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The Torah Learning Library of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Deception and Connection: Why Do We Deceive Those We Love?

by Rabbi Haggai Resnikoff (Posted on September 7, 2016)
Topics: Torah, Sefer Breishit, Vayeitzei, Machshava/Jewish Thought, Ethics

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This article is part of Torat Chovevei, a Community Learning Program led by Yeshivat Chovevei Torah with the support of the Covenant Foundation. The goal of the program is to connect communities to YCT through the medium of Torah learning. All topics discussed weave relevant contemporary issues together with Torah and non-Torah sources in monthly home-based learning groups (chaburot). These groups are guided by Rabbi Haggai Resnikoff, Rebbe and Director of Community Learning at YCT. For further information about Torat Chovevei, and how your community can get involved, please contact Rabbi Resnikoff at hresnikoff@yctorah.org.

Jewish values oppose lying, deception, and dishonesty as a rule. And yet there are some moments, when they are acceptable and maybe even preferable to the truth. It is obvious that we should not participate in dishonesty that causes damage to others, and even dishonesty that really has no negative consequences should be avoided. On the other hand, we need to be aware both from a halakhic and a psychological point of view, when deception and lies are actually preferable to the truth.

Bereshit ch. 29

וַיַּעֲבֹ֧ד יַעֲקֹ֛ב בְּרָחֵ֖ל שֶׁ֣בַע שָׁנִ֑ים וַיִּהְי֤וּ בְעֵינָיו֙ כְּיָמִ֣ים אֲחָדִ֔ים בְּאַהֲבָת֖וֹ אֹתָֽהּ: וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יַעֲקֹ֤ב אֶל־לָבָן֙ הָבָ֣ה אֶת־אִשְׁתִּ֔י כִּ֥י מָלְא֖וּ יָמָ֑י וְאָב֖וֹאָה אֵלֶֽיהָ: וַיֶּאֱסֹ֥ף לָבָ֛ן אֶת־כָּל־אַנְשֵׁ֥י הַמָּק֖וֹם וַיַּ֥עַשׂ מִשְׁתֶּֽה: וַיְהִ֣י בָעֶ֔רֶב וַיִּקַּח֙ אֶת־לֵאָ֣ה בִתּ֔וֹ וַיָּבֵ֥א אֹתָ֖הּ אֵלָ֑יו וַיָּבֹ֖א אֵלֶֽיהָ: וַיִּתֵּ֤ן לָבָן֙ לָ֔הּ אֶת־זִלְפָּ֖ה שִׁפְחָת֑וֹ לְלֵאָ֥ה בִתּ֖וֹ שִׁפְחָֽה: וַיְהִ֣י בַבֹּ֔קֶר וְהִנֵּה־הִ֖וא לֵאָ֑ה וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֶל־לָבָ֗ן מַה־זֹּאת֙ עָשִׂ֣יתָ לִּ֔י הֲלֹ֤א בְרָחֵל֙ עָבַ֣דְתִּי עִמָּ֔ךְ וְלָ֖מָּה רִמִּיתָֽנִי: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לָבָ֔ן לֹא־יֵעָשֶׂ֥ה כֵ֖ן בִּמְקוֹמֵ֑נוּ לָתֵ֥ת הַצְּעִירָ֖ה לִפְנֵ֥י הַבְּכִירָֽה: מַלֵּ֖א שְׁבֻ֣עַ זֹ֑את וְנִתְּנָ֨ה לְךָ֜ גַּם־אֶת־זֹ֗את בַּעֲבֹדָה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר תַּעֲבֹ֣ד עִמָּדִ֔י ע֖וֹד שֶֽׁבַע־שָׁנִ֥ים אֲחֵרֽוֹת: וַיַּ֤עַשׂ יַעֲקֹב֙ כֵּ֔ן וַיְמַלֵּ֖א שְׁבֻ֣עַ זֹ֑את וַיִּתֶּן־ל֛וֹ אֶת־רָחֵ֥ל בִּתּ֖וֹ ל֥וֹ לְאִשָּֽׁה:20 And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her. 21 And Jacob said unto Laban: ‘Give me my wife, for my days are filled, that I may go in unto her.’ 22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast. 23 And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her. 24 And Laban gave Zilpah his handmaid unto his daughter Leah for a handmaid. 25 And it came to pass in the morning that, behold, it was Leah; and he said to Laban: ‘What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?’ 26 And Laban said: ‘It is not so done in our place, to give the younger before the first-born. 27 Fulfil the week of this one, and we will give thee the other also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.’ 28 And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week; and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife.

