Friday, October 23, 2020

 Thoughts on the a Post-Flood  Program for Today

By (Rabbi)Shlomo Yaffe

All the Torah speaks to us as new and relevant in every moment and every situation

In this week’s Torah portion Noah -upon emerging from the ark into a world that would need to learn to transcend the errors of the Antediluvian Epoch  is instructed upon the fundamental ethical laws that apply to all Human beings -given by G-d – the Noahide Laws

Maimonides writes “Moreover, by Divine ordinance, Moshe, our teacher, commanded us to sway all human beings to accept the commandments enjoined upon the descendants of Noach. “

This means that every Jew is responsible to encourage all denizens of the world to act in accordance with the Seven Noachide Commandments and their associated values. In the olden days there was great potential danger involved in this type of activity -- for it could be misconstrued as an attempt to proselytize. In our generation, however, there is no danger in this respect

As Jews we must be concerned with the welfare of all peoples, for the world was "formed to be a place where all can live in felicity “–rather than anarchy
As Isaiah states (45:18)
יח  כִּי כֹה אָמַר-ה בּוֹרֵא הַשָּׁמַיִם הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים, יֹצֵר הָאָרֶץ וְעֹשָׂהּ הוּא כוֹנְנָהּ--לֹא-תֹהוּ בְרָאָהּ, לָשֶׁבֶת יְצָרָהּ; אֲנִי ה, וְאֵין עוֹד.               
18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens, He is God; that formed the earth and made it, He established it, He created it not a waste, He formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD, and there is none else.

The foundation and basis of the Seven Noachide Laws -- is love and brotherhood. Even the word Noach indicates - pleasantness and friendliness. And when all humankind observes the Seven Noachide Laws they are called "pious (righteous), which indicates kindness and love.

In reaching out to encourage the observance of the Seven Noachide Laws we must also show kindness and emphasize the goodness and pleasantness which their observance will bring to the world and society. This is especially true in the United States of America, and after the 20th Century horrors perpetuated by Fascism and Communism (and those horrors continue today in States influenced by these ideas)

The only durable morality is that based on a Divine Lawgiver. Any set of ethics derived from human intellect is subject to argument and refutation.

Indeed, one of the core premises of the American experiment is that there must be complete freedom of religion and government should not in any way be involved in favoring one religion over another “The Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
However, the premise that morality must flow from G-d is deeply rooted in our Nation and its Constitution.

To quote the landmark Supreme Court of the United States ruling in Zorach Vs. Clauson (1952)

“We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being. We guarantee the freedom to worship as one chooses”
In other words – because G-d is so crucial to the American ethos – we must be free to relate to G-d as we see fit. However -it is equally understood that our Institutions and society stand and are successful based upon “The presupposition of a Supreme Being”

The Noahide Laws represent universal values that transcends Creed, Race or Nationality.

It is our job the help realize their vision in each and ever society we live in. Not for the sake of the Jewish people but for the sake of All, bar none.
We are challenged today to bring the harmony that emerges from shared basic values.

These Noahide values that do not diminish the great variety of Human expression and experience, but rather,  enhance our ability to be free to do so in a nation and planet that become a  “safe space” by virtue of those values. We must find ways to help all of us get there - together.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Which is the most important week of this year?

Question: Which is the most important week  of this year?
Answer: This week, the week after all the Holidays
Before you run to choose in which of the 86 Jewish calendars you have received from various worthy charities you want to look this day up, relax — I'll tell you which holiday falls on week . None. This week -  the week after a packed, 23-day flood of special days is also the most important week of this year
Picture the launch of a space vehicle being sent to explore some distant reach of the universe on a journey never before attempted. The countdown is over, a button is pressed, and — hopefully — away it goes, to where silicon has never gone before. Countless thousands of top-quality man-hours have been invested in this project by people who are, indeed, rocket scientists. Yet, if when the button is pressed, the rocket explodes or otherwise malfunctions, all that genius is for naught.

