Parsha Toldos: Sticking with the truth (mostly)

This week’s d’var Torah is by our frequent contributor, Jordan Block, Assistant Scoutmaster, Troop 806, Houston, Texas.  Jordan and I offer this d’var Torah with prayers for a complete recovery (refuah shelemah) for our baby cousin, Yehoshua ben Bracha.

Dear Scouts:

In this week’s parsha, Toldos, our father Jacob lies to our father Isaac.

No, he didn’t tell a white lie or a half-truth.  He didn’t just leave out some details in a story.  He did choose his words carefully so that he could avoid outright lying.  He said “anochi Esav b’chorecha” which could be cut up to mean, “I am.  Esau is your firstborn.”  It’s true he tried to do as little wrong as possible, but at the end of the day, he pulled the wool over his arms – er, his father’s eyes.  He carried out an elaborate deception to make Isaac think that Jacob was Esau.  (Because Esau was hairy, Jacob put wool over his arms to seem hairy, like Esau.)

From this, we learn that it’s okay to lie to one’s parents. Well, sort of …

It’s okay to lie to one’s parents only under certain circumstances.  Let’s look at the situation in order to figure out what some of those criteria are.

Isaac is going to give Esau a blessing that contains physical wealth, dominion over other peoples, and, specifically, dominion over his mother’s other children.

Rebecca had a prophecy that the elder of her two sons will serve the younger.  Additionally, it is clear to everyone but Isaac, who is blinded by his love for his son, that Esau is an evil man.  The blessing he will give goes hand in hand with God’s mission to Abraham, Isaac, and their descendants.  Esau is not fit to carry out that mission, nor is he even interested.  Recall that Jacob had bought Esau’s firstborn rights including this blessing, which was designated for the firstborn.  Rebecca therefore ordered Jacob to deceive his father.

This is considered a huge test for Jacob because he despises falsehood.  That’s why he spoke so carefully to avoid blatant lies.

Let’s review what needs to happen to require you to lie to your parent.

1.  You need to lie in order to prevent or change an action your parent is taking.

2.  There is a prophecy that demonstrates that your parent is mistaken.

3.  The destiny of all creation and fulfillment of God’s will depend on your lie.

4.  You will not gain anything that is not rightfully yours through this lie.

5.  Your other parent, motivated by prophecy, forces you to lie against your will.

When your situation has these five elements, you can rest assured it’s time to lie.  In fact, I’ll go ahead and say even if (or especially if) the people in the situation aren’t your parents, you’re going to have to lie.  Otherwise, you can be pretty sure you don’t need to lie, and you’ll be better off sticking to the truth.

Y’know, being Trustworthy.

What about throwing a surprise party?  What about not hurting someone’s feelings?  Good questions!

I think we’re OK with surprise parties.  “Oh, we didn’t really plan anything for your birthday.”  Even God lied to Abraham when He told him that Sarah had said she was too old to have a baby.  She’d said THEY were too old, but God outright lied in order to keep peace between them.

You’ll learn to develop a sense of how much accuracy is helpful and how much is hurtful.  “With a little more hustle, we would have done even better,” may be better than, “Our team is lazy and terrible!”

In the meantime, if you’re not sure, just tell the truth.  If you’re REALLY not sure, then just ask yourself whether you’re lying to create something good (peace between people, surprise, motivation) or to make something easier (avoiding work, avoiding punishment, getting something you want).  When you stop lying to yourself, you’ll find it easy not to lie to anyone else.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jordan Block