Yehudah Kil, Daat Mikra, Bereshit 29:26

הצעירה לפני הבכירה – שלא ככתוב למעלה, ‘הגדולה… הקטנה’ (ט”ז, י”ח), נוקט לבן את הכנויים ‘הצעירה… הבכירה’, ובכך רמז למעשה יעקב, שהיה ‘צעיר’ (כ”ה, כ”ג), והלך במצות אמו לזכות בברכת הבכור (כ”ז, י”ט).
“the younger before the firstborn” – Unlike what is written above, ‘the elder…the younger’ (vs. 16, 18), Laban here adopts the terms ‘younger…the firstborn’, and thus he hinted at the behavior of Jacob who was ‘younger’ and he went at the command of his mother to acquire the blessing of the firstborn (27:19).

Questions:

  1. Laban’s excuse for deceiving Jacob is “It is not so done in our place.” Is this a legitimate reason? Based on Kil’s comment, how does Laban appear to have perceived Jacob? Why might he have felt that it was necessary to deceive him rather than simply explain the local custom?
  2. Are there any legitimate reasons to deceive friends and loved ones who have put their trust in us?

Talmud, Tractate Megillah, 13a

אמר רבי אלעזר: … בשכר צניעות שהיתה בה ברחל – זכתה ויצא ממנה שאול… ומאי צניעות היתה בה ברחל – דכתיב ויגד יעקב לרחל כי אחי אביה הוא. וכי אחי אביה הוא? והלא בן אחות אביה הוא? אלא אמר לה: מינסבא לי? אמרה ליה: אין. מיהו, אבא רמאה הוא, ולא יכלת ליה. – אמר לה: אחיו אנא ברמאות. – אמרה ליה: ומי שרי לצדיקי לסגויי ברמיותא? – אמר לה: אין, עם נבר תתבר ועם עקש תתפל (שמ’ ב’ כ”ב, כ”ז). אמר לה: ומאי רמיותא? – אמרה ליה: אית לי אחתא דקשישא מינאי, ולא מנסיב לי מקמה. מסר לה סימנים. כי מטא ליליא, אמרה: השתא מיכספא אחתאי, מסרתינהו ניהלה. והיינו דכתיב ויהי בבקר והנה היא לאה, מכלל דעד השתא לאו לאה היא? אלא: מתוך סימנין שמסרה רחל ללאה לא הוה ידע עד השתא.
Rabbi Elazar said, “As a reward for Rachel’s humility, she merited to have Saul come from her.” What was Rachel’s humility? As it says, ‘And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s brother.’ Was he really her father’s brother? Actually he was the son of her father’s sister! Rather, he said to her, ‘Marry me!’ She said, ‘Yes. However, my father is a cheat and you are no match for him.’ He said to her, ‘I am his brother in cheating.’ She said to him, ‘And is a righteous person allowed to be an expert cheat?’ He said to her, ‘Yes, “With the pure You are pure and with the crooked, You are subtle”’ He said to her, ‘What is the plot?’ She said, ‘I have an older sister, and he will not marry me before her.’ He gave her signs. When the night came, she said, ‘Now my sister will be humiliated.’ She told her the signs. And thus it is written, “And it came to pass in the morning that, behold, it was Leah.” And until now she wasn’t Leah? Rather, from the signs that Rachel told to Leah, he didn’t know until now.

Questions:

  1. How should we judge Rachel’s cooperation with Laban? Betrayal of Jacob? Compassion towards her sister? Both? Was she right? Wrong? What kinds of conflicting loyalties within our inner circles do we face? What kinds of deceptions do we participate in because of these complicated relationships?

