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Toldot(Genesis 25:19-28:9)

To Lie Or Not To Lie?

Yaakov said to his father, "It is I, Esav your firstborn" (Gen. 27:19)

Yaakov came to Yitzchak to receive the blessings intended for Eisav. He deceived his father into giving him the blessings by saying "It is I, Eisav your firstborn." What is difficult to understand is that the Torah states that Yaakov was a man of truth. He was never deceitful or dishonest. How then do we understand his deception?

Picture a man walking down the street on the way to a wedding when suddenly a thug approaches him and says "Your money or your life!" This man happens to have $10,000 cash on him. The law states that he is permitted to say, "I'm sorry, I don't have any money on me."

Eisav was an imposter, fooling his father into thinking that he was righteous. Yaakov's actions were therefore a fulfillment of the truth since Yitzchak himself wanted to give the blessing to the fitting heir and not to the imposter. Therefore he prevented Eisav from extorting what was never his.(1)

The Torah's definition of Truth is that which is conducive to good and which conforms with the will of the Creator.(2) Thus the counter-deception of saying that you don't have money is in fact Truth, because the thug is trying to take what is not his. One is preserving the truth by not giving him what he is trying to extort.


1. R' Yaakov Kamenetsky.

2. Michtav M'Eliyahu, Vol. I, p. 94.



October 27, 2013

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Visitor Comments: 2

(2) Anonymous, November 28, 2016 11:20 AM

Excellent article and very well written! Thanks for posting!

(1) Anonymous, November 8, 2015 5:45 PM

So if I understand this correctly, it is ok to lie if you are preventing a wrong from occurring, or preventing a person's receipt of something that they have no righteous entitlement to in the first place. Another example is when the jewish mid-wives lied to pharoah about why they were unable to kill the jewish male first-borns in time. They lied to save life, and because it was wrong for pharoah to ask in the first place. It would have been wrong to reward him, and it would have been wrong to offend God.

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