Monday, December 30, 2013

Lying for Shalom – the Sake of Peace by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

5 Towns Jewish Times     “Of course, I did my homework, Mom..”

“No, honey, that donut wrapper belonged to a co-worker to whom I gave a ride.”

“Yes, I will go on the treadmill this afternoon as soon as I come home while you are shopping.”

“No dear, that dress does not make you look fat.”

We have all heard the expression before – mutar leshanos mipnei HaShalom – one is permitted to, well, “change” or obscure the truth in order to maintain the peace.  And lately, it seems that we hear it more and more.

A number of questions arise about this concept.  Is it still something that we should avoid doing – or is it possibly a Mitzvah?  Is it an across the board heter?  Do people have complete carte blanche in these areas?  Or are there, perhaps, some caveats?

Firstly, let’s look at the source.  The Talmud (Yevamos 65b) cites Rabbi Eelaah in the name of Rabbi Elazar the son of Rabbi Shimon.  Rabbi Elazar derives this principle – that one may “change” to maintain the peace from the fact that the brothers told Yoseph that Yaakov their father had instructed them to tell Yoseph to forgive their sin against him.  In fact, Yaakov did not leave any such instruction.  Rav Nosson even goes further – it is not just that permission is granted – it is even a Mitzvah!  How do we know this?  Because Hashem instructed Shmuel the prophet to lie to Shaul the king by telling him that he was bringing something to slaughter to Hashem.  In fact, Shmuel was going to anoint Dovid as king in his stead. [...]

Perhaps the real reason why the Poskim who rule like Rabbi Nosson and yet do not use the language of “Mitzvah” is so that one not get accustomed to lying as a way of life.  Let’s not forget as well that in the first three illustrations above, the lying is, in fact, very counterproductive.  In illustration number one the mother wants the son to do well in school.  In illustrations two and three the wife is concerned for her hsuband’s well-being.  It seems pretty clear that the permission to “change”was never granted to lead a decadent lifestyle.  When it says that one can change to maintain peace it never meant just to avoid arguments when the other person is, in fact, correct.  Such uses of this Gemorah undermine the true meaning of Torah and are an abuse and mischaracterization of the very ideals espoused in this ruling of halacha.  The conclusion is that the only recommended use of the leniency is for illustration number four.  And yes, there is no doubt that this is a Mitzvah.


  1. I never lie. Do you believe me?

  2. The Sefer Chassidim says that the Heter is only to lie after the fact, but not before, so illustration 3 is not Mutar. Pardon me that I don't have the time to look it up to find the Siman where he says this. No doubt another commentator can search and find.

  3. Maharsha"m (somewhere in chelek 7) strongly disagrees with sefer chassidim.


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