The button does not require an engineer to press it — it is such a simple task even a politician can do it. Yet, that very pressing of the button is the purpose of all those expert hours. If that single event does not occur as it should, then something has gone very wrong in all those preparations, and the mission is a failure.
Spiritually speaking, during the Tishrei festivals we are in the position of the "rocket scientist"; a savant of Jewish life. We focus on our soul-life more than any other time of year. We find ourselves praying more intensely and more often. We are more careful in the way we treat others and more generous in our charitable donations. The Shofar inspires us, Yom Kippur uplifts us, and we find meaningful joy in our families and communities on Sukkot. We are on a high level and doing great things.
However, after the holidays are over, we go back to our ordinary workaday world. When we get up that morning, is the spirit of closeness to G‑d we experienced during the High Holidays in our prayers? Do we rise to a high standard of integrity, a standard easily imagined in the synagogue but challenged by the prevailing norms as we get back to our careers? When we leave the "laboratory" of the Holy Days, do our resolutions work on the "launch pad" — in the real world where our commitments are challenged at every turn?
If we did our equations properly in this laboratory, they will work in the real world. But if we do not live our workaday lives differently, then all the drama of the holidays is impressive, but they miss their entire goal: that we lead our everyday lives as a journey to G‑dliness and integrity that takes us this year to places we have never been before.

In the Haftarah (reading from the Prophets) for the morning of Yom Kippur the Prophet Isaiah challenges us to do precisely this — that we "launch" our holy days into the real world:
Is such the fast that I have chosen? The day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Would you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to G‑d?

Is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the fetters of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?

Is it not to deal your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When you see the naked, that you cover him, and that thou hide not yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth as the morning, and your healing shall spring forth speedily; and your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of G‑d shall be your rearward.

Then your shall call, and G‑d will answer; you shall cry, and He will say: 'Here I am.' If you take away from your midst the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking wickedness.

And if you draw out your soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall your light rise in darkness, and your gloom be as the noon-day;

And G‑d will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and make strong your bones; and you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. (Isaiah 58:5-11)

By Shlomo Yaffe

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Abortion debate redux

 As the abortion debate heats up again, I orginally wrote the following post as a response to a respected colleague. I realize  that it deserves an airing if its own.

Jewish Law and its sense of universal / Natural Law certainly eschews abortion in many cases, but permits them in others. There exists a serious concern that any further limitation of abortion would block.abortions that Jewish Law / values permits - and indeed mandates that they take place.

On the other hand, Jewish law and it's understanding of universal "Natural/Noahide" law for all humanity is deeply opposed to all unnecessary abortions. The vast majority of abortions performed in this country fall into that category.

But how to stop them? 

One is teaching morality and the value of life. An unborn baby's unnecessary death is not just another form of birth control. 

In "unnecessary"  I  exclude all the multiple cases of abortions Jewish law might require - and these parameters are very broad. Yet , these are still a tiny fraction of the abortions performed yearly in this country

We certainly need to encourage and prioritize society to create stable two-parent homes that children should be born into and raised in. 

However that doesn't always happen even in the communities most committed to these  values. 

So, if we had a robust safety net providing food, shelter and childcare to all who need it, even for those who cannot pay on their own, many of the social and economic pressures to (G-d forbid) terminate a viable pregnancy would be removed. 

We then could have much more success in convincing mothers (and fathers) to give life to their babies.

There are various organizations in Israel that reach out to mothers and provide financial and childcare help  to encourage them to have their children. They have been very very successful in bringing tens if not hundreds of thousands of children into the world. But with kindness and support , rather than an iron fist. 

As a nation we have the resources and compassion to make this happen, we merely need to find the will to prioritize this.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Election through the Torah's lens.

If we see Judaism as central to our lives, we see everything through the lens of Torah , a Torah that also espouses certain universal values relevant to all Humankind.. Hence, in this election season we ought to think of the following:
These universal values are defined by a sophisticated understanding of the Noahide laws as per the Rama (Teshuvah 10) and the Lubavitcher Rebbe 's many talks on this issue:
The Noahide laws demand
1. Belief in G-d
2. Not to Blaspheme (To believe G-d is just)
3. Not to murder - and we know that insulting someone publicly is equivalent to murder
4. Not to steal or be dishonest in any way, avoid paying our obligations etc.
5. Not to engage in forbidden relationships
6. Not to eat a limb from a living animal, which is seen as including any unnecessary destruction of any flora or fauna (eating is fine) or annihilating a species or damaging the environment in ways not needed for human sustainment
7. To have courts of justice which means also: A just and equitable society, giving charity yourself and having society ensure a social safety net ,not lying, keeping your promises, respecting the dignity of other human beings, respecting the elderly and those who do good deeds for society etc.
As Jews we have an obligation to push for these values in any society we live in. We must seek leaders and functionaries who violate these values the least.

