Telling the Truth

Moshe Ben-Chaim


Reader: Why was Jacob allowed to lie to his father? Isn’t lying against the Torah?

Mesora: The “truth” is that Jacob deserved Isaac’s blessing, and Rebecca knew this. She was intent on upholding the truth, and she also knew that if she didn’t act, even with deception, that the blessing would never be Jacob’s - it was now or never. A Rabbi once taught, a “lie” is not inherently evil, if it is not about an important matter. That is, if I lie about what foods I like, it is inconsequential in terms of absolute knowledge about the life God wishes for man. A lie is evil when it forfeits the truth about life. Here, the lie perpetrated by Rebecca was inconsequential, and in fact, she intended on upholding an important truth, i.e., who would be the leader of the nation.



Reader: Thanks for sharing with me your perspective on the “Truth” that Jacob upheld, as promoted by his mother. However, I still don’t understand why it had to happen in a seemingly “tricky” way, as opposed to something more straightforward.

Mesora: Regarding Rebecca and the “truth”, it appears she had no other option than to deceive Isaac, and secure the blessing, which was rightfully Jacob’s. Had she told Isaac that in fact, Esav did not deserve the blessings - as he was a wicked person - Isaac may not have believed it, or it may have had catastrophic results. Imagine a father, who all his life felt his son was perfected, only to hear that he was a murderer, a rapist, and an idolater.


Rebecca, with her high level of wisdom, devised the only plan she felt would succeed, which did not oppose Torah principles, as we see, God did not rebuke her. Additionally, the verses state that as soon as Jacob secured the blessing, no sooner did he leave his father’s presence, that Esav entered. I feel this indicates that God worked with His providence to assure all went as Rebecca intended, and that God prevented Esav from arriving while Jacob was deceiving Isaac. Had Esav seen Jacob in front of his father, he might have killed him for stealing the blessings, even though Esav sold them earlier.


Truth is at the focus of a Torah life. How else may we arrive at what is real? However, truth, at times, must be compromised, if we are to uphold life, and “absolute truths”. Rebecca demonstrated that for the success of the absolute truths, i.e., establishing the nest Torah leader, other areas may be compromised. Similarly, one may lie to save his life. This in no way distorts one’s goal of striving for Torah truths. In fact, it preserves it.