In our every day lives should we put more emphasis on truth or on peace? It is probably more important to go out of your way to make peace then to establish the “truth”. The reason why I say this is because “truth” as a virtue and a fact is relatively easy to find while “peace” is rare.
Domestic arguments are a good example of this. In futile efforts to establish the “truth” about why a spouse or a child did something “naughty” you will probably get into a big argument. This is done at the expense of a peaceful household. By the end of the argument everyone is so sick that the kids are looking into a university at least three thousand miles away, the husband is drinking two or three large whisky sours and the wife needs to refill her valium prescription. Wouldn’t it have been better not to know the “truth” behind someone’s deeds than to get everyone upset? Even a small lie would be better than upsetting the whole family. We see this towards the end of this weeks Perasha.
And Joseph’s brothers feared since their father had died, they said Joseph might hate us and will repay us for the evil which we caused him.’ They commanded Joseph saying ‘Your father commanded before his death saying. Say this to Joseph overlook the iniquity of your brothers and their sin since they caused you evil….
It has been noted by our rabbis of blessed memory that the brothers lied in saying that they had been commanded to transmit to Joseph that he must forgive his brothers for tossing him into a pit and then selling him. According to a Midrash when all of the brothers including Joseph went to Canaan to bury Yaacob they passed the hole into which they had tossed Joseph. He peeked into the hole to reflect upon the miracles which had happened to him. The brothers suspected that as result he would take the opportunity for a little sweet revenge especcially since his father was now dead. They then fabricated a commandment from their father that Yosef should not avenge his brothers. Our rabbis of blessed memory learnt from this that it is permissible to lie for the sake of peace.
There are those who will ask, “How can you permit lying? Have our rabbis of blessed memory not taught us that the world stands on three things, on the law, on the truth and on the peace? How can you choose one over the other?” I believe that the answer lies in the fact that truth is easy to find and establish while peace is uncommon. Additionally, truth is stable and is not generally affected by change while even the smallest change in life disturbs our peace.
Family peace and harmony are very important for us to cultivate. They are very difficult in our world of instant gratification. When our beloved spouse or child does not live up to our momentary desire we lash out at the expense of the long term peace.
Our rabbis of blessed memory have further stated that whoever induces too much fear in his house will come to three transgressions: forbidden relations, murder and desecration of Shabbat explains this statement that he will come to forbidden relations when it is to cold his wife will not immerse properly in a Mikveh and out of fear will tell him that she did immerse. The situation will come to murder from the husband or in escaping from the argument the wife will fall into the hands of criminals or will fall off a bridge. Causing too much fear causes desecration of because sometimes in the rush before Shabbat she will not cook the food properly or will neglect to light the candles out of fear she will do these after Shabat has started.