Ki Tavo(Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8)
Purposely fooling people or giving them bad advice is wrong. In this week's portion (Deut. 27:18, see Rashi) the Torah instructs us not to lead people astray, which includes misleading people with intentionally wrong advice.
In our story, a kid thinks twice about giving bad advice.
HOOK, LINE AND SINKER
Paul and his friend, Matt, were enjoying the sunny, quiet day fishing at the local pond. They'd both grown up in the backwoods neighborhood and knew its hills and trails like the backs of their hands.
Suddenly a growling motor, and the sound of wheels kicking up gravel from the road surrounding the pond, jarred them from their relaxation.
BEEP...B-B-BEEP!! the motor scooter honked. The boys looked up.
"Hey, you!" a ruddy-faced teenager in some expensive-looking sports gear called out. "Get over here. I gotta ask you something."
Wary, the boys took a couple steps up the bank of the pond. Just close enough to yell softly.
"I'm all mixed up by these cockamamie country roads of your. My pocket GPS can't even get any signals in this hick-land. Boy am I glad I don't live around here! Anyway, tell me, how do I get to Route 11 from here?"
The boys looked at each other. Matt was about to answer, when Paul cut in, "It's easy. Just make a right at that fork in the road over there," he said, pointing, "then make your second left, your first right, and then just keep going straight 'til you hit the entrance ramp. That's it."
The guy, who'd been writing Paul's directions down, looked up at him.
"Right ... second left ... another right ... then straight. You sure you know what you're talking about?"
"Of course!" Paul said with a wide grin.
No sooner had the rented scooter noisily driven off, when Matt grabbed Paul by the shirtsleeve. "Why'd you tell him that?" he said. "You know as well as I do that those roads you told him to take won't get him anywhere near Route 11."
Paul started squealing in laughter. "But they will get him hopelessly lost," he burst out, as he caught his breath. "If he keeps going straight long enough, he might even end up wheel-deep in mud at Saunder's swamp!" He started cackling again.
"But why would you want to mess the guy up like that?" Matt asked with a frown.
"Because that's just what these big shot, know-it-all city tourists deserve, coming out here and acting like they own the place. I didn't like the way he talked to us either. Besides, he scared away all the fish!"
"I still don't think it's right..." Matt said, "but true enough about the fish. No point fishing now. After that racket, there won't be anything close to shore other than small-fry not worth wasting bait on."
"So let's get going," Paul said, collapsing his fishing pole and clipping it to his tackle box. The boys got ready to hike off.
"Hey, maybe we're gonna run into that tourist again," Matt said. "And if he sees us after sending him the wrong way, we're gonna get a real earful - or worse!"
"Nah, don't worry," Paul waved him off with a chuckle. "It'll take him at least 20 minutes to figure out he's lost, and who knows how long find his way out again."
The boys had only just walked out onto the road leading out of the pond when a familiar motor sound sent them ducking behind the trunk of a big oak tree. They watched as the guy slowed down to a stop, spied out the area of the pond where the boys had been, then with a snarl, glanced at the electronic device he was holding in his hand and sped off.
"I guess his GPS started working and he saw you'd sent him in the opposite direction," Matt said, gulping.
"Yeah," Paul said through the beads of sweat that had just broken out on his face. "We really lucked out - this time. Maybe when it comes to giving people wrong advice - I should start to change directions, too."
Q. How did Paul feel at first about saying the wrong directions on purpose?
A. He felt it was funny and there was nothing wrong with it.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He regretted doing it and was glad it hadn't got him into trouble.
Q. What life-lesson could someone learn from this story?
A. Intentionally misleading people is a form of harming them and it isn't something a caring person should do.
Q. Did the tourist on the scooter 'deserve' being misled, because of the disrespectful way he acted?
A. While he certainly should have shown respect to the places and people he visited, the fact that he didn't, doesn't justify the boys causing him any form of harm. Someone else's 'wrong,' doesn't release us from our ethical obligation to do 'right.'
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Is it all right to fool or mislead someone if it won't cause him any practical harm?
A. While it's better than fooling them and also causing harm, the very act of intentionally misleading others, diminishes their dignity and makes the 'fooler' into a less essentially honest person.
Q. Isn't much advertising and business practice based on subtly misleading others and advising them to purchase things not necessarily for their benefit?
A. Unfortunately, yes. The Torah does not condone such practices and while one is allowed and encouraged to try to make a comfortable living, it shouldn't be through deceit.