Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Ambiguous Statements III

By Rabbi Daniel Travis

"…Perhaps it was an oversight on their part." (Bereshith 43:12)

The previous essay discussed the importance of accustoming oneself to saying, “I don’t know.” One could ask: is there not a certain amount of deception in one saying that one does not know something when in fact one does? Is it not better to tell the truth?

How insightful were our Sages when they said that one should “accustom” one’s tongue to say that one does not know. By making a habit of this, it becomes a type of catch phrase rather than an expression of fact. When people recognize that this statement is a regular part of one’s conversation, they will no longer take it literally. Consequently there is no question of falsehood involved (1).

A certain Rav would often reply, “I don’t know,” when asked his opinion. On one occasion, one of his students asked him a question and received the usual repsponse, “I don’t know.” The student, wanting to get a clearer answer, mustered up his courage and asked: “What does the Rav mean when he says ‘I don’t know’?” The Rav responded, “Sometimes I don’t know; other times I know but I realize that the person asking me disagrees, and will not be budged. In that case, it is preferable to say ‘I don’t know’ than to engage in a meaningless argument.” Recognizing that the Rav was speaking frankly, the student continued “So what did ‘I don’t know’ mean in this case?” The Rav smiled and said, “I don’t know”(2).


1. Commentary of the Paath Lechem on the Chovoth Levavoth Shaar HaYichud, Ch. 2. See also related essay entitled “Ambiguous Statements I,” (page 136) on Bereshith 23:11, 15-16. 2. Heard from Rav Pinchas Lebovic.


Text Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org


 

ARTICLES ON VAESCHANAN AND TU BEAV:

View Complete List

Kinah for Tisha B’Av
Rabbi Label Lam - 5771

Cause Hashem to Be Loved By Others
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5759

Killer Torah
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5757

> Desire of the Fire Within
Rabbi Label Lam - 5771

We Need Backdrops
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5765

Precious Jewels
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5762

ArtScroll

Addressing Concerns Part 1
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5762

Beyond the Letter of the Law
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5758

Rejoicing in a Month of Misfortune: Part 2
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Serving and Deserving
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5761

Why Should I Just Believe?
Rabbi Label Lam - 5761

Comfort-Able?
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5759

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Keeping What We Give
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5763

It's Your Fault!
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5759

No Joke
Rabbi Label Lam - 5767

How Wise We Would Be
Rabbi Label Lam - 5763



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information