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Shabbat Message from Rabbi Aft-

05/08/2015 10:39:55 AM


Dear Friends, is only a football game and it is not that big a deal...or is it?


I think that most of you have been following the story in the NFL (yes, I do watch more than baseball!!!!) about Tom Brady and the deflating of footballs before the AFC Championship game last winter.


Is this cheating or just creating a competitive edge in order to have a better chance to win?  Does it really matter?  Should we seek any advantage we can in order to get what we want or to win in our own lives?  What does Judaism say about cheating?


I am including a famous story, which discusses a Jewish perspective on being honest.


Reprinted with permission from the entry “Truth” in Louis Jacobs, The Jewish Religion: A Companion, published by Oxford University Press.  (From My Jewish Learning Website)


"An often quoted rabbinic saying ([Babylonian Talmud] Shabbat 55a) is: “Truth is the seal of the Holy One, blessed be He.”  In Rashi’s explanation [Rashi is the foremost medieval commentator on the Torah], this saying refers to the Hebrew word for truth, emet, formed from the first letter of the alphabet, alef, the middle letter, mem, and the final letter, tav.  The God of truth is found wherever there is truth and His absence is felt wherever there is falsehood.

The prophet similarly declares: “The Lord God is truth” (Jeremiah 10:10) and the Psalmist declares: “Thy Torah is truth” (Psalms 119:142).  Of the verse in Psalms: “And speaketh the truth in his heart” (Psalms 15:2), one explanation by the Jewish moralists is that the God-fearing man should keep his promise even if he only made it in his heart, even if it was no more than a promise he had kept to himself without revealing it to the one to whom he made it.

This is based on the talmudic tale of Rav Safra ([Babylonian Talmud] Makkot 24a).  Rav Safra was approached to sell something he had and was offered a price that suited him, but he was unable at the time to signify his consent because he was reciting his prayers and was unable to interrupt them.  The prospective buyer, under the impression that the rabbi had rejected his bid, kept on increasing the price but the rabbi insisted on selling for the original price to which he had consented “in his heart.”  Naturally, this kind of exemplary conduct was not intended for all, otherwise it would not have been recorded for a saintly man like Rav Safra. But the stern injunctions throughout Jewish literature against cheating and dishonesty in business affairs and in other areas of life are directed toward every Jew, as when the prophet says of his people: “They have taught their tongue to speak lies, they weary themselves to commit iniquity” (Jeremiah 9:4)."


As you can tell from the above story and description of Judaism's perspective on telling the truth, we are all held to a high standard in terms of honesty.  

How honest we are in our interactions with others?  As you read yesterday in my Lag B'Omer column, Rabbi Akiba's students were afflicted with a plague because they gossiped.  How many of us engage in gossiping and/or spreading rumors?  I believe that when we do speak poorly about others and sometimes say things that we don't know are true, we deflate the spirit of the person about whom we are speaking and engage in our own "deflategate!"

May we guard our tongues and our actions from causing harm....


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Bruce Aft





Congregation Adat Reyim


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