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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

When to tell a good lie

Daf Yomi Yevamos 109

Isaac is preparing to bless his favourite son, Esau.  Mother of the twins, Rebecca, catches wind of his plans and swoops in to snatch the blessing for her favoured son, Jacob.   Dressed up in goatskins, he enters his father’s tent and pretends to be his brother, Esau, seizing the blessing before his brother arrives.

Despite the deception, our Sages refer to Jacob as the patriarch of truth.  Ultimately, Rebecca recognized the truth while Isaac failed to see which of his boys deserved the blessing.    But the only way Rebecca could show her husband the truth was by way of a momentary deception.

Indeed, Aaron, the High Priest is extolled for his uncanny ability to make peace between people, particularly between husband and wife.   How would he accomplish it?  He would tell each of the parties that the other desired to make peace, thereby deceiving them in order to bring them together.  Ultimately, the truth was that deep down they did desire to make peace.  Otherwise, they would not have come to the table when he suggested the other wanted to make up!

Bar Kapara taught: One should always cleave to the pursuit of peace, for Rabbi Abahu expounded a scriptural connection concerning the word ‘pursuit.’  King David writes in Psalms, “Seek peace and pursue it.”   And King Solomon writes in Proverbs, “One who pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honour.”  Rashi explains that life and righteousness refer to life in the World to Come and honour refers to reward in this world.  Just like one is rewarded in this world and the next for the pursuit of righteousness and kindness, similarly one is rewarded for the pursuit of peace.

The making of peace is such an honourable pursuit that one may employ almost any ruse necessary to achieve that ultimate truth!   And yet sadly most people run away from peace instead of pursuing it.   We all hear stories of couples who are having marital issues or of siblings who are not talking to one another, but how many of us are prepared to do whatever it takes to remedy the situation?

When you hear a rumour about a couple with marital challenges, do you just shrug it off?  Worse yet, do you pass on the information to the next person you chat with?  Or do you pick up the phone to the grieved parties and ask what’s really going on?   Worried they’ll tell you to mind your own business?  You’re right, that will happen sometimes.  But most of the time, you’d be surprised at the reaction you’ll get from the person.  They’ll tell you that they feel everyone’s talking about them and nobody’s even bothered to talk to them.   

And after chatting with both parties, sometimes you might need to resort to doing an ‘Aaron’ to bring the parties to the truth – that they’re both hurting and would love to reconcile.  And if it doesn’t work, try again.  That’s what pursuit means.  Note that King David instructs us to both seek peace and pursue it.  Most people will do neither.  But even if you sought peace and failed, pursue it and pursue it!


The pursuit of peace is one of the highest callings.  It will bring you life, righteousness, and honour!  That means reward in this world and the next!  May you merit the courage to seek peace and pursue it!