On the roof of the Aish center looking down at the Western Wall with Chevra & Davai in 2011

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Torah Thought: Parsha Vayeira

Last week, my wife and I had an unexpected date night.  Out of the blue my brother, who was in town, offered to watch the kids while we go out.  In my secular and single days, I used to have quite a social life, but since we’ve been married with two kids, my wife and I end up going out for dinner about once per year.  My brother came over early and we had a gift card to a local kosher restaurant.  We were ready for the perfect evening.

After putting the kids to bed, my wife got dressed up for a night out while I waited downstairs.  When she came down stairs, she asked me how she looked.  Keeping in mind that she’s 5 months pregnant, I needed to come up with an answer.  The possibilities were:

  1. Fat.
  2. Thin.  You can hardly tell your pregnant
  3. Other.

In the millisecond that I stood there thinking, I had to consider what the Torah would say about truth and lying.  As Jews, we are known for intellectual pursuits, both in and outside the Torah world.  For a true intellectual pursuit to be successful, it demands intellectual honesty down to the minutest detail.  We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, but could it actually be permissible to deviate from the truth in order to do avoid it?

That brings another question… what, exactly, is truth?  Very often truth is different depending on the participant’s perspective.  In my opinion, General Tsao’s chicken is the best thing one could order at a Chinese restaurant.  Does that make it true?  (On a personal note, when we went out to eat, I had General Tsao’s chicken and it was excellent)   Is there an inherent truth beyond the point of someone’s personal opinion? 

On a more scientific note, can we say that 2 + 2 equals 4 is an inherent truth or is it only true because G-d set up a world where 2 + 2 does equal 4.  If he wanted to, he could have set up a world where 2 +2 equals 5.  If that’s the case, then truth can only be defined by Torah.

In this weeks Torah portion, 3 angels showed up to the tent of Abraham and Sarah.  While Sarah was inside the tent, the angels told Abraham that next year, Sarah would give birth to their first son.  Sarah overheard from inside and considering that she was 90 years old and Abraham was 99 years old, she laughed and said “After I have withered, shall I again have delicate skin?  And my husband is old.”  The G-d spoke to Abraham and said “Why is it that Sarah laughed. Saying: Shall I in truth bear a child, though I have aged?”

The great rabbi, Rashi, asks why did G-d deviate what Sarah said and leave out the part about how she said that her husband was so old.  He answers that G-d did so for the sake of Abraham’s feelings and for the sake of peace between husband and wife.  We would never dare to say that G-d lied, so it must be that protecting someone's feelings and peace in the home (Shalom Bayis) is an inherent Torah truth.  I learned years ago that being "right" is over rated.  Most people that I know who insist on being "right" have very few friends and loved ones.  I once heard that if you have a choice to be "right" or be "kind", choose to be "kind."

With all this in mind, I chose C. Other and told my wife that “To me, you're always beautiful.”  For me, there was no greater truth.

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