The Election through the Torah's lens.

If we see Judaism as central to our lives, we see everything through the lens of Torah , a Torah that also espouses certain universal values relevant to all Humankind.. Hence, in this election season we ought to think of the following:
These universal values are defined by a sophisticated understanding of the Noahide laws as per the Rama (Teshuvah 10) and the Lubavitcher Rebbe 's many talks on this issue:
The Noahide laws demand
1. Belief in G-d
2. Not to Blaspheme (To believe G-d is just)
3. Not to murder - and we know that insulting someone publicly is equivalent to murder
4. Not to steal or be dishonest in any way, avoid paying our obligations etc.
5. Not to engage in forbidden relationships
6. Not to eat a limb from a living animal, which is seen as including any unnecessary destruction of any flora or fauna (eating is fine) or annihilating a species or damaging the environment in ways not needed for human sustainment
7. To have courts of justice which means also: A just and equitable society, giving charity yourself and having society ensure a social safety net ,not lying, keeping your promises, respecting the dignity of other human beings, respecting the elderly and those who do good deeds for society etc.
As Jews we have an obligation to push for these values in any society we live in. We must seek leaders and functionaries who violate these values the least.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Lag BaOmer and Ahavat Yisrael: Our son Moshe's Bar Mitzvah speech

5727. 1967. 49 years ago the Land of Israel and her people stood alone facing Arab armies far larger and better equipped than Israel’s, armies ready to attack at any moment. This was a time of great danger. Fear entered the hearts of all Jews everywhere. Like this year, 5776 -  5727 was a year of Hakhel – gathering: 
In ancient Israel, every seventh year was a Shemitah ("sabbatical") year. At the onset of the eighth year, on the second day of the holiday of Sukkot, sixteen days into the new year, all gathered in the Holy Temple for a dose of inspiration to tide them over for the next six years of wordly endeavors.
This event was known as Hakhel, "assemble!" It was the only event that required the attendance of every Jew, women, men and children, reminding us of the historic moment when our nation stood at Mount Sinai, when every member of our nation was present when G‑d lovingly gave us the Torah.
Once the entire nation had gathered, the king, situated on a specially constructed platform in the Temple's courtyard, was handed the Torah scroll that Moses himself had written, which he read to all those present.
The biblical mitzvah of Hakhel is only in effect when all the Jewish people reside in the Holy Land. Nevertheless, the Lubavitcher Rebbe repeatedly encouraged all Jews to utilize this special year to assemble– men, women and children – and encourage each other to increase in Torah observance and study, and create an environment of closeness to G‑d.
Lag BaOmer of 1967 fell out on a Sunday, in which case, the Rebbe always called for a giant Lag BaOmer parade. Children and adults from all over the Northeast gathered on Eastern Parkway, where the Rebbe, standing in front of 770 addressed all present and to those beyond in communities worldwide by landline telephone, cellphones and the internet being decades in the future.
 But first a little bit about a holiday that has only been widely observed for a short time - about 500 years. For the Jewish people, that’s just yesterday.
 A Gut Yom Tov. I have the Zechus, the merit of having been born on Lag Be’omer. Everything happens by specific Divine Providence, and the fact that I have now become a fully responsible member of the Jewish people on this day obliges me to explore this Yom -Tov, an exploration I am privileged to share with you.
First the basics: Lag BaOmer, the 33rd day of the Omer count—this year, May 26, 2016—is a festive day on the Jewish. It is celebrated with outings, bonfires, and other joyous events. Many visit the resting place (in Meron, northern Israel) of the great sage and mystic Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the anniversary of whose passing is on this day. It is in Meron that my “Upshernish” took place. This is the first haircut, at age 3, marking the beginning of formal Jewish education of a boy.
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who lived in the second century of the common era, was the first to teach a large circle the mystical ideas of the Torah known as the “Kabbalah,”. Kabbalah is an essential part of the “Torah Shebaal Peh” the Oral Law, whose core themes were given by G-d to Moses. RashBi as he is known by his acronym is the author of the basic work of Kabbalah, the Zohar. On the day of his passing, Rabbi Shimon instructed his disciples to mark the date as “the day of my joy.”
