- Moshe Ben-Chaim
- Reader: What is the Jewish philosophy on fibbing/lies? Why or
why not does Jewish Law permit it?
- Mesora: Lying
represents the antithesis of what Judaism is all about, i.e., the
search for truth and knowledge of our Creator. Judaism's primary goal
is one using their mind to arrive at truths and an accurate perception
of reality and God. When we lie, we ignore our purpose in life;
"to uncover all that God has embedded in the world from which to
- The Torah does however state that there are
situations where one is permitted to lie. "Permitted", not
urged. This means it is not the preferred activity. We must always
keep our "mind's eye" on truth. There is however one
concession where truth becomes secondary, that is when
"peace" is at risk. The reason is because "peace"
or harmony is the very backdrop undisposable for fostering truth.
Therefore, when peace is at stake, one may lie to protect and secure
that environment essential for the pursuit of truth. To lie about your
husband's taste in his tie, or about your wife's cooking is
permissible so as to keep serenity ever present, thereby securing an
enduring environment of peace so learning may take place. Otherwise,
the turbulence which is the result of insensitivity will create
discord, and not only learning, but all goals becomes compromised by
- Truth then remains prized above all else.
Knowledge of what is real must be our goal in this life. Lying to make
another feel better does not cause one to veer from the goal of
knowledge, and is therefore permitted in such cases.
- Additionally, we see that the Patriarchs lied.
Abraham lied to protect his life and his wife's life. Jacob lied to
his father Isaac to procure the blessings. It is of no consequence if
one lies to another about the color of a vase, for example. Such a lie
does not remove one from reality or distort one's views about God. A
lie per se is not an evil. When is a lie evil? When it removes you or
another person from a true understanding of reality. The Patriarchs
were not involved in this type of lie. They would never be involved in
a distortion of reality. And I am sure they would not lie without
cause. They did however lie when it was necessary for a greater good,
and where no distortions of reality took place.