The Boy Who Cried “Wolf!” II
By Rabbi Daniel Travis
"[The brothers] broke the news to [Yaakov]: “Yosef is still alive, and
he rules over all the land of Egypt.” But [Yaakov’s] heart became numb,
for he could not believe them. Then when they related all the words that
Yosef had spoken to them, and when he saw the wagons that Yosef had sent
to transport him, the spirit of Yaakov was revived." (Bereshith 45:26-
The previous essay explained that there are subtle indications of the
veracity of one’s words when one tells the truth. Unless one ruins his
reputation by lying, his words of truth will always be believed. This
principle is learned from the prophet Shimshon’s unfortunate encounter
with Delilah, who had been hired by Shimshon’s enemies to expose the
source of his extraordinary strength. Three times Delilah asked Shimshon
the source of his strength; three times he told her that if he was bound
in a certain way, then he would be “K’echad HaAdam” – “one among men.”
Each time she followed his instructions, and each time her actions were to
no avail. Finally on the fourth attempt, after she had emotionally drained
him, he revealed that he was a Nazir Elokim. This time Shimshon was
telling the truth, and Delilah was able to recognize this (1).
At first this story seems to imply that even if people have previously
lied, when they tell the truth, this will be reflected in their demeanor.
How can this be reconciled with Yaakov’s disbelief of Yehudah? Why did
Delilah believe Shimshon if he had just lied to her three times?
There is a major difference. Yehudah held up Yosef’s blood- stained coat
to make Yaakov think that Yosef had been killed. This was a clear act of
deception, and Yehudah was later punished for it (2).
Although Shimshon did not reveal his secret to Delilah immediately, he was
very careful to avoid even the slightest trace of falsehood. He never told
her that he was telling her the true source of his strength; rather he
said that he would be “one among men.” He was counting on her interpreting
this ambiguous statement as “I would be an ordinary man among men,” when
really he meant “I would still be a unique one among men (3).”
Furthermore, even if his words were slightly deceptive, this was entirely
permitted, since the true answer to Delilah’s questions endangered his
life (4). Delilah recognized this devotion to the absolute truth, and
consequently Shimshon’s reputation for absolute integrity was not
compromised in her eyes. Furthermore, when Shimshon told Delilah that he
was a Nazir Elokim, using the name of God in his statement, she recognized
that he was telling the truth, for he would not utter God’s name in vain
1. One who has forsworn wine and haircuts as a sign of separation from
2. Shoftim 16:7-17.
3. See the article entitled “The Punishment Fits The Crime,” (page 101)
on Bereshith 18:15.
4. Malbim, Shoftim 16:17.
5. See essays entitled “Life Or Death I and II,” (pages 67 -70) on
5. Sotah 9b.
Text Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org