Keep Your Distance I
By Rabbi Daniel Travis
And the men [i.e., the Divine emissaries] left.
Since the Divine emissaries were posing as Avraham’s guests, there must
have been a reason for their abrupt exit. Although Sarah laughed when she
heard that she would bear Avraham a son, when confronted about her act,
she denied having done so. Purely spiritual beings cannot tolerate the
slightest hint of falsehood. For this reason they left immediately after
these untrue words were spoken(1).
This attitude towards falsehood is expressed in the very words of the
Torah: “Midevar sheker tirchak (2) – Distance yourself from a false
thing,” which themselves express the repulsive nature of sheker –
falsehood. The Torah’s use of the term davar – thing – indicates that even
the minutest hint of falsehood is to be avoided at all costs, while the
word tirchak – distance yourself – comes to teach us how very disgusting
sheker is (3).
The Sefer HaChinuch speaks at great length about the loathsome nature of
sheker: “Falsehood is universally scorned and hated, for nothing is so
disgusting. All who affiliate themselves with any form of falsehood will
find a curse and a plague upon their homes, for the Almighty is truth, and
everything that is associated with Him is truth. Real prosperity is found
only among those who are consistently truthful in their actions, who
follow in God’s ways of truth.
“All whose actions are contrary to God’s actions – the masters of
deception – will eventually face the opposite of prosperity; they will
suffer from curse, plague, anguish, arguments, and pain. Because of the
despicable nature of falsehood, the Torah commanded us to distance
ourselves from it. This terminology is employed relative to no other
prohibition. One should not so much as incline one’s ears towards
something which is potentially false, as our Sages tell us “Distance
yourself from that which is abhorrent (4).”
(1) Chofetz Chaim commentary on Bereshith 18:16.
(2) Shemoth 23:7.
(3) Yad HaKetanah, Hilchos De’oth, ch. 10:1.
(4) Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 74.
Text Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org