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Parshas Mishpatim/Shekalim - Did Ralph Branca Ever Find Out The Truth?                       26 Shvat 5780

02/21/20 08:32:19


Shlomo HaMelch taught אין חדש תחת השמש - there is nothing new under the sun. America’s favorite pastime has been plagued by the now-famous sign-stealing scandal in baseball’s Houston Astros. Many people have heard of Bobby Thomson, who, in 1951, hit the shot that was heard round the world - a home run that was full of controversy regarding what Bobby knew and when Bobby knew It. Specifically, did Bobby Thomson, who hit the game-winning home run that put the Giants in the World Series vs. the Yankees, know what pitch was coming before he hit it out?

When Thomson was asked point blank if, in fact, he knew what pitch was about to be delivered by Branca, he at first demurred, speaking ambiguously. His response remains baffling. Fast forward almost seventy years, and the Astros, who admitted to foul play, are still short of coming out with the complete truth. In fact, as they tried to cover up, neither denying nor claiming any wrongdoing, more evidence and discovery of their lying surfaced.

Children are often caught up in situations that are challenged with wrongdoing. When asked if they committed the offense or not, they often do not tell the truth for fear of being punished. One of the basic rules my wife and I imbued within our children was to always tell the truth. To be honest, there were times when one of our children did get into trouble, told the truth, and got punished while his or her friend lied, avoiding any punishment. Nevertheless, we reinforced the Mitzva of not lying, emphasizing that in the long run telling the truth avoids the danger of getting caught up in a web of lies. Telling the truth, as difficult and as embarrassing it may be, is certainly better than having to come up with more excuses and eventually get caught in a swamp of many more lies. Unfortunately, many studies have shown a widespread theory that kids who lie will do so successfully, reinforcing the act of lying. The fact that lying does exist is exactly the reason why we should be teaching them not to.

Parents are constantly being put on the spot by their children, and age is not a factor because I see this from very young children to grown adult children. Children often ask their parents difficult, challenging, embarrassing, uneasy questions. Parents are sometimes at a loss regarding how to respond, how to answer difficult questions. The best advice I can offer is to be straight up and tell the truth. Of course, it should be an age- appropriate response. Only necessary information needs to be shared, depending upon the type of question, the age of the child and the circumstances. Even though there is a principle in Jewish law known as Shitkah K’Hodaa, it is not necessary to share more information than needed at that time. While silence is tantamount to an admission, it is still not an outright lie or untruth.

There are few if any Mitzvos in the Torah that command us not only to observe them by not violating them; we are commanded to distance ourselves from the very temptation. No place in the Torah tells us to move away from non-Kosher food, or stay away from idolatry. The Torah commands us not to eat non-kosher food and not to worship idols. The Torah does not say “do not speak falsely”, rather it states “from falsity shall you distance yourself”. When it comes to telling the truth, or better yet not lying, the direction is a bit different.

In this week’s Torah Portion Mishpatim the Torah states in Shmos 23:7 "מדבר שקר תרחק, ונקי וצדיק אל תהרג כי לא אצדיק רשע" “Keep away from anything false. Do not kill a person who has not been proven guilty or one who has been acquitted. [Ultimately] I will not let a guilty person escape punishment.” The Torah states to “keep away” and the Hebrew ‘Tirchak’ literally means distance oneself from it. The Menoras HaMaor urges the need for people to know that one of the three pillars upon which the world stands is Emes/truth. When a person tells the truth, an abundance of goodness and blessing falls from the heavens. Dovid HaMelch says in Tehilim 85:12: “Truth will sprout from the earth, and righteousness will look down from heaven”. The message is clear: when mankind speaks the truth, righteousness is created in heaven and the land will yield forth blessings. The opposite, however, is also true. If people speak falsely, Hashem is angered greatly. It is for this reason that we find ourselves in the diaspora today, far from the house of God in Yerushalayim. Lying is a major cause of discord among people. It leads to theft and ultimately to the breakdown and destruction of society.

Some may ask how far one needs to go to keep away from anything false. The answer is simple…tell the truth. If something is ninety-nine percent true, we know it is false. For something to be true it must be one hundred percent truth; there is no room for anything false. Reb Avraham Abish from Frankfort Am Mein declared, “ If only a person understood how great the power of truth is, he would never come to say an untruth.” Learning to tell the truth isn’t necessarily easy; we need to learn about it and work on it like any other Mitzva. It is told about the Baal HaTanya that it took him twenty-one years to master truth telling. Twenty-one years you ask? Yes, seven years to know what the truth is, seven years to chase away and divorce falsehood from his mind and the last seven years to bring the truth into his realm of thinking. As found in so many studies, children tend to lie, building an immunity to it. It takes years of facing the truth to master it.

In Western culture there is a tradition of making a statement or at least an affirmation to telling the truth. The phrase’ I Swear to Tell the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth So Help Me God’ is actually what Reb Yitzchok Abuhav meant in his sefer Menoras Hamaor. If I tell the truth Hashem will help me, but if I fail to tell the truth, He won’t. The Torah is known as Toras Emes - the Torah is Truth! Rebbi Simcha Bunim of Pshischa quips, “ We do not find the Torah itself taking measures to keep away from something except for this command telling us not to lie.” Unfortunately, lying and cheating is not a new challenge. Nevertheless, we, Am Yisroel, need to set the standards straight and not only tell the truth but remove ourselves from Sheker. Sheker - falsehood - will never last, but Emes - truth - will keep the world going and flourishing with the blessings it produces.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Thu, October 1 2020 13 Tishrei 5781