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The Purpose Of Falsehood I

By Rabbi Daniel Travis

Two by two the animals came into the Ark to Noach. (Bereshith 7:9)

The concepts in this verse are illustrated by the following allegory: Sheker approached Noach and requested entry into the Ark. Noach refused sheker on the grounds that it did not have a “mate.” When sheker left Noach, it met pachsa (financial loss and destruction) and proposed that they form a partnership, so that together they could gain entry into the Ark. Pachsa agreed, stipulating that any profit which would be earned through sheker would be handed over to pachsa to be destroyed.(1)

There are many questions to be asked about this allegory. Why did our Sages see fit to single out sheker from all the possible negative character traits? Furthermore, why was it necessary for sheker to find a mate? Surely it would have been better to deny sheker entrance to the ark altogether. On the other hand, if sheker belonged in the world, should it not have been allowed to enter the ark without having to fulfill any conditions?

As explained in previous essays, the decree of the flood was sealed on account of the dishonesty of that generation. Sheker was rampant, and there was way to stop it short of wiping out the entire world. In the process of reconstructing the world, God wanted to make sure that the sins which had caused its demise would not be repeated. Therefore sheker could not be allowed to perpetuate in its present form.

However, it was important that sheker continue to exist in order for the iniquities of the previous generation to be rectified. This could only come about through recognition of the utter futility of any involvement with sheker. When pachsa joined forces with sheker, causing the loss of all profits earned through sheker, it made it glaringly evident that any association with sheker is totally counterproductive. The lesson that would be learned from the alliance between sheker and pachsa allowed sheker to continue to exist.(2)

After leaving the ark, sheker came to pachsa and requested all of the profits that it had acquired through under-handed methods. Pachsa reminded sheker of their agreement, and sheker was unable to respond. Although under normal circumstances sheker would have denied ever making such a promise, this case was different. Denying the truth would be tantamount to self destruction, for without its partnership with pachsa, sheker would not be allowed to exist.

1. Tosfoth Da’ath Zekeinim 6:19, citing Midrash Yalkut Shimoni 56.

2. Marchei Lev

Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and



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