The Chassidic masters explain that the final day of a righteous person’s earthly life marks the point at which “all his deeds, teachings and work” achieve their final perfection and the greatest power to impact our lives, going forward -forever. So each Lag BaOmer, we celebrate Rabbi Shimon’s life and the revelation of the inner soul of Torah, a life that continues to elevate us today.
Lag BaOmer also commemorates another joyous event. The Talmud relates that in the weeks between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot, a plague raged amongst the disciples of the great sage Rabbi Akiva, “because they did not act respectfully towards each other.” These weeks are therefore observed as a period of mourning, with various joyous activities prohibited by law and custom. On Lag BaOmer the deaths ceased. Thus, Lag BaOmer also carries the theme of the obligation to love and respect one’s fellow (ahavat yisrael).
The celebration of Lag BaOmer became much more widespread by the Arizal’s encouraging thre observance of this holiday whose depths he revealed. The Arizal, Rabbi Yitzchok Luria, further developed the accessibility of the Kabbalah – the inner dimension of the Torah,making it accessible to more and more of the Jewish people.
On that Lag BaOmer, almost 5 decades ago, the Rebbe made the point that the disaster striking the students of Rabbi Akiva ended on this day. Why? Because they finally had learned to have respect and unconditional love, Ahavat Yisrael - for each other. The cause of the trouble gone, the trouble ended. Elsewhere, the Rebbe explains that the students had genuine Ahavat Yisrael for each other. Nevertheless there was a flaw in this love: Since each was sure they truly understood their master’s teachings of the Torah, they felt compelled to correct their fellow’s erroneous thinking and behavior, and to enlighten them as to the true meaning of their master’s words. For the same reason, they found themselves incapable of expressing respect for each other’s views since they honestly believed that the others’ understanding was lacking and incorrect.
The greater a person is, the higher are the standards by which he is judged; in the words of our sages, “With the righteous, G‑d is exacting to a hairsbreadth.” Thus, a shortcoming that for people of our level would be considered a minor failing, had a devastating effect upon the disciples of Rabbi Akiva.
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who was a surviving disciple of Rabbi Akiva reached a higher understanding of the meaning of unity and love. He understood that Hashem created many souls with many paths, and that unity is not about all seeing matters the same way, but recognizing the common source from which all flows. The Kabbalah and Chassidus explain that light can be expressed in many colors, yet, be the same essential energy radiating from the same source. Light expresses itself in many ways without compromising its single nature. So too, with Hashem who is the source of each of our souls. We celebrate Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, because his approach is the cure for the trouble that preceded Lag BaOmer.
At the parade of 5727, the Rebbe called for all the Jewish people in the spirit of “Hakhel” to gather together in unity, irrespective of all superficial differences. We do share a common soul, therefore, all differences between Jews are superficial.  
To explain this idea, we turn to Tractate Sanhedrin page 39A –Daf Lamed Tes amud alef as explained by the foundational text of Chabad Chassidus, the Tanya. There, in Chapter 35 it states: “Clearly, any such diffusion of the light of the Shechinah, that is the revelation of the light of the blessed En Sof, cannot be termed a change in Hashem, G‑d forbid, nor manyness. Witness the passage in Sanhedrin, where a heretic said to Rabban Gamliel: "You say that on every assembly of ten Jews the Shechinah rests. How many Divine Presences have you, then?" And he replied to him with an example of the light of the sun which enters through many windows.... “
The Rebbe went on at this Lag BaOmer, to explain that this was the way by which we can strengthen all the Jewish people, including those in the Land of Israel. He then said the following words: “G‑d is guarding Israel and…the people of Israel will emerge from the current situation with remarkable success.”
This was followed by the launching of the Tefillin Campaign, one that goes on to this day -asking each and every Jewish man over 13 to fulfill the Mitzvah of Tefillin – starting with at least once. In the Maamar I just gave over, the power of Tefilin was extensively discussed, and uniting through this Mitzvah was and is a great source of strength to the Jewish people.
The Jewish people worldwide and especially in the Land of Israel today, face great challenges. As it was Forty-Nine years ago it can be today. We need to stop waiting for our fellow Jews to start seeing things exactly as we do, and simply think, feel and act with love and respect for each other, as our common being demands.