Bereshit ch. 50

 וַיִּרְא֤וּ אֲחֵֽי־יוֹסֵף֙ כִּי־מֵ֣ת אֲבִיהֶ֔ם וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ ל֥וּ יִשְׂטְמֵ֖נוּ יוֹסֵ֑ף וְהָשֵׁ֤ב יָשִׁיב֙ לָ֔נוּ אֵ֚ת כָּל־הָ֣רָעָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר גָּמַ֖לְנוּ אֹתֽוֹ: וַיְצַוּ֕וּ אֶל־יוֹסֵ֖ף לֵאמֹ֑ר אָבִ֣יךָ צִוָּ֔ה לִפְנֵ֥י מוֹת֖וֹ לֵאמֹֽר: כֹּֽה־תֹאמְר֣וּ לְיוֹסֵ֗ף אָ֣נָּ֡א שָׂ֣א נָ֠א פֶּ֣שַׁע אַחֶ֤יךָ וְחַטָּאתָם֙ כִּי־רָעָ֣ה גְמָל֔וּךָ וְעַתָּה֙ שָׂ֣א נָ֔א לְפֶ֥שַׁע עַבְדֵ֖י אֱ-לֹהֵ֣י אָבִ֑יךָ וַיֵּ֥בְךְּ יוֹסֵ֖ף בְּדַבְּרָ֥ם אֵלָֽיו:And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said: ‘It may be that Joseph will hate us, and will fully requite us all the evil which we did unto him.’ And they sent a message unto Joseph, saying: ‘Thy father did command before he died, saying: So shall ye say unto Joseph: Forgive, I pray thee now, the transgression of thy brethren, and their sin, for that they did unto thee evil. And now, we pray thee, forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of thy father.’ And Joseph wept when they spoke unto him.

Rashi, Bereshit, ch. 50

אביך צוה – שינו בדבר מפני השלום, כי לא צוה יעקב כן שלא נחשד יוסף בעיניו:“Thy father did command…” – They lied about it because of peace, for Jacob did not command thus, for Joseph was not suspect in his eyes.

Talmud, Tractate Yevamot, 65b

וא”ר אילעא משום רבי אלעזר בר’ שמעון: מותר לו לאדם לשנות בדבר השלום, שנאמר: אביך צוה וגו’ כה תאמרו ליוסף אנא שא נא וגו’. ר’ נתן אומר: מצוה, שנאמר: ויאמר שמואל איך אלך ושמע שאול והרגני וגו’ [וכתיב ויאמר ה’ עגלת בקר תקח בידך ואמרת לזבוח וגו’ הקדוש ברוך הוא צוה לשנות – רש”י.]. דבי רבי ישמעאל תנא: גדול השלום, שאף הקדוש ברוך הוא שינה בו, דמעיקרא כתיב: ואדוני זקן, ולבסוף כתיב: ואני זקנתי.And Rabbi Ilah said in the name of Rabbi Elazar bar Rabbi Shimon, “It is permitted for a person to lie for peace. As it says, ‘Thy father did command etc.’ Rabbi Natan said, “It is a mitzvah. As it says, “And Samuel said, ‘How shall I go, if Saul hears, he will kill me etc.’ [Rashi – And it says, “And God said, ‘take a calf in your hand and say that you have come to sacrifice etc.’” The Holy Blessed One commanded him to lie.]” The school of Rabbi Yishmael taught, “Peace is great, for even the Holy Blessed One lies for it. For originally it was written, “And my master is elderly,” and later it is written, “And I am elderly.”

Questions:

  1. Rashi following the Talmud seems to think that Joseph’s brothers are right to lie to him since they are trying to increase שלום by convincing him to put aside any vengeful feelings he might have. Is this legitimate? Don’t they have some real owning up to do and consequences to face?
  2. How do the other two examples in the Talmud (Samuel and God) compare to this one? Are they more legitimate? Less?שמג If, based on the material we’ve seen so far, we tried to lay out the cases where it’s okay to lie and deceive, what would they be?

The Gates of Repentence, Rabbeinu Yonah, Gate 3

וזה דבר כת שקרים. ענין הכת הזו נחלק לתשעה חלקים. החלק האחד – איש כזב, אשר תורה עזב, וירע וישחית במענה פיו…

 החלק השני – המשקר ואין בעצם השקר נזק והפסד לחברו, אך יתכוין בו לעשותו סבה אל הנזק ואל הרע, כמו המתעה את חברו, שיאמין בו כי הוא אוהב וריע נאמן עמו, ומתכוין בזה כדי שיבטח בו ולא ישמר ממנו, ויוכל להדיח עליו רעה…

 החלק השלישי – הבא בערמה ודברי מרמה למנוע טוב מבעליו, להעביר הטובה אליו…

 החלק הרביעי – המשקר בספור הדברים אשר שמע ומחליף קצתם במתכוין, ואין לו תועלת בשקריו ולא הפסד לזולתו… וזה החלק התירוהו לקיים מצות ודרישת טובה ושלום. ואמרו (כתובות יז, א): כי מותר לשבח הכלה לפני החתן ולאמר שהיא נאה וחסודה אף על פי שאינו כן. ואמרו (יבמות סה, ב): מותר לשנות בדברי שלום, שנאמר (בראשית נ, טז – יז): “אביך צוה לפני מותו לאמר כה תאמרו ליוסף אנא שא נא וגו’…

 החלק החמישי – האומר לחברו כי ייטיב עמו ויתן לו מתת, ועודנו מדבר עם לבבו ישיח שלא לתת…

 החלק הששי – המבטיח את חברו להיטיב עמו וישקר דבריו וישים לאל מלתו…

 החלק השביעי – מי שמתעה את חברו לאמר כי עשה עמו טובה או דיבר טוב עליו ולא עשה…

 החלק השמיני – מי שמשתבח במעלות שאינן נמצאות בו…

 החלק התשיעי – בנים לא ישקרו בספור דברים אשר ישמעו והגדת מאורעות, אבל יחליפו דברים על אודות חפציהם מאין הפסד לאדם בדבר, אך ימצאו כמעט הנאה בשקרותם אף על פי שאינם מרויחים ממון בכך…

And this is the rules for the group of lies. This group is broken up into nine parts. The first part – a false person who abandoned the Torah, and is even and corrupt in their speaking…
The second part – One who lies and there is nothing in the essence of the lie that causes damage or loss to their fellow. Only they intend by it to make it an opportunity for damage and evil. Like a person who deceives their fellow so that they believe that they are their friend and loyal to them. And they intend by this that they should trust them and they will not guard them selves against them, and they will be able to perpetrate some evil upon them…
The third part – One who comes with subtlety and sly words to prevent a future good from it’s owners and to transfer that good to them.
The fourth part – One who lies in telling things they heard and they change them in a small way, on purpose, and there is no gain in this lie and no loss to their fellow.
And this part they permitted in order to fulfill mitzvahs, and pursue good and peace. And they said that it is permitted to praise a bride before the bridegroom and say that she is beautiful and graceful even if she isn’t. And they said, “It is permitted to lie for the purpose of peace as it says, “Thy father did command before he died, saying: So shall ye say unto Joseph: Forgive, I pray etc.”
The fifth part – One who says to their fellow that they will do good for them and give them a gift, and they are still considering in their heart if perhaps they will not give…
The sixth part – One who promises their fellow to do good for them and makes a lie of their words…
The seventh part – One who deceives their fellow saying that they did a good turn for them or spoke well about them when they did not…
The eighth part – One who is praised for certain merits that they do not possess.
The ninth part – Children do not lie in telling stories that they’ve heard and the narrative of the events, but they switch around the details without there being any loss to anyone. And they feel almost a pleasure in lying even though they are not gaining any money from it…

Questions:

  1. Under what conditions does Rabeinu Yonah permit lying? How would he categorize Laban? Rachel? Joseph’s brothers?
  2. How do these categories, and particularly number four, fit with our modern ethos about when lying is appropriate? Do we permit lying in more categories than Rabeinu Yonah? Fewer? The same?

Marriage Affair: Should You Tell Your Spouse You Cheated? Expert Weighs In, by Ashley Reich

Marriage Affair: Should You Tell Your Spouse You Cheated? Expert Weighs In
The Huffington Post | By Ashley Reich
Posted: 05/22/2013 2:58 am EDT Updated: 05/23/2013 12:24 am EDT

You’ve had an affair. Does that mean your marriage is over?

Not necessarily, according to Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of “The Secrets of Surviving Infidelity.” …

We asked Haltzman about whether or not it’s important to cop to the infidelity, and how to go about having that emotional conversation. Below, he shares his answers.
Huffington Post Divorce: Should you tell your spouse if you’ve had an affair? Why or why not?…

Haltzman: In most cases, you should tell your spouse you had an affair. It goes without saying that marriages are based on openness, and affairs are based on secrets…

Usually by the time you’re thinking of revealing all, your mate has already begun to figure out something is wrong. By telling your partner the truth, you free him or her up from the constant wondering, “what’s going on with you?”…

If the infidelity was in the remote past, it has no impact on your current marriage, you’ve done the emotional “work” to make sense of what led to it and took the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again, then it’s not clear that the marriage will benefit from telling the truth…

Questions:

  1. The advice above is about whether to come forward to talk about an affair, but what if the spouse asks point blank? How might the Dr. Haltzman change his advice? What would Rabbeinu Yonah say? The Talmud?

Abraham Isaiah Karlitz, Chazon Ish: Faith and Security, ch. 13, p. 55

וראוי לקבוע הדיבור במדת האמת המתוקנה ובמדת השקר המקולקלת, כי חז״ל החמירו בזה מאד וקלקולה מצוי מאד והפסדיה עצומים. והנה שינוי הדיבור מאמתת המדובר בשם שקר יקרא, וגנות השקר אינו בשביל המרמה שבו שמשתמש בשקרו בשביל ריוח המקווה לו ברמותו את רעהו, אלא אף השינוי שאינו משמש לגורם של אונאה, בסיפור דברים של מה בכך, בשם שקר יכונה, ובכלל עון השקר הוא, וכמו שאמרו ב״מ כ״ג ב׳, בהני תלת מילי עבידי רבנן דמשנו במיליהו במסכתא כוי, הנה הותר הדבר רק משום שכאן הגדת האמת יש בו מן הגנות ונבחר כאן השינוי והנליזה מן האמת, אבל בדברים אחרים כיוצא בהן אף שהן דברים של מה בכך ואינו גורם בשקרו שום הטעה לחברו בכלל שקר הוא.
And it is fitting to discuss the character of truth which is upright and the character of falsehood which is destructive. For our Sages were very strict about this and its destruction is very common and it’s losses are huge. And behold, altering speech from the truth is called falsehood. And the evil of falsehood is not because of the deception by which one uses their falsehood for profit which they hope for in cheating their fellow. Rather, even altering which one is not using to usurious ends, in telling tales that are of no importance, this is also falsehood. And it is also within the sin of falsehood. And as it says in Baba Metzia, “In these three things, the Rabbis used to alter their words: In their learning etc., behold, these were permitted only because in these cases, telling the truth had some evil and the alteration was preferable to the truth. But in other things like this, even if they are totally unimportant and they do not cause with their falsehood any deception to their fellow, it is still considered a lie.

Questions:

  1. What is the Chazon Ish’s concern with falsehood? Why doesn’t he permit you to lie about something that will cause no damage? What exceptions does he permit? Could these be extended beyond the specific cases offered by the Talmud?

Lying to Your Kids, by Marissa Cohen, WebMD Feature from “Good Housekeeping” Magazine

WebMD Feature from “Good Housekeeping” Magazine
By Marissa Cohen
Like most parents, I am trying to teach my kids that honesty is always the way to go. But truthfully? There are times when I’m such a liar…I lied to my girls about the real reason their uncle was getting divorced, and I cringe just thinking about the day they’ll ask, “Mom, did you ever smoke pot?” (My answer will remain no, regardless of what my college roommate tells you.)
I realize there are moms out there who are shaking their heads, eager to point out how hypocritical it is to ask your kids for total honesty and then turn around and lie to them. And yes, experts stress that truthfulness is crucial to a healthy parent-child relationship. But they also all agree that sometimes less than the whole truth can be a good thing. “A parent’s job is to protect children and nurture their development,” says Robin Altman, M.D., a child psychiatrist and medical director of the Children’s Home of Reading, in Reading, PA. “At times, that means telling a small lie — or holding back some of the truth — when they don’t have the capacity to deal with all the facts yet.”
Whether your kids are in preschool or high school, here are some of the times it’s OK to fib:
Lying for Santa’s Sake
My girls are fiercely committed to the existence of fairies; for others, it’s all about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. And as long as young kids believe, go with the flow. “Children ages 3 to 6 are deep into their fantasy life, and they are delighted when parents play along,” says Adele Brodkin, Ph.D., senior child development consultant for Scholastic. In fact, she says, these fantasies help children develop creativity and language and cognitive skills…
Lying About Family Problems
As kids get older, you’ll probably wonder how much truth to reveal when your family or a close friend reaches a difficult crossroads, like illness, divorce, or unemployment.
“When I was in graduate school, I briefly didn’t have health insurance,” says Jenna Hatcher, 44, a mom of two in Lexington, KY. “I never told my 9- and 15-year-old daughters, because they would have worried. Once when I was sick, my older one asked why I didn’t go to the doctor. I lied and said I was feeling better.”
Hatcher chose to hide the truth from her daughters so they wouldn’t stress about circumstances they couldn’t control. And that instinct was correct, says [Robin] Goldstein [Phd, auther of The Parenting Bible]: “Kids need to put their energy into developing their own identity at school and with friends.”
Not all family situations can be glossed over like Hatcher’s. “When there’s a divorce or a sick relative, most kids will figure out that something is going on,” points out Steven Friedfeld, LCSW, a child therapist in New York City. If you don’t clue them in, Friedfeld adds, they’ll be upset that you’re keeping secrets, and they may mistakenly assume that the problem is all about them…
However much of the truth you choose to share, spin it in the most reassuring way possible: “Grandma is very sick, but the doctors are doing their best to be sure she isn’t in pain.” And when it really does impact their lives — like when a parent loses a job — communicate that you’ll all work together to get through this situation.
Lying to Protect Your Privacy
You didn’t give up your right to privacy when you had kids. And, sometimes, maintaining that boundary involves telling a few lies. “I went away for the weekend with my boyfriend last year when my daughters were 13 and 19, and I told them I was going with a girlfriend,” says Clair Davison,* 44, a single mom in St. Louis. “I didn’t want to share details about my sex life with my kids.”
Whether it involves your love life or a fight with your sister, it’s OK to fudge the specifics sometimes. “If your child asks for details, say, ‘Sorry, but that’s grown-up business,'” suggests Dr. Altman.
Questions about past indiscretions are trickier — say, if your child asks, “Mom, have you ever tried drugs?” It’s fine to dodge the truth, says Friedfeld: “The key thing is to impart your family’s values, so you can say, ‘I’m not comfortable discussing this, but here’s how we feel about people who do drugs.'”…
Lying to Skirt Harsh Realities
Last September 11, my daughter asked me a question I’d been dreading: “Mommy, my teacher asked us to remember the people who died on 9/11. What did she mean?” Bellamy was just two months old on that awful day, so I’d never mentioned the event to her. My reply was, “Some bad guys flew airplanes into a building, and some people died.” She was silent, and then she said, “But it could never happen again, right?”
With a twinge of liar’s remorse, I answered, “You’re safe. The bad guys on that plane are gone.” Did I do the right thing? “Filtering the truth is not the same as lying,” [Michele] Borba [Ed.D, author of Building Moral Intelligence] explains, noting that telling a child too much is unfair: It adds to the fear without helping her handle it.
So when there’s a school shooting or tornado on the news, ask yourself, Is it going to directly affect my child’s daily life? If the answer is no and your child is not yet in kindergarten, don’t say anything, says Dr. Altman. If she overhears you talking about it and asks questions, try a little fib, like “We were worried because there was an accident, but everyone is OK.”
With older children, remember, “playground gossip is huge, and your child will hear things from his friends,” Borba says. “You want to make sure you are the one guiding the info.” So bring up the news and dole out the truth bit by bit, gauging how much they can handle. “Give them a snippet — i.e., ‘Did you hear about the earthquake?’— and then pause. Say, ‘What did you think about that? What are your friends saying?’…
Little White Lies — Good or Evil?
Raise your hand if you’ve ever told a fib to avoid a scene or to get your kid to do what you want. I’ve told my girls the restaurant is out of mac and cheese to get them to eat something healthier, and my friend Randi admits she used to tell her son the toy store was closed for various made-up holidays so he wouldn’t whine about buying Pokémon cards after school.
These little lies of expedience seem harmless — and used sparingly, they can be, so don’t be too hard on yourself, says Victoria Talwar [PhD, assistant professor of educational and counseling psychology at McGill University]. But be careful of overdoing it. “Young children may never realize you lied,” she says. “But if you lie on a regular basis, or to older kids, then they’ll recognize that you’re not trustworthy. You’re also teaching them that lying is an appropriate strategy to avoid things they don’t want to do.”
Instead, try the tougher but more rewarding approach: honesty…

Questions:

  1. What are the values dictating whether or not to tell your kids the truth in this piece? How are they different from the values of the Chazon Ish in his discussion of honesty? In what areas would the Chazon Ish likely disagree with this article? In what areas might he agree? Where should we draw the line?

Zohar, Shemot, Parashat Yitro, 67a

לא תגנב, אי לאו דפסקא טעמא הוה אסיר אפילו למגנב דעתא דרביה באורייתא או דעתא דחכם לאסתכלא ביה או דיינא דדאין דינא לפום טענה דאצטריך ליה למגנב דעתא דרמאה ולמגנב דעתא דתרווייהו לאפקא דינא לנהורא…“Thou shalt not steal…” If the reason were not explained (elsewhere) it would be forbidden even to “steal the mind” (i.e. deceive) one’s teacher for Torah or to deceive a sage in order to observe them (i.e. their lifestyle), or to for a judge who is judging a case according to the claims and they must deceive the cheater and to deceive both sides in order to bring out the decision to light…

Questions:

  1. The Zohar introduces the idea of actively deceiving someone for some higher purpose. How would Rabbeinu Yonah feel about this? Might this be the beginning of a source to support the arguments of the experts in the piece about lying to children?