For the Sake of Peace II
By Rabbi Daniel Travis
God said to Avraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Can I indeed have a
child when I am so old?’” (Bereshith 18:13)
As pointed out in the previous article, from this verse we derive that it
is permitted to deviate from the facts for the sake of peace.1 Certainly
if one can bring about peace in a different way, he is obligated to do so.
However, if there is no alternative but to deviate from strict factual
integrity, he should not view the situation as if he is doing something
The proof that this is the correct outlook is that God chose to mention
Sarah’s words to Avraham, even though he could have chosen not to mention
the incident to Avraham at all. He deliberately brought it up, changing
Sarah’s words when He repeated them to Avraham. Since the Torah records
God’s words here, it is clear that God intended to teach us that if a
person finds himself in a situation in which deviating from the facts is
the only way to maintain peace, he should not refrain from doing so. It is
no act of piety to express a truth that will lead to pain and strife. The
correct behavior is to convey a message that will guarantee peace.2
Although it is permissible to deviate from factual integrity for the sake
of peace, we must examine each case very carefully before we decide to do
so.3 Not every situation that might result in negative feelings warrants
this behavior. It is important to bear in mind that, although we are
permitted to be selective in our reporting of the facts for the sake of
peace, we may not do so if we will benefit personally from this sheker, or
if someone else will be hurt in the process.4
It is preferable not to deviate from factual integrity in order to prevent
possible future disputes, for this approach could lead one to lie in many
cases in order to promote countless peaceful causes.5 Although Aharon
HaKohen was very active in peace making, he was careful to follow the
above guidelines. When he would see two people who were already at odds
with one another, he would approach each of them separately and say that
he had just seen the adversary “choking himself” and pulling out his hair
in distress because he so regrets having upset his friend. Aharon would
sit with each of them until both parties were appeased. When the two
(previous) adversaries would next meet, they would hug each other as the
best of friends.6
1. Yevamoth 65b. A halachic authority should always be consulted.
2. Ben Ish Chai, Devarim 16:20.
3. Rif and Rosh, Yevamoth 65b. Me’iri and Ritva, Bava Metzia 23b.
4. Sha’arei Teshuvah 3:184.
5. Devar Shaul, Yevamoth 63b.
6. Yalkut Shimoni, Malachi 2:6.
Text Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org