Then, inasmuch as
דברי הצדיק חיים וקיימים לעד “The Words of the Righteous Are Alive and Current as Ever” we shall again see that: “G‑d is guarding Israel and…the people of Israel will emerge from the current situation with remarkable success.”
From these partial, temporary salvations we hope and pray that Hashem will bring us to a full salvation – the Final Redemption, with the return of the all the Jewish People to the Complete Land of Israel, the rebuilding of an Everlasting Beit Mikdash – the Temple, on the Har Habayit, and an era of absolute felicity for all of Humankind.  In the words of the Rambam - Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (one of the Moshes I am named for)

In that era, there will be neither famine or war, envy or competition for good will flow in abundance and all the delights will be freely available as dust. The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know God.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Veracity or Virtue?

Veracity or Virtue?
Is honesty always the best policy?
Can falsehood ever be a G-dly path?

Truth is considered a primary moral virtue in many ethical systems. The Torah places great value on Truth in many places and ways. The Torah also permits significant deviations from truth as a matter of practice. Does this represent a conflict of the pragmatic and the ideal to which we surrender the ideal? Alternatively, perhaps, is there a unified theory extant to resolve these contradictions?

“The Seal of the Blessed Holy One is Truth”. This oft-quoted statement is found in several places by Chazal . “Honesty is always the best policy” is a folk truism. Michel Montaigne  (the 17th century French essayist) writes in his Essays “That as the only thing that bonds people together is words falsehood strikes at the heart of any connection among Humans”.

The Ohr Hachayim, in his first piece of commentary on Beraishit, points out that the account of creation allows several fundamental errors to arise if we are not familiar with the subtleties of the meaning of the first word of the Torah “Beraishit”.  All matter and energy in the universe were created simultaneously as a “beginning”.

 If one does not consider this, all the rest of the story of creation which talks about the unfolding of detail could be taken to mean that the stuff of the universe was pre-existing. This is a profound heresy from a Judaic point of view. The Ohr Hachayim says that in spite of the danger of confusion, the Torah had to be written in this way because a true account must be given. It would seem then, that in the spirit of Imatatio Dei, we would need to take great pains and make great sacrifices for the truth, just as G-d does. This is my conclusion, not the Ohr Hachayim’s.

Of course, there exits the endless debate among moral philosophers, in theory, and in our own personal experience as to whether there are any virtues that are of absolute and immutable value.

In our case, from a Judaic perspective, does Truth “trump” all other moral values? Are there any situations that demand or even permit the use of falsehood?

If we look within the parameters of Halacha, Jewish Law, for the concretization of this idea, we indeed find situations in which falsehood is accepted behavior and sometimes an ideal behavior.

In Tractate Ketubot, we find an argument between Bet Shamai and Bet Hillel concerning what should be said about a bride. Bet Shamai rules that one may say nothing that is not true in praise.

Bet Hillel makes a “Lake Woebegone” ruling - we must say that every bride is beautiful and graceful. The Talmud extends this to someone who asks you an opinion about a purchase you have made, that where there is no option of return, you should praise it even if it was a poor deal.

In Tractate Bava Metziah, the Talmud rules that one may dissemble about questions that would reveal details of one’s intimate life, ones financial resources (to avoid jealousy or crime) and the present locus of ones studies (to avoid being drawn into answering questions that the scholar may not feel fully prepared for).

There are several references in various Midrashim to Aaron the High Priest using subterfuge to bring peace between aggrieved parties. Cleverly, he would tell each one that the other was saying “I would love to make things up with X, but fear rejection of my overtures” thereby causing both to meet halfway and seek reconciliation

Any lie that brings peace such as responding to a request for information about a derogatory comment made by A about B –one may deny to B A’s statements.
In discussing these issues in his Code (O.C. 155), Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi makes a distinction between dissembling about the past, which is permitted to bring peace and making a false promise about the future, which is forbidden under all circumstances, even to bring peace.

The only exception to this would be to save a life (though the text does not discuss this here, we have proof for this premise from other sources).

What concepts underlie these disparate rulings?

There is an intriguing question raised by a very famous statement in chapter six of Pirkei Avot “All that the Blessed Holy One created was created for His Kavod”. Kavod is commonly translated as glory but actually means radiant, an experience that creates appreciation of the source of that experience. We honor our parents (the Torah uses “Kavod” for this precept) because we experience the “radiation” of the fact that we owe them our very being. We honor the scholars of Torah because we experience the shining forth of the G-dly knowledge we need and appreciate this.

