By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried
Dear Rabbi Fried,
We have been glued to the TV ever since Operation Protective Edge has begun, especially noticing the world’s shocking response, as if Israel is responsible for being wantonly attacked!
We have been struck by the sheer lies emanating from Gaza and from the Arab world in general, and how those lies are being eaten up as truth, amazing us as to how gullible the Western world is.
We were wondering if there’s some Jewish sources for the fact that the Arab world can lie through their teeth without batting an eye, and get away with it.
— Marty and Heather K.
Dear Marty and Heather,
The subject of lying is just one area where the Muslim religion and Judaism are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
The Torah teaches us in Exodus 23:7, “M’dvar sheker tirchak,” or “stay far away from a lie.” This is the only instance in the entire Torah that it does not simply forbid something, rather exhorts us to “stay far away” from it. The verse implies that to not do so will invariably cause the death of the righteous.
In Leviticus 19:11, lying is equated to theft: “You should not steal, you shall not deny falsely and you shall not lie to one another.” Even for the sake of overtaking an enemy, the Torah frowns upon lying.
Shimon and Levi misled the inhabitants of Shechem to perform circumcision under the false assumption that by doing so Jacob and his family would then assimilate among them, when in fact their plan was only to weaken them in order to kill them. After carrying out their plot, they were severely reprimanded by their father Jacob (Gen. 34:30), and later cursed their rage before passing on, stating he wanted no part in their actions (Gen. 49:5-7).
Jacob, in fact, was known for his trait of truth and is considered the pillar of truth in this world. In this merit, he became one of the three patriarchs, each of whom is a pillar upon which rests the Divine Presence, or Shechinah, in this world.
God is referred to as the “God of Truth” numerous times throughout the Torah, Prophets, Writings and Talmud. He embodies absolute truth, and it is a basic tenet of our belief that God neither performs nor expresses any modicum of falsehood.
“When I call out the Name of Hashem, ascribe greatness to our God. The Rock! — perfect is His work, for all His paths are justice; a God of truth without iniquity, righteous and fair is He. Corruption is not His…” (Deut. 32:3-5).
By Jacob embodying the trait of Truth, he became the receptacle to receive the Divine Presence of Truth in this world (Although there are instances of untruth or deception in Biblical stories, at times with permission, they are always followed by the Trait of Truth exacting its dues).
The Muslim faith, however, is in a conundrum of contradictions when it comes to the subject of truth and falsehood. On one hand, there are numerous statements in the Quran punctuating the evil of lies and falsehood, stating that the utterer of lies will have his mouth torn open back to his ears, etc.
On the other hand, there are statements which clearly show they believe that Allah is the best liar: “And they (the disbeliever) schemed, and Allah schemed against them, and Allah is the best of schemers” (Quran 3:54).
There are many references to Muhammad practicing gross deception, such as various situations where he misleads his enemies into believing he had peaceful intentions only to later slaughter them.
Rather than this modicum of behavior drawing rebuke, such as that of Jacob, this behavior has become an integral part of the Muslim religion, even having its own name, called “Taqiyya,” or a meritorious lie. This is accompanied by “Kitman,” which is not an open lie, rather deception by omission, which is also meritorious in certain situations.
Muslim scholars explain that these lies are considered meritorious in various situations. The permissibility to openly lie, according to these scholars, applies for example during times of war, or any time one is reconciling between two disputing parties, or one spouse to another to achieve love and harmony or to convince a woman to marry a man or have sex, etc (In that case, beating is also permitted if that’s the only way to convince a wife to have sex). Also, lying is permitted and praiseworthy in any situation which promotes the Cause of Islam. All of the above are based upon cases where Muhammad used lies to accomplish the above goals.
To reconcile the seeming abhorrence to lying in other verses of the Quran, some scholars have noted that all references abhorring lying are in reference to Allah or Muhammad; not about anything else and not to a disbeliever, as one Muslim should try not to lie to a fellow Muslim.
It should not come as a surprise to see Muslim leaders claiming open lies, such as their “historic claim to Israel and the Temple Mount” and completely lying about anything that has to do with “the enemy,” the war, etc. For them to lie about these things, which promotes the Cause of Islam, is “a mitzvah” for them, and no limits are set on the extent of these lies; the greater and the more the merrier!
As for the gullibility of the world, it’s not simple naiveté for the most part; it’s much more sinister, having its roots in anti-Semitism, but that’s a whole other subject which we would need to cover another time.
Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at email@example.com.