Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

To Save a Life

By Rabbi Daniel Travis

...eventually I will reach you, my lord, in Seir. (Bereshith 33:14)

Yaakov never intended to travel as far as Seir, for his destination was the closer region of Succoth. Yet, he reasoned, by telling Esav that he would eventually reach Seir, he might save himself and his family, for if Esav was planning to do him harm, there was a chance that he would choose to wait until Yaakov reached Seir, where he thought they would meet again.1 Our Sages learn from Yaakov's conduct in this situation that if a traveler finds himself accompanied by shady characters, he should give them the impression that he is traveling somewhere other than his actual destination.2

These are situations of potential danger, for it is not clear whether the travelers' lives are actually threatened by those accompanying them. Moreover, even if there is a definite threat to one's safety, there is no guarantee that telling someone a fabricated destination will spare a traveler from harm. Still, if there is any chance at all, no matter how small, of saving a life, one may tell an untruth, because the preservation of life is of primary importance and it supercedes almost all other concerns.3

During the Holocaust, the Gestapo once came to the home of a German family who had been hiding Jews. Asked whether there were any Jews in their house, the family replied that there were. As the soldiers were dragging the Jews off, the German family self-righteously explained that a false word had never left their lips, and they were not about to begin to lie now.3

The desire to tell the truth in no way justifies the German family's actions, for in reality, there can be no greater perversion of truth than forfeiting another's life by handing him over to murderers. The potential danger would have justified Yaakov's mentioning a false destination; nevertheless he spoke with an element of truth when he mentioned reaching Seir. He was alluding to the future redemption of the Jewish People, when the Messiah will go to Mount Zion to judge Mount Seir (in the inheritance of Esav).4 From Yaakov's example we see that even under life-threatening circumstances one should try to remain as close to the truth as possible.


1. Rashi on Bereshith 33:14.

2. Avodah Zara 25b; Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De'ah 153:3.

3. Heard in the name of Rav Matisyahu Solomon.

4. Bereshith Rabbah 78:18.


Priceless Integrity, Copyright © 2003 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org.

Subscribe to Priceless Integrity and receive the class via e-mail.


 






ARTICLES ON NOACH:

View Complete List

Don't Shout at Me!
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5760

When the Illegitimate Becomes Legitimate
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5758

Tire of Babel
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5757

ArtScroll

Wine and Window Washers
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5770

People In Stone Houses Shouldn
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5773

Maybe
Rabbi Label Lam - 5765

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Faxs vs. Kidney Stones
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5759

Unity and Conformity
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5765

Free Gifts for People Who Find Favor
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5767

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Back To The Daily Grind
Shlomo Katz - 5765

Priorities Define A Person
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5766

Go the Distance!
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5762

> Who By Fire, Who By Water
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5766

The Purpose of Creation Part III
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5763

Noach's Lessons for Our Day
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5762

Delight Amidst Devastation
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5762



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