Monday, November 13, 2006

The value of truth (Avot 1:9)

שמעון בן שטח אומר, הוי מרבה לחקור את העדים; והוי זהיר בדבריך, שמא מתוכן ילמדו לשקר.

Shimon ben Shetah says, may you diligently examine the witnesses. And may you be cautious in your words lest from them they learn to lie.

As with yesterday's Mishnah
, the advice of this Mishnah seems to be addressed to court judges in particular.

It is an unusual Mishnah in that Shimon ben Shetah only offers two sayings; all of our previous Mishnahs have had three.

The Mishnah is very concerned with the issue of lying. For the Rabbis, truthful testimony was the basis for their entire legal system.

Unfortunately, in our modern culture lying is so often treated like a fun part of a game. In particular, reality TV game shows -- starting with Survivor and moving way beyond it -- seem to put a premium on people's ability to lie and to deceived others. They glorify it. It is a terrible message to be sending to our young people.

May your day take you into contact with only people who endeavor to tell the truth.

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