Early Training I
By Rabbi Daniel Travis
The Almighty blessed the seventh day, and he declared it holy. For it
was on this day that the Almighty ceased from all the work that He had
been creating. (Bereshith 2:3)
There was a time when Jews had great awe for Shabboth, for it is a day
when God’s majesty is apparent, and a day which transcends the mundane
nature of earth. Our Sages would go out to greet Shabboth as if a queen
were arriving.1 Today most people do not have that degree of awe for
Shabboth. Nevertheless, even in our times, if someone ignorant of Torah
law claims that his fruit is tithed he is not believed, but if he says so
on Shabboth he is believed. The Gemara says that even someone who is
normally suspected of lying is believed on Shabboth, because “The awe of
Shabboth will insure that he will speak the truth.”2
If awe of the Shabboth can compel one to speak only the truth, then
certainly awe of Truth – God’s seal which is present all seven days of the
week – can also accomplish this. The lie detector has shown that the human
body enters a physiological state of fright when the person lies. People
who haven’t destroyed this natural instinct usually feel a little afraid
to lie. In order to educate our children to be truthful under all
circumstances we must capitalize upon that innate fear, and in addition,
instill in them awe of truth and an understanding of the severity of
lying, as illustrated in the following story.
In his writings, the Sh’lah mentions an individual who would never lie, no
matter what the potential benefits to him might be. The Sh’lah asked this
person how he had developed such a love for truth. Replied the man, “As a
young child, when I used to argue with my siblings, my father would tell
us that whoever admitted his guilt and promised to behave in the future
would be forgiven, but anyone who denied responsibility and would later be
caught lying would receive double punishment. My father acted in
accordance with his words: one who admitted his guilt was forgiven and
received a number of coins as a reward for having told the truth, while
one who lied was severely punished.”3
Thus we see that if an understanding of the severity of falsehood is
implanted in a young child’s heart, the child will always tell the truth
when he grows up. On the other hand, if one fails to make a strong
impression on one’s children at an early age, it will be extremely
difficult to train them to avoid falsehood when they grow older.4 This
can be seen from the above stated halachah that states that the fear of
Shabboth only ensures that an uneducated person will not lie. If however
someone has become “crooked” by nature, the Shabboth cannot insure that he
will not lie.5
1. Shabboth 119a.
2. Demai 4:1. Yerushalmi ibid.
3. Shaar HaOtiyoth.
4. Mishnah B’rurah 343:3.
5. Commentary of Mar’eh Panim on Yerushalmi.
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org