Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Ambiguous Statements III

By Rabbi Daniel Travis

"…Perhaps it was an oversight on their part." (Bereshith 43:12)

The previous essay discussed the importance of accustoming oneself to saying, “I don’t know.” One could ask: is there not a certain amount of deception in one saying that one does not know something when in fact one does? Is it not better to tell the truth?

How insightful were our Sages when they said that one should “accustom” one’s tongue to say that one does not know. By making a habit of this, it becomes a type of catch phrase rather than an expression of fact. When people recognize that this statement is a regular part of one’s conversation, they will no longer take it literally. Consequently there is no question of falsehood involved (1).

A certain Rav would often reply, “I don’t know,” when asked his opinion. On one occasion, one of his students asked him a question and received the usual repsponse, “I don’t know.” The student, wanting to get a clearer answer, mustered up his courage and asked: “What does the Rav mean when he says ‘I don’t know’?” The Rav responded, “Sometimes I don’t know; other times I know but I realize that the person asking me disagrees, and will not be budged. In that case, it is preferable to say ‘I don’t know’ than to engage in a meaningless argument.” Recognizing that the Rav was speaking frankly, the student continued “So what did ‘I don’t know’ mean in this case?” The Rav smiled and said, “I don’t know”(2).


1. Commentary of the Paath Lechem on the Chovoth Levavoth Shaar HaYichud, Ch. 2. See also related essay entitled “Ambiguous Statements I,” (page 136) on Bereshith 23:11, 15-16. 2. Heard from Rav Pinchas Lebovic.


Text Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org


 
Sell Chometz Online







ARTICLES ON PESACH AND THE OMER:

View Complete List

“Letter to my Son Akiva”
Jon Erlbaum - 5773

Why On This Night Do We Dip Twice?
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5765

Jogging Ancient Memories
Rabbi Label Lam - 5763

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Forget Your Belt...
Rabbi Moshe Peretz Gilden - 5762

Ordering Priorities
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766

Urchatz, Karpas, Yachatz
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5755

ArtScroll

Freedom and Speech
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758

Out of Order
Rabbi Label Lam - 5774

Pesach Food
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5756

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Lessons In Exile
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5764

A Physical Song
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758

The Evil Son
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5756

> The Exit Strategy
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5767

The Passover Order
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5774

The Real Us!
Rabbi Label Lam - 5772

Early Emancipation and Sour Grapes
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5764



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information