Talmud this Shabbat: Truth is Overrated, Say the Torah and the Rabbis


At the end of Genesis, in our portion this week, our ancestors lie through their teeth.

Perhaps surprisingly, our rabbinic sages are okay with their lie. They acknowledge the lie–and then justify it for the sake of peace.

What happens when truth becomes dispensable? When we can set aside truth because doing so advances an agenda that we deem more important than truth?

The end of Genesis does not instruct us to tell the truth. It instructs us to weigh the truth against other values that are upheld when truth itself is denigrated. The Talmud takes this point and deepens it. What matters are not raw facts, but human relationships and feelings. What do we need to say that will preserve peace, make people feel good about themselves, strengthen relationships? Say that—even if it is not true. This is extremely destabilizing, even dangerous. What are the limits of this kind of thinking? Where does it lead?

What do you think about a religious tradition that invites that kind of complexity? Is that wise, or a recipe for a hot mess that never ends?

See you tomorrow at 8:30.

Shabbat shalom,
Wes