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Is Lying Permitted?! – On Second Thought

On Second Thought: Delving Into the Sugya with Rabbanit Yafit Clymer

⁠⁠Source Sheet⁠⁠

Bava Metzia 23

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דף כג עב

Rav Yehuda says that Shmuel says: With regard to these three matters alone, it is normal for Sages to amend their statements and deviate from the truth: With regard to a tractate, if he is asked whether he studied a particular tractate, he may humbly say that he did not, even if he did. And with regard to a bed, if he is asked whether he slept in a particular bed, he may say that he did not, to avoid shame in case some unseemly residue is found on the bed. And he can lie with regard to a host [ushpiza], as one may say that he was not well received by a certain host to prevent everyone from taking advantage of the host’s hospitality. 


יבמות דף סה ע”ב

And Rabbi Ile’a further said in the name of Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon: It is permitted for a person to depart from the truth in a matter that will bring peace, as it is stated: “Your father commanded before he died, saying: So you shall say to Joseph: Please pardon your brothers’ crime, etc.” (Genesis 50:16–17). Jacob never issued this command, but his sons falsely attributed this statement to him in order to preserve peace between them and Joseph.


Rabbi Natan says: It is a mitzva to depart from the truth in order to preserve peace, as it is stated: “And Samuel said: How can I go, and Saul will hear and kill me” (I Samuel 16:2). God responded in the next verse that Samuel should say he went to sacrifice an offering, indicating that God commands one to lie in order to preserve peace. 


It was taught in the school of Rabbi Yishmael: Great is peace, as even the Holy One, Blessed be He, departed from the truth for it. As, initially it is written that Sarah said of Abraham: “And my lord is old” (Genesis 18:12), and in the end it is written that God told Abraham that Sarah said: “And I am old” (Genesis 18:13). God adjusted Sarah’s words in order to spare Abraham hurt feelings that might lead Abraham and Sarah to quarrel.


שמות כ״ג:ז׳ –  (ז) מִדְּבַר־שֶׁ֖קֶר תִּרְחָ֑ק וְנָקִ֤י וְצַדִּיק֙ אַֽל־תַּהֲרֹ֔ג כִּ֥י לֹא־אַצְדִּ֖יק רָשָֽׁע׃ 


(7) Keep far from a false charge; do not bring death on those who are innocent and in the right, for I will not acquit the wrongdoer. 


Ketubot 16b:12-17a:1

  • The Sages taught: How does one dance before the bride, i.e., what does one recite while dancing at her wedding: 


Mishneh Torah, The Sanhedrin and the Penalties within Their Jurisdiction 22:3

From where do we know that a student who sees his teacher erring in a particular matter of judgment, should not say, “I will wait for him until the conclusion of the judgment, at which time I will point out his error. I will then construct the argument correctly, so that the judgment will be quoted in my name”? The Torah therefore says, “Distance yourself from falsehood


רבי אליעזר ממיץ בספר היראים (סימן רלה)

A lie that does not come into the hands of evil, the Torah did not warn about it


ספר חרדים (מ”ע פ”ד מצווה כ”ו)

 ש”מצות עשה לדבר אמת אפילו במילי דעלמא דליכא דררא דממונא, שנאמר מדבר שקר תרחק, משמע אפילו דליכא רק דיבור בעלמא”.


הרב אליעזר מלמד (פניני הלכה ליקוטים חלק ב’) 

“However, it should be known that even if the prohibition to tell a lie that does not cause personal harm is not learned from the verse, “Turn away from falsehood”, it is clear that its basis is from the Torah. After all, it is a commandment from the Torah to “walk in his ways”, which is to adhere to his morals, and one of the main morals by which G-d is revealed in the world It is the measure of truth, as the sages said: “The seal of God is truth.” If so, the whole controversy is only about the private question, did the Torah single out a special verse to prohibit all lies, or is there general guidance on this without a special verse


הרב אליהו דסלר, ספר מכתב מאליהו, חלק א’, עמ’ 94, 96
It was found that truth is what brings good and the will of the Creator and lies is what gives success to the business of the minister of lies, the Sitra Achara …   

. a lie for the sake of such a truth – it is the truth


פרופסור נתן אביעזר

“It all depends on the context and the consequences. Telling the truth may be a serious offense, and telling a lie may be a major mitzvah (such as Shepra and Pu’ah). The Torah imposes a heavy responsibility on a person and requires him to consider each case individually according to the Torah’s high moral principles There are no easy and sweeping solutions

Rabbanit Yafit Clymer

Rabbanit Yafit Clymer is a senior lecturer in Jewish Studies at the several Matan learning centers, at 'Emunah' and WebYeshiva. She is a group instructor for various programs. Rabbanit Clymer is part of the steering committee of the 'Beit Hillel' organization and answers halachic questions online as a part of their Meshivat Nefesh project.
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