
מדבר שקר תרחק
MI’D’VAR SHEKER TIR’CHOK - STAY FAR AWAY FROM FALSEHOOD
Falsehood is prohibited when it is a cause of damage, immediate or delayed. Examples include denying a debt or that an item was entrusted to him, using deceit to keep a good thing from reaching someone else and possibly redirecting it to himself, and building up a positive image with someone in order to deceive him in the future.
However, even when a person makes up stories or alters reports that he hears, for no particular personal benefit and without causing loss to anyone else, he is still considered a liar. His punishment will be lighter, however, since he did not harm anyone. On the other hand, in one way his transgression is more profound, since he demonstrates an affinity for falsehood without the “excuse” of motives of self-interest. In any case, his love for falsehood may well lead him at some point to bear false testimony or to violate one of the other transgressions associated with sheker.
Therefore, we should be careful to make sure every word that leaves our mouth is absolutely, unequivocally true. We should not say “I will do” or “I will not do such and such” without adding the phrase bli neder – without the obligation of a vow. Otherwise, if, despite the best intentions, we do not carry out what we said, we may be guilty of violating mi’d’var sheker tir’chok. However, if we know that by making the statement we will feel obligated to make genuine effort to do what we said we would, or if we say “I will try”, that would likely be permissible.
The concept of keeping our word has many applications. If we tell a friend we will give him a small gift, or even if we promise to give him a large gift or to do him a favor, or if we state publically that we plan to do so, we should carry out our word even though, according to the letter of the law, the gift has not yet become the recipient’s property and we ought to be able to back out of it. Also, if the father of a baby tells a certain mohel that he wants him to perform the bris for his son, then although it is not prohibited for him to back out, the Chachamim disapprove of such practice, and we may even call him a rasha for doing so.
(Excerpted from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)
Story: (based on a true story)
Planning my oldest daughter’s wedding required attention to so many details I thought I would explode. I spent almost a year planning my sons’ bar mitzvas, and now there were only three months from her engagement to the big day. On top of that, the chosson’s family was from way out of town so I was taking care of pretty much all the arrangements. And, of course, it all had to be as perfect as possible.
All my friends told me that you had to make sure the band and the photographer were really great, and I agreed. I got my first pick of band, a wonderful small group of musicians who sounded like a large one. But my pick for photographer, the one who seemed to give every shot extra life and depth, already had a booking that day, as did my second choice.
I met with the number three guy on the list and was apprehensive, but after a few calls I decided that he sounded like he would do just fine. A little more expensive than I thought he should be for what he offered, but good enough. I called him and asked to book him, and he said he would put the contract in the mail.
Two days later, I got a message on my cell phone. My top choice picture guy was suddenly available-the family of his previous booking had changed their day. Was I still interested?
Wow! I was so excited! The memories from a wedding are so important, and this guy was so good. He charged about the same as the number three guy, but offered so much more. I was especially excited because as the only on-site set of parents, my husband and I were making financial decisions that affected both sides. This way, I wouldn’t have to worry about being judged for making my future in-laws pay too much for a less effective product.
And then, an hour later, the original contract came in the mail, complete with a post-it stating, “Mazal Tov! Looking forward to working with you!” I called my husband up and we hashed it out together. I had not signed a contract, but I had made a verbal agreement with a photographer. Could I switch to someone else? We had a good reason that didn’t just involve us.
We concluded that halachically, we could probably switch. But it was breaking our word, and that didn’t seem like the right way to start off the new couple’s life together. Decision made, I called the other side to get their opinion and we both agreed to go with my original first choice and told him that we had already booked. Then I filled out the paperwork, with a tefilla on my lips. “Please, HaShem. Help both everyone be happy with the results of this decision, and with the pictures.” And ultimately, we all were because even if it wasn’t all perfect, we had worked toward perfecting something more important-our middos and our ahavas yisrael.
Discussion Question Options:
How does a person’s breaking of a commitment, even a non-binding one, reflect on him?
What can we do to avoid breaking our word when we never know what might come up in our lives?
How does the frequent goal of being a “Supermom” relate to the problem of breaking one’s word?
Stretch of the Week:
Strive to keep your word on something you’ve said you would do, even if you didn’t promise.