July 16, 2024
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May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h.

 

This week we learned Bava Metzia 87 and 90. Here are some highlights.

Bava Metzia 87: Is there ever an obligation to lie?

Our Gemara discusses verses in Parshat Vayera. When the angels came to visit Avraham, one of them declared that in a year’s time Sara will bear a son. When Sara heard she laughed, “After I have withered, will I become young again? And my master is old!” Hashem told Avraham that Sarah had doubted the angel. Hashem reported that Sara said, “After I have withered, will I become young again? And I have aged!” Why did Hashem not accurately report Sara’s words? The Gemara teaches that even Hashem will change the truth for the sake of peace.

Commentators ask, may a person choose to say the truth and create a dispute, or is he obligated to lie and engender peace?

Rav Elchanan Peretz suggested that if Hashem Himself lied to keep the peace between Avraham and Sara, it is the ideal to do so. A man, therefore, would be obligated to lie in order to keep the peace. He would not have the option of choosing to say the truth and allowing a dispute to fester. Rif in Perek Eilu Metziot writes that a person is obligated leshanot mipnei darkei shalom, to lie for the ways of peace.

What about a halachic question? A man comes to you. He is not observant. He asks, “Is my wine unkosher?” If you tell him the law, he will be deeply offended. A fight might break out. Are you allowed to lie and misrepresent Torah to preserve peace? Rav Peretz thought that you would have to say the truth. For the sake of peace you can lie to a person. Hashem told Avraham that Sara had doubted her abilities instead of the truth that Sara had doubted Avraham’s abilities. However, to misrepresent Torah is to lie to Hashem. Yam Shel Shlomo (Bava Kamma Perek Hachovel) argues that it is a severe sin to misrepresent what the Torah says. Rav Peretz ruled that you would be obligated to tell the man that unfortunately his wine was not kosher.

Is one to lie when there is a doubt as to whether the lie will succeed in preserving the peace? Is a doubtful peacemaking, safek darkei shalom, also grounds to mandate lying?

Rav Peretz argued that one would have to lie. This should be analogous to the law about working on Chol Hamoed, the intermediate days of a holiday. Only work that is for davar he’aved, saving from loss, is permitted on Chol Hamoed. What about a case of doubt? May one work if there is a chance that the work will save from loss? Is “safek davar he’aved” work permitted on Chol Hamoed?

Chazon Ish (Orach Chaim 138:14) dealt with this issue.

Those who permit argued that “davar he’aved” is subjective. If lack of something upsets a person, that, too, would be considered a davar he’aved scenario. The fact that lack of a particular activity on Chol Hamoed might result in a loss causes the man to be upset. His being upset is a loss. To prevent that loss he may work! The halacha of lying for peace is that Hashem wants us to take strenuous efforts for peace. We are to take on a lot in order to maintain peace. If there is a fear that a dispute might arise, you should lie, for that lying is an effort one is taking to maintain shalom (Portal Daf Hayomi, Misaviv Lashulchan).

Bava Metzia 90: May a child hide from his father the reality of Dad’s medical condition?

A man was deathly ill. He told his son, “Talk to the doctors, and then please tell me everything. Even if it is bad news. I want to know the truth about my condition.” The doctors told the son they had no hope. Was the son obligated based on kibud av to tell his father the truth?

Rav Zilberstein pointed out that our Gemara teaches that if something is not a help one should not do it. The Torah commands the farmer not to muzzle his ox while the animal is stepping on grains on the threshing floor. However, our Gemara teaches that if the ox has an upset stomach and is suffering from diarrhea then the farmer is to muzzle the ox. Hashem gave the ox the right to snack to help the ox. If it would hurt the ox to ingest food for he would then have diarhea the farmer may muzzle him. Based on this principle, Rav Zilberstein pointed out that if a poor man was addicted to drugs and asked you for a donation, you should not give him any cash. Giving money to an addict will enable him to continue his horrid habit. He might die from the drugs. Hashem wants us to help the poor by giving them charity. He does not want us to enable abuse. Therefore, if it will hurt the father to hear dispiriting information, the son should not tell the news to the father.

Shu”t Betzel Hachachma (Chelek Bet Siman 55) argues that prayer can change nature (see Rabbeinu Bechaye Devarim 11:13). If a man loses hope, for he hears that the doctors are very pessimistic, he might stop to pray. He then will not have the option of prayer changing reality for him. Some might argue that the son should tell his father the truth about his condition to encourage the father to repent before his end and to prepare a proper last will and testament. Rav Zilberstein felt that those rationales should only be used if the son is confident that the news will not despirit his father at all. However, if there is doubt and there is a possibility that the father hearing the bad news will dismay him, causing him not to pray, or damage him in another way, the son should be quiet and not tell his father. Our Gemara teaches that when the giving is not helpful, you do not give. The same is true in regard to a son with his father. There is no mitzvah of kibud av to hasten, chas v’shalom, the passing of a father (Chashukei Chemed).

By Rabbi Zev Reichman

 

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