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Truth and lies



The prophet Micah said, “You will give truth to Yaakov and kindness to Avraham as You took an oath to our forebears from days of old.” The defining attribute of our father, Yaakov, was truth. When discussing the twins of Yitzchak, the Torah states, “The lