Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Double Talk

By Rabbi Daniel Travis

Lavan said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I give her to another man.” (Bereshith 29:19)

From the outset Lavan intended for Yaakov to marry his older daughter Leah, rather than his younger daughter Rachel. He hinted at his plan when he said, “It is better that I give her to you,” implying that he did not intend for Yaakov’s labor to be in exchange for Rachel. Rather Yaakov would work for him for free, and Lavan would give Yaakov as a wife whichever of his daughters he – Lavan – would choose1.

Yaakov took many precautions to ensure that he would not be cheated by Lavan. We might assume that he found this necessary only because Lavan was an exceptionally crooked individual – so much so that he was considered “the father of all deceivers.”2 Although “students” of Lavan’s methodology of “double talk” are still prevalent in today’s society, hopefully such precautions should not be necessary when relating to individuals who are not as crooked as Lavan.

When a person is called upon to speak in a secular court, he is asked, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” We would think that it would suffice to ask, “Do you swear to tell the truth?” What is to be gained by a triple repetition of the word “truth”?

While adhering strictly to the dictionary definition of truth, one can relate an isolated facet of a situation and still be telling “the truth.” However, any objective observer would realize that the overall picture may be radically different if the missing information is included. For this reason, courts demand “the whole truth” – all the facts. Still, “the whole truth” does not mean that nothing false might be added to the story, for one could tell the whole truth and also add a few lies. Therefore the court insists that one also promise to say “nothing but the truth.”3

The Torah does not recognize such “double talk” as having any connection to truth. The veracity or falsehood of a statement is not defined by the words one uses, rather by the message that one conveys. Although under certain extenuating circumstances, such as when peace or humility are at stake, one may be permitted to deviate from the facts if there is absolutely no other option, the truth can never be altered for the sake of deceiving someone else.4

Footnotes:

1 Or HaChaim on Bereshith 29:19.
2 See following essay.
3 Heard from Rav Yochanan Zweig.
4 The Chofetz Chaim (Rechiluth 1:8) adds that even for the sake of peace, one is never permitted to take an oath which is not in accordance with the facts.


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


 


ARTICLES ON VAYIGASH AND CHANUKAH:

View Complete List

Hanukkah
Rabbi Naphtali Hoff - 5775

Feel My Pain
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5771

Visions of the Temples
Shlomo Katz - 5758

Looking for a Chavrusah?

What Miracle?
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5760

A Torah Perspective
Shlomo Katz - 5766

Many Routes, One Destination
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5759

ArtScroll

Enlightening the Present From the Past
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766

Royal Conflict
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5760

Just Two Words
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5758

> 'The Plan'
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5761

Nice Guys Finish Second -- Second in Command to Pharoah
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5766

You Are Like Pharoah
Shlomo Katz - 5761

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Uneasy Questions
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5757

Some on Chariots, and Some on Horses
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5758

Just Five More Minutes of Sleep!
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5759

The Root of the Problem
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5759



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