Ask The Rabbi

To Tell the Truth

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Lies, Why Not?

Michael Cavette wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Why should we tell the truth? I realize this sounds like a ridiculous question; we have all accepted that we should not lie. I can find instructions to tell the truth, but I cannot find an explanation of why. Thank you for your time. I look forward to your answer.


Dear Michael Cavette,

Obviously you are talking about a lie that does not hurt anyone, where the only immorality is that it is not true. Before we answer why you should tell the truth, let me ask another question. Why are we here? Why is there a world?

This question is asked by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto in The Way of G-d, and is also addressed by Rabbi Yosef Karo in Maggid Mesharim. The gist of what they say is the following: The purpose of Creation is kindness. G-d wants to bestow the greatest possible good upon us. The ultimate and greatest good is G-d Himself, and therefore, the ultimate good is closeness to G-d. Closeness to G-d requires compatibility and similarity to G-d. Therefore beings must have free will and not be created already similar, as this would be dissimilar to G-d (i.e., G-d acts because He chooses to do so, not because He is coerced).

Therefore, we must be in a world in which there is choice so that we can try to be as "G-dlike" as possible. The good has to be internal, not external, just as G-d is intrinsically good. The only way to internalize and be intrinsically good is to do it through challenge and free will, and therefore this world was created.

Now, G-d is perfect, which means He is the ultimate reality, i.e., True. Lies, on the other hand, do not parallel reality; therefore, they distance us from the reality of G-d, make us incompatible and negate our relationship with Him.

Michael Cavette replies:

Thank you so much for your answer. I have asked this same question of Jesuit priests, theologians, Buddhist teachers, and ethicists, and you are the only one who was able or willing to answer it. Kind regards.


 
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