Therefore, the idea that all creation exists for the “Kavod” of G-d means that we find in everything G-d’s presence in a positive manner that excites our appreciation.
Everything means not just objects, but also any emotional, mental, possibility or spiritual reality in the Cosmos.

Since human violence and falsehood, for example, exist in both reality and potentiality, there must be a way in which we express these qualities as positive expressions of G-dliness.

The fundamental challenge of the aforementioned premise is the difficulty of conceiving a positive and affirmative use of a negation. Falsehood is a negation of reality- it is the obfuscation of Truth. However, a double negative is a positive. If we use a negation to negate another negation we have revealed the positive.
Here is a parable to illuminate this idea. The atmosphere distorts the light from distant stars reaching the Earth. In order for an earthbound telescope to see the stars clearly, we create (mechanically by manipulating the optics, or by distorting the digital output of the image) a distortion that distorts the distorted light back to its pristine deep-space image. We attain clarity by the “double negative”.

This principle applies in our personal struggles that emerge from the free will discussed earlier. We must use those qualities that conceal our G-dly nature to break the concealment in others and ourselves. “The Tree is chopped down by an axe handle made of it” as the Midrash states in several places. Negativity exists to challenge us to find G-d on our own. We use the same negation that caused us to lose sight of G-d to find G-dliness.

There is no permissible falsehood, only restorative distortion. The sum of the equation must be truth.

Let us look at each case in the light of this concept:

The Bride:
 In truth if we saw the essence of every human being, the creative power of G-d that sustains them, we would only see beauty in every human body. This is no less an extension of G-d’s essence than the Soul, just more concealed, as discussed extensively in Likutei Sichot in numerous loci.

Because we have false assumptions about beauty based on the concealment of the G-dly, we need to protect the bride with a statement that is untrue only from a false perspective. Distort the distortion afforded by the crudity of society’s premises and you have revelatory truth. Falsehood correctly used reveals ultimate truth which is the Seal of G-d. It is no longer falsehood.

Privacy and Scholarly pursuit:

G-d created boundaries in the world to focus our energies. The intimate revealed is the precious spilled into the gutter. A scholar forced to answer unprepared can simply give a false answer. We are protecting the proper order of things from inevitable distortion by the use of a countervailing distortion.

Aaron and the Enemies: We only hate each other because we fail to see our common oneness, the unitary source in G-d’s being. Deep down, our selves yearn to be reunited with each other. Aaron’s falsehood removes concealment and reveals the more profound truth, that they indeed seek reconciliation. We have distorted the atmosphere of hate and removed its distortion thereby restoring the “Seal” of G-d’s presence.

Hiding Slander: Speech was created to reveal G-dliness and bring people together. If we allow slander to perpetuate, we create a false outcome. The result is that people are driven apart. The lie allows the disruptive force to die, thereby curing one negation with another.

Peace and False promises
Here the proof of our assertion emerges. Peace is G-dly as it expresses the indivisibility that hallmarks that which reflects G-d. To overcome threats to peace, a denial of G-d’s oneness, we may use the falsehood to conceal and negate this choice. This is an expression of Kavod; a falsehood that fills the purpose of allowing the Divine to be revealed. This is the purpose, the positive, and Kavod purpose of falsehood.

However, a false promise would be the creation of a new reality in the future. It is not distorting a distorted image back to reality. It is creating a new, unbalanced distortion in anticipation of a conflict. Since the sum of a false promise is – falsehood +0 = falsehood (we are creating a new falsehood and there is no countervailing distortion to justify it, hence the present situation is one of falsehood and distortion)  we may not create a new concealment of G-dliness to avoid a future problem.

We need to find ways to ensure that the wrong choice and exercise of free will that creates the future problem never happens, always seeking righteousness first. As King David says in Psalms  “With the Pure be Pure and with the Crooked- Twisted”. We may only twist back the bent, not create negativity in anticipation of future evil.

However, this only introduces the problem. There are obviously times where it is theologically correct to dissemble, as a hiding of truth reveals a deeper truth.
The extensive discussions on bribery in Judaic Ethical literature from the Torah through the Talmud up to our own times point out that any time we have a bias in favor of an individual created by kinship or receiving benefit from that person our minds are not capable of being objective any longer.

That being the case, there is no person we are more biased to than our own selves. This creates a huge problem in practically applying our earlier thesis. It is not always so simple to define where the deepest veracity resides. Since it is always easier (at first) to tell an easy falsehood, rather than a painful truth, we are bribed by our psyches to convince ourselves that a convenient lie is for a greater truth.

