So yeah, this post is going to have political undertones. I try to avoid it like the plague and too often find myself stuck between a rock and a sharp, uncomfortable, hard place when I post on social media like Facebook. So why then am I stepping into the fray here… on a blog that I long to have as spiritual and uplifting? Because I also believe that we MUST step up and speak out when we see things that are potentially dangerous and harmful. This is, in fact, what Judaism has taught me.When it comes to social media I can say something seemingly funny and innocuous, and then a battle erupts. My friends on the right and my friends on the left go for each other’s throats… and those in the middle tend to stay silent, finding me offline and telling me how much they agree and appreciate my posts. I would love the more public support, but I get it. These days politics is a mine field of quick sand and can too easily suck people into its dark and dreary depths. We don’t see eye to eye on much anymore, and having a civilized debate seems to be a thing of the past… at least online.
I have much more open and productive conversations face-to-face, which gives me a glimmer of hope. I know there is nuance in the world and within people. Not everything is black and white. I see things I like and things I do not like on both sides. And when I sit with friends and discuss things in person, it is almost always friendly and calm. A rational conversation is rare these days, especially online!
What makes me more nervous and far more fearful, however, is how too many of us are accepting certain behaviors. There are specific things that Judaism teaches us that must not be pushed to the side. When we use any means to justify the ends, we lose ourselves and our moral high ground. When we normalize abhorrent, unnecessary and bad behavior, we change not only the norms, but lose ourselves and our connection to Hashem. We actually move away from G-d.Always Speak Truthfully
Torah teaches us to “Distance yourself from words of falsehood.”
From the time I was a young boy, my parents taught me how important it was to always tell the truth. I have instilled this in my daughter, as well. Being open and honest is imperative to a good relationship. In fact, in my mind, this may be the most important thing to teach… Always do the right thing and do not lie. Even if you do something bad, honesty is the way to go. A lie on top of a lie or a bad deed almost always does not work out or improve the situation… Usually it makes it that much worse, and who knows where those lies put us in the world to come.
And yet… there is a whole article on Chabad.org that outlines when a white lie is permissible. The list seems limited and clear and makes it obvious that it is a very, very rare occasion where lying is for the good. If it is to serve oneself, then it is almost always NOT for the good…I Wrestle With Jacob
I have always struggled with the story of Jacob “where he disguised himself as his older brother Esau so that he could successfully receive the blessings that his father Isaac had intended to give to Esau—despite the fact that Jacob was a spiritual giant and the paradigm of truthfulness.” I have a much clearer understanding of this now, but still, it is something I still discuss with my Rabbis and teachers.
And the people I am thinking about… AIN’T NO JACOB!
People lie for all kinds of reasons. People believe lies for all kinds of reasons. If we normalize this behavior, we are walking a very fine line and path, and one that I think will lead us to disaster.
The Chabad article is rather profound when it says: “It is evident from the Talmud that being careful to only speak truthfully is a segulah (spiritually propitious activity) that allows one to complete the years allotted to him by G‑d.
The Talmud says that there are four groups of people that do not merit to greet the Divine presence. One of them is liars. This punishment is measure for measure: through lying they demonstrated that they sought to find favor in the eyes of men and in doing so, ignored the presence of the omniscient Almighty. Therefore, they do not merit to be in His presence.”
The biggest lesson is the famous quote of how staying silent leads to us being left alone with no defenders. As we hear lie after lie after lie, let us not forget our Jewish teachings. We may like certain things and policies, but wouldn’t it be better to attain them in a more honest and forthright manner from people who speak truths and lead with light? And yes, while I am dancing around one particular person, I am someone who will call it out on both sides and wherever I see it… Deceipt is sadly not owned by one person or one “side.” But we need to be able to hold our leaders to, if not a higher standard, at least to a solid standard. We need to be told the truth, and need to strive to always be truthful and honest, with ourselves and with others. And if things are not starting at the top, it is up to us to climb the mountain and change things for the better.