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It Is Forbidden To Lie About The Talmud


Written by Gil Student

The Accusation

"To communicate anything to a goy about our religious relations would be equal to the killing of all Jews, for if they knew what we teach about them they would kill us openly." - Libbre David 37.

"If a Jew be called upon to explain any part of the rabbinic books, he ought to give only a false explanation. Who ever will violate this order shall be put to death." Libbre David 37.

 

While it is possible that the book Libbre David existed I have not been able to find it, even with the help of a librarian from Yeshiva University's Gottesman Library. It was certainly never a mainstream book. In fact, it is strictly prohibited to lie about the contents of the Talmud.

Let us take an extreme example and see the conclusions of some legal authorities. What should a rabbi do if a disgruntled pig farmer came to his house, aimed a gun at the rabbi, and said "I want pigs to be kosher. Tell me, rabbi, are pigs kosher?"

R. Yishayahu HaLevy Horowitz, Shnei Luchot Habrit, Masechet Shevuot p. 33b (Jerusalem:1975)

It is forbidden to change the words of Torah even in times of danger; one must give one's life over it.

R. Shlomo Luria, Yam Shel Shlomo, Bava Kamma 4:9

Rather we see from here that we are obligated to give ourselves over and sanctify G-d's name and if one, G-d forbid, changes one law it is as if he denied the Torah of Moses... To [lie and] say that one who is innocent is guilty or vice versa is like denying the Torah of Moses. What is the difference between denying one word and denying the entire Torah?

 

According to Rabbis Horowitz and Luria it is FORBIDDEN to lie about the Torah or Talmud even if it means losing one's life. A proof is frequently brought from the Jerusalem Talmud Sanhedrin 2:1 (9b), Horiot 3:1 (11b). Another proof is brought from Talmud Bava Kamma 38a where the story is told of two Roman soldiers who were taught by rabbis the entire Written and Oral Law and found only one point to be offensive. Evidently the rabbis taught the truth about the laws to occupying soldiers even though the soldiers might find them offensive.

There is a dissenting view, however. The Yad Eliyahu (responsa 48) suggests that even though it is forbidden to lie about the Torah or Talmud, when there is a clear and present threat to human life it is better to lie than to have blood shed. According to the Yad Eliyahu, the rabbi would lie to the disgruntled pig farmer until he is calm and disarmed.

However, all agree that barring such extreme circumstances it is forbidden to lie about the contents of the Torah or Talmud.

 

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Copyright 2000 Gil Student