Keep Far Away from Falsehood

In Parshat Mishpatim, Shmot 23:7 we are told: “Keep far away from falsehood.”


Nechama Leibowitz points out that this pasuk implies not only the negative avoidance of actual falsehood, but also meticulous care in refraining from anything which might conceivably savour of untruth, even though it was not obviously dishonest.


Yet we have seen examples in the Torah where the principle of peace is more important than telling the whole truth.


The best example is when God changes Sarah’s words when he speaks to Avraham.


In Breisheet 18:12 we read: “And Sarah laughed within herself, saying: ‘After I have withered shall I again have delicate skin? And my husband is old!’”


God reported what Sarah said differently in the next pasuk: “Why is it that Sarah laughed saying: ‘Shall I in truth bear a child, though I have aged?’”


God left out the part about Avraham being old in order not to insult him which could have caused an unnecessary rift between Avraham and Sarah.


We learn in Masechet Yevamot 65b that it is permissible to deviate from telling the whole truth in the interests of peace, Shalom Bayit.


This does not hold true in the case of court proceedings where we can not compromise.


In Masechet Shavuot 30b we learn: From where does the judge who knows that the case is crooked (he sees that the witnesses are not acting in good faith but he cannot prove it) know that he should not say: Since the witnesses have testified I shall give the verdict accordingly and let the witnesses bear the blame? From the words: “Keep far away from falsehood.”


We learn from here that we must do our best to stay away from anything that even borders on falsehood and to distance ourselves from anyone who is deceitful.


We also see that for the sake of Shalom Bayit, certain things are better off being left unsaid.