This is the problem in general with translating elegant concepts of Judaic thought into practical everyday behavior.
Since truth is so fundamental to Judaism, we need a practical litmus test, so we never engage in a falsehood that is indeed a falsehood. I would like to focus on another aspect of the “laws of Lying” shared by all the cases:

We permitted to lie (unless we are dealing with severe danger TO LIFE LIMB AND PROPERTY) only for the sake of others. In the case of our own needs, we are far too likely to misjudge in our own favor, as we are inexorably biased against the uncomfortable when dealing with ourselves. So, let us go trough our cases once again:

The Bride: Clearly we are protecting an other in this case

Privacy and Scholarly pursuit: Here we are protecting a spouse the first case, as all intimate details involve two people and the Jewish people from mispronounced Halachic decisions on the other hand – as being forced to rule on a subject the scholar is studying before he/she is ready could cause a hasty and untrue answer.

Aaron and the Enemies: Aaron used this method as a disinterested third party, not as a party in any of these issues

Hiding Slander: Stopping slander protects the whole community from fragmentation.
False Promises as indicated in the Shulchan Aruch Harav  (O.C. 155) are dealing with promises made by me to help myself. Indeed, The Talmud writes that if A is choking B in the street because he is angry that a debt is not being paid and C offers to pay to stop the assault, C has no subsequent liability to pay. Though this is not meant by C to be false, the result is the same by fiat of law.

I believe the following summation  represents a solid ethical foundation on which to govern one’s use of dissimilitude.
The restoring of Truth in the larger context by corrective distortion is permitted- if…
The use of distortion is for a case in which there is no personal gain, direct emotional benefit to oneself.

All of the above, though addressing the practicalities of our subject and its deeper spiritual and Judaic implications leave us with an interesting problem: Why indeed? Granted that we should restore the truth in the broader sense by selective dissimulation, why is the cosmos set up in such a way to demand this process?

Could not a world have been created in which we can get through life by simply telling the truth? After all, truth is clearly virtuous and needs no complex agonizing over?

To understand this we need to understand that falsehood only exists in the context of truth. We can conceal a truth by a falsehood, but we cannot tell a falsehood about an issue which has no countervailing truth.

The definition of Falsehood is negation- it isn’t the truth of the matter, the matter being already established.

This is the entire nature of creation, which is a combination of the revelation of G-d’s creative power and the concealment of that power in such a way that we can establish san in dependent identity of self.

 The concealment is necessary if we are to have meaning and choice as individuals. Individuation and free choice are the essential characteristics of Judaism –the each one of us independently choose to discover the G- dly nature of existence in our own experience.

This concealment is a real expression of G-ds being no less than the revelation as they equally contribute to G-d’s p\purposes in Creation. We experience the concealment as falsehood as we cannot perceive G-d, whom we know to be a reality that should, by rights, be perceived. We fail to realize that that perceived absence is in itself an expression of G-d’s essence, too. In order to remind ourselves of this reality G-d puts us in places we are forced to use concealment and falsehood as tools for allowing G-d’s presence through, to illuminate as earlier in the parable of the Telescope.

 In truth all of physical life is ht up in this process. Our physical actions are false –we eat to not to eat but to extract the G-dly energy within the food that sustains us./ We have an Evil inclination, not follow it but to negate it. WE attaint the sublime state of Shabbat by not doing what we are perfectly capable of. These are all concealments or negations of what is and force us to Find G-d in negation.

However in finding Good in Negation we are faced with the challenge of making sure that we are not crossing a line into pure negation. In the context of Truth, this bright line is immediacy.

If you cannot see an immediate “deeper truth” e.g. making peace now but seek to improve an image for future peacemaking –you have crossed that line. Where there is no clear immediate purpose to falsehood as outlined in Halachah we may never lie. We may not protect ourselves from owning up to a wrongdoing by untruth (as opposed to talking about a personal innocuous item) Comfort of our psyche is not a “greater truth”. Where we benefit form the negation we can simply never know of there is good lying within it.

I’ll conclude by with a simple maxim “if it feels good (to lie) don’t. We must experience profound pain in dissembling. There is a “greater good” in a root canal but if still hurts.

Truth hurts, and the deeper the truth lies, the more it hurts to extract it.
Is it worth it? That’s what we are here for.