Thursday, June 19, 2014

Rav Zilberstein: Is acting friendly to someone you can't stand - geneivas daas?

Rav Zilberstein (Chashukei ChemedShavuos 35b): Question: A person sees someone from a distance and cringes hoping that the other one doesn’t see him and come over to him because he has no strength to deal with him. And yet when they do in fact meet he forces himself to have a big smile on his face and to give him a friendly greeting while at the same time regretting that they had met and counting the seconds until the person leaves. Is this considered a transgression of the sin of fraud (geneivas daas)? Answer:  Rambam (Hilchos De'os 2:6) writes that it is prohibited to conduct oneself in a fraudent and deceitful manner. A person should not act differently then he feels (the mouth and the heart should be in agreement) but rather his actions and words should be consistent with what he thinks (tocho k'baro) and that which is in his heart should be that which he expresses with his mouth. The Rambam concludes by saying that even one word of deception and fraud is prohibited. But rather he should have truthful lips and an upright spirit and a pure heart in all his endeavors. Rashi expresses similar thoughts in Parshas Vayeshiv (Bereishis 37:4), where he says that Yosef's brothers could not speak to him because they despised him – and from this we learn their praise that they were not able to be deceitful and say something other than what they felt. Thus Rashi is saying that was preferable for Yosef's brothers not to be engaged in chanufa with Yosef and not to act friendly when they didn't have positive feelings about him. We find a similar idea in Sefer Chasidim (51) who says that it is prohibited to deceive others – even a non-Jew. And he adds that those who despise a non-Jew when giving them  a greeting and they cause the non‑Jew to mistakenly think they are being friendly - are in fact sinners. Because there is no greater deception (geneivas daas) than this.

 However concerning the same issue we find in Gittin (62a) that Rav Kahane when he met a non-Jew he gave him a greeting of "peace be to the master." Rashi explains he did not have intent to bless the non-Jew but rather Rav Kahane was thinking of this teacher. Tosfos there asks how Rav Kahane could do this since it was geneivas daas (fraud)? The Chasam Sofer says about Tosfos – צ"ע  - i.e., it is puzzling. The Chasam Sofer notes that Shavuos (35b) says that all the kings mentioned in relationship to Daniel are mundane except for one that is holy, "Thou, O king, king of kings, unto whom the God of heaven hath given the kingdom, the power, and the strength, and the glory" (Daniel 2:37) – which G-d is meant. This indicates that Daniel was calling Nevuchadnezer "king of kings" while in his heart he was referring to G‑d. Therefore, the Chasam Sofer concludes, we are forced to say that in a case of hatred (eivah) or peace (darchei shalom) it is deception is permitted.

However the Yalkut HaMeiri (Gittin 62a) comments that the Chasam Sofer does not really have a question against Tosfos because if in fact Daniel had meant G-d – then it is not considered geneivas daas. This is explicit in the Zohar (Parshas Va'eira 23b),Then came R. Eleazar and R. Abba and kissed R. Simeon's hand, and R. Abba wept and said: ‘Alas for the world when thou, master, shalt be removed from it! It will become an orphan without thee; for who will then illumine the words of the Torah?’ He then went on to quote David's greeting to Nabal: "Be well (lehai, lit. thus for life!), and peace be to thee, etc.” ‘Surely,’ he said, ‘David must have been aware of Nabal's wickedness, and how could he greet him thus? It was, however, New Year's day, the day when the Holy One judges the world, and David's intention in using both expressions, “Thus for life”, and “and thou art peace”, was to address Him from whom all life and all peace come, in order to make a fitting profession of faith. And greeting a righteous person with Shalom! (peace, harmony) is like greeting the Holy One Himself, especially when addressed to thee, O master, who in thine own person representest the harmony between the above and the below! But it is not allowed to greet thus a wicked person, and yet, if it be unavoidable, there is no insincerity involved in the phrase when outwardly addressed to the person concerned, but inwardly intended for God." So therefore if you want to claim this was deception – it is not – because one who offers a beracha intends it for G-d. If the wicked person mistakenly thinks it was directed at him – then he is just fooling himself. Thus we see that Daniel was blessing G-d and it was not considered geneivas daas. In contrast if one blesses a non-Jew and means his teacher – that is truly geneivas daas.

Back to our topic, it says in Avos (1:15), One should receive all people with a pleasant countenance. Since it says "all" that means even people that you don't like. Rabbeinu Yonah notes that you should show them a happy face in order that people will like you. This implies that even if you truly are not happy to see him – you should still look happy. That means it is not geneivas daas  but rather fulfilling G-d's will and in fact it is a mitzva. Furthermore that by doing this you might start liking the person since the heart follows after one's actions. The exception would be concerning a wicked person because it is prohibited to receive a wicked person with joy since you are to hate those that G-d hates.


  1. Rabbi Michael TzadokJune 19, 2014 at 4:01 PM

    וְאָֽהַבְתָּ֥ לְרֵעֲךָ֖ כָּמֹ֑וךָ

    What more needs to be said?

  2. Unless the person is known Rasha, there is no heter to cause him tzaar for no reason. One can expedite the meeting in a nice way to limit the time of the unpleasant engagement and need not show any unnecessary warmth.

  3. Is this reverse Sh'uT?
    Also, am i allowed to punch someone who gratuitously insults me?

  4. Did you get my other post?

  5. The answer is more interesting than I thought. Is this answer given by R' Zilberstein, or by DT?
    In any case, I saw a video lecture of a certain, controversial Modernish Rosh Yeshiva, who tells of a pact he made with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He sought a second opinion from the Rebbe, since that of his own Rav was too tough for him. The Rebbe told him he should be "Modern" on the outside, but Chabad on the inside. This to me seems like a perfect example of the issur of deception, as outlined by the Rambam. And in fact, all of Outreach follow this line of deception.

  6. Rabbi DT, have you deleted 2 of my posts?

  7. This is Rav Zilberstein's answer

  8. actually, sometimes these situations arise, and on further analysis, I have found it to be middah k'neged middah, e.g. someone insulted me in exactly the same way as i did someone else in the past - when that happens, B'H I see the previous sin has hopefully been expiated.

  9. So how are you doing at the moment? ☺

  10. How does that mean that you should act friendly to people you can't stand and deceive them into thinking you like them?

    Do you claim that people want those that despise them to act as if they are best friends and thus conceal the contempt?

  11. P.S.I wrote this before you posted RZ's reply.

  12. Rabbi Michael TzadokJune 20, 2014 at 12:26 AM

    My claim is that if you despise any Jew, then you have a problem. Things such as Ahavat Yisrael and Loving your neighbor are not sometimes mitzvot.

    Further the Shulhan Arukh goes so far as to say:
    if one saw two families who constantly antagonize each other (or two people who antagonize each other) (Perek “Assara Yuchsin”), or one saw a family which is constantly quarreling, or one saw a man who is always at odds with others and is extremely insolent, one should be wary of [all of] them and it is appropriate that one should distance himself from them, because these are signs of disqualification. Similarly, one who is forever disqualifying others, for example one who casts doubt on other families or individuals and says that they are mamzerim, one should be wary of him that perhaps he himself is a mamzer. And if he says about them that they are [Canaanite] slaves, one should be wary of him that perhaps he himself is a slave, because anyone who disqualifies others uses his own blemish as the disqualification. Similarly, one who is insolent and cruel and hates other people and does not perform any good deeds for them, one should be highly suspicious that perhaps he is a Gibeonite.[Even HaEzer 4:2]

    So where smiling and being pleasant may be dishonest, at least it is not behavior that casts doubt upon my Jewishness and lineage. Honestly I am amazed that this was actually a sheila that someone needed to ask a posek. That in itself speaks volumes to the lack of a Torah based Seichel in our generation.

  13. This is as far as interpersonal relations go. What about in terms of teaching Torah or halacha? If someone has opinion X, but for politcal or other reasons they state opinion Y - is that also geneivas Daat?

  14. You are correct. However, it is a continuous work in progress. The question posed is, when one does despise another person, how should they behave until they have corrected their וְאָֽהַבְתָּ֥ לְרֵעֲךָ֖ כָּמֹ֑וךָ?

  15. And what about misrepresenting and misquoting someone else? Is that not geneivas Daat? And worse, if we claim that someone is misrepresenting the Torah, is fooling the world about what Hashem says and otherwise slander great Torah scholars for our political relevance - is that not geneivas Daat, Eddie?

  16. The_Original_Bored_LawyerJune 21, 2014 at 2:01 AM

    The teshuva seems to present a false dichotomy -- either treat someone as your best friend since childhood, or treat someone with utter contempt. Has he ever heard of simply treating someone with simple civil politeness? I don't think anyone will be mislead if you greet someone with a peremptory "Good morning."

  17. Rabbi Michael TzadokJune 21, 2014 at 11:41 PM

    That has to be a question?!?!?! It is pashat in the Mishnah. Which is what bothers me about this entire sheila. We are asking essentially if I am still required to do a mitvah that I don't want to do... How is that a Sheila? If I don't want to put on Tefillin because I don't like Tefillin does that exempt me? Of course not. How is that any different?

  18. Yes, if you misquote someone then it obviously is.

  19. I'm glad we agree. I would include misquoting Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg in geneivas Daat.

  20. You are correct. However, I do not see it as analogous to Tefilin. If a person does not want to don Tefilin, does he have any sort of Torah-reasoning to be prohibited from wearing Tefilin?

    Here, he does have what may seem to be Torah-reasoning to prohibit him from displaying happiness in seeing a person he dislikes. The prohibition of geneivas daas. His reasoning is indeed faulty, as Rabbi Zilberstein clarifies. But that's what a sheila often is. Something that is not clear-cut or obvious to one person, while it may be obvious and clear to a more learned person.

    I'm glad to see that you are more learned than the questioner.

    To me it is a valid question, which I may not have been 100% certain of the answer. I was certainly inclined to believe that we must show kindness and understanding - but the genaivas daas aspect, would have been the confusing monkey wrench.

  21. Rabbi Michael TzadokJune 23, 2014 at 11:16 PM

    How did I know that you were going there?

    Honestly your line of reasoning would work if it were only the Psak of the Tzfat B"D that quoted him.

    However, several news sources also quoted him. Basic journalistic ethics requires double sourcing. While the Psak would account for one source, they would have had to have gotten it from a separate independent source as well.

    Perhaps the various news organizations lied. However, it is more likely that he simply retracted when he saw the controversy. If he had issued a clarifying statement immediately, I would be more inclined to believe that it wasn't a retraction. However, he didn't. It was weeks, and only after considerable pressure was brought.

    Like I said before, it isn't, unfortunately, the first time we have seen something like this.

  22. I read a report that RSZA ztl once made a "psak" about permitting either insemination or marital relations for a woman who had a medical condition preventing her from getting pregnant during the Niddah d'rabbanan. It raised such a controversy that he had to retract/clarify saying it wasn't meant to be halacha l'maaseh.

  23. How did I know that you were going there?

  24. What is the point you are making?

    Where did you read this story?

    It certainly goes both ways. People fabricate gedolim stories to support their causes and beliefs. The Gemara in Shabbos discusses that.

    IF he did originally issue that psak, how do you know that he didn't change his mind?

    It is much more likely that he was considering and debating such a psak, and concluded otherwise. RSZA is a lot more trustworthy to me than some storybook, newspaper or magazine.


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