RELIGIOUS INTEGRITY: Three Kosher Lies (Part 2 of 2)

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Last week we examined two of three cases in which the Rabbis said that one can deviate from the truth.  The first one was masekhta, when out of humbleness, one can pretend that he does not know some material so well, even though, one knows it very well. The second case, has to do with tzeni’ut: discretion. In some circumstances, particularly in the field of intimacy, one is authorized (or expected) to hide the whole truth, since talking or discussing openly certain intimate subjects with the wrong people is not viewed as appropriate (see here)
  
3. USHPIZA: This third category literally means ‘guest’.

Most people think when they hear this exception, that when I’m a guest in someone’s house I’m authorized to lie to my host and praise her food and hospitality, even though it was not that great. However, and without judging the merits of this last interpretation, the case the Talmud was referring to, was explained by Ba’ale haTosafot in a different way.   

  
In the past, people did not have so much food and comfort as we all have today.  There were no hotels, and travelers would often look for generous hosts for bed, breakfast and more. Our case means that if I were a guest in someone’s house, and they treated me exceptionally well, if I suspect that by my public praise of their hospitality other travelers–some of whom might not be honest or might behave in an abusive manner–would now try to be hosted in that house, I’m allowed to deviate from the truth and hide the praise for their exceptional treatment, because otherwise everyone will want to come to that house. And I might cause involuntarily a financial damage to them or generate a possible situation of abuse to my generous host. In this and similar circumstances, I’m allowed to hide the identity of my benefactors or belittle their generosity.  
  
As we see, although the truth is a very high and esteemed value in Judaism and the Tora warned us to stay away from lies, sometimes, for humbleness, morality or in order to avoid damage or to save generous people from abuse, the Rabbis permitted us to deviate from the truth.  


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