middot truth mesorah networking?


Written by  rebbetzin malkah

art-networkingWho is a rachil?  One who peddles tidbits from one person to another, saying, "Mr. A said so and so; I heard so and so about Mrs. B." Even if it is true, it destroys the world. There is a more serious wrongdoing included in this prohibition: lashon hara (evil speech) – speaking disparagingly about others, even if speaking the truth.  —Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Temperaments 7:2

Sometimes we think we are "networking" when we share information about others. Did you hear about so and so? Oh yes, I can't believe it. What a tragedy. But what good is this kind of banter doing the world? Is it just satisfying our never-ending quest for information? Yes, it is. When we can Facebook, Tweet, email, text and chat online, there is no end to instant information. As a child I learned that less is best. Guess what—even according to the Sages, this is true also.

you never even asked

During a six-week class on medical ethics according to Judaism, I learned valuable information about how Torah views patient-doctor confidentiality versus the well-being of offspring who might be affected by disease. In these cases, regarding the lives of children who were directly in danger, it was fine to disclose truthful information about a patient's condition and hereditary risks if the children were in immediate danger. However, in any other case, it is none of anyone's business ... so much so that if this information were to get out, someone could be sued. Whoa. Does this stand in a Torah observant society? Yes, it does. If someone shares information with you that they wish for you not to repeat, you do not have a carte blanche to reveal it to anyone else. And it doesn't really matter if it is true: it is not your job to be the news delivery device. In a society where we have instant access to news and people's statuses, there seems no end to the amount of information we can find out about people. Torah and our Sages, however, do not agree with such methods. It is scandalous as well as degrading. The webs we weave with information that we spread are quite amazing. But how much do we have permission for? The answer: very little. Little said is best said.

water cooler shmooze

While we might feel like we are affecting the world in a positive way at the water cooler, we need to be more careful with our discussions. People's lives are a scroll of history; everyone wants the opportunity to write it in the best possible way. When we try and write our own version without all the information and the nuances, we taint history with a less than true version. We have an obligation to let people live the full course of their lives and make shuvah, if necessary, so that the story of their life can be written with a proper ending. When we get involved with our own dialogue, they don't get to to write their history as they wish nor do they get the last word. It is their lifedon't they deserve to write their version?

frugal with our words

As we enter this week with truth, the best way we can enter is with frugality. Let people tell the stories of their lives with truth and with integrity. Give people a chance to enter their own dialogue regarding their situations. As we allow those around us to give their version of their story, we allow history to be written properly and the messages to be conveyed with integrity. As we network, may it be with true purpose to tell the right story and send true prayers. May we not be guilty of falsehood and false emotions. Allow truth to prevail and the real story to find its way into the world. 

art-unnecessaryinfo2Our Rabbis taught: The gatherer was Zelophehad. And thus it is said, and while the Children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man [gathering sticks, etc.]; whilst elsewhere it is said, our father died in the wilderness;just as there Zelophehad [is meant], so here too Zelophehad [is meant]: this is R. Akiba's view. Said R. Judah b. Bathyra to him, ‘Akiba! in either case you will have to give an account [for your statement]: if you are right, the Torah shielded him, while you reveal him; and if not, you cast a stigma upon a righteous man.’ --Talmud, Shabbat 96b

But aren't we all siding with Rabbi Akiba?  It's true...it's true!  Guess what?  It doesn't matter if it's true.  We do not have the right to say it. And we shouldn't have heard it.  Oops again. Truth or not, it's lashon hara (evil speech).  Wow...what a powerful tractate.

recovering from truth serum

So we have all been taught from youth to tell the truth.  But what about those moments of tattle-taling?  Guess what...they are wrong too.  According to the laws of the Chofetz Chaim, even if it is true, we are not allowed to disclose it and rat someone out. Now, of course, there are exceptions.  However, the exceptions have to do with if it is be life threatening in order to reveal information.  

Now we find we are in a lurch as all those true and juicy morsels now have to go without saying.  But as we reflect upon the story, truth doesn't always mean that everything is going to turn out happily.  Sometimes, the truth is ugly and better left unsaid.  And this is the point: rather than leave it up to us to know what is best, the laws of speech just make it very basic.  If it is true, don't say it.  If it is false, don't say it.  If it will adversely affect someone and harm either livelihood or life, you must say it.  But otherwise, shaaaa.   

giving honor

While in this case from the Torah it seems so easy to judge (how could he say that [hand over mouth]), the fact is we may not.  Simply, the Torah records that someone dies due to picking up sticks.  Does it matter who did it?  No. What matters is the act and we all learn from it.  Learning the name doesn't help us; rather, it puts a mark on the family name throughout history. Had there been silence regarding the guilty party, the family could have repented and been restored without damage to their reputation.  But somewhere in the Divine plan, it was meant that this should be recorded in the tractate for our admonition.  May it speak volumes to you — volumes of necessary truth.                          



elaborate on when to tell the truth - merits, shandas

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