Monday, June 16, 2008

Question & Answer With Yirmeyahu - Telling The Truth

A Simple Jew asks:

Rabbi Ozer Bergman wrote, "If you are genuinely willing to risk everything you hold dear to tell the truth, your growth and peace will be unsurpassed." Have you always found this to be the case in your life, or have their been occasions when telling the truth resulted in unpleasant consequences?

Yirmeyahu answers:

There have certainly been times where I have, out of a sense of honesty and full disclosure, volunteered information and not been entirely satisfied with the outcome. In retrospect I'm not certain that the decision to volunteer such information was correct, but on the other hand I'm not sure it didn't save me more grief later on.

I think that is the lesson though. We are probably all familiar with the admonition to observe chukim as though they were mishpatim, and mishpatim as though they were chukim. Those commandments which we don't understand and accept as divine decrees should be observed with the same rigor that we keep those that seem inline with common sense and social order. Conversely, however, we need to obey such common sense rules as though they were a command of the King which we cannot comprehend.

Many mitzvos of the Torah, even those which aren't readily accepted by society at large, at least today, have a good deal of utilitarian value. Undoubtedly we should not view this as a coincidence. At the same time we should exercise a little caution before asserting such connections to strongly. It may not be the best idea to give the impression that the mitzvos are simply of utilitarian value when the connection may better be understood as resulting from the Torah being the "blueprint" of Creation. By recognizing such utilitarian values of the mitzvos as a sort of "asmachta" in Creation we may, b'ezaras Hashem, avoid the pitfall of rationalization when the utilitarian aspects are not so applicable.

It is appropriate to meditate on the various "pluses" of doing mitzvos in order to machazek ourselves, to build resolve, especially when we anticipate difficulty from doing so. Honesty will give you great menuchas nefesh and encourage you to live in a way you feel fine being honest about. But in the end we need to be honest because it is the right thing to do. Truthfully, there are times where full candor is really not appropriate. This is a halachic matter however (which I am not at all versed in) and if one is overly focused on how one will benefit it will skew one's judgment and prompt one to take liberties when not justified.

It is worth noting that although my decision to offer up such information brought me a great deal of grief it did not turn out to be the end of the world as I knew it (even if it felt like it at times). I had failed to meet my own expectations, standards that I wasn't taught per se, and by sharing those failures I opened myself up to harsh criticism. It was difficult and embarrassing but life went on. The worst case scenario isn't the likely one, it can be more of an excuse to avoid difficulty. On should be "willing to risk everything you hold dear to tell the truth" but should also remember that the odds are pretty good that there will be a better outcome, comparatively at least.


At June 16, 2008 at 5:33:00 PM EDT, Blogger tzvi hirsh said...

True in most cases.
There are though times when saying a untruth may be the truth,(no grandma your son is ok)

At January 8, 2016 at 5:43:00 PM EST, Anonymous Yirmiahu said...

"we should exercise a little caution before asserting such connections to strongly"

"to strongly" should have been "too strongly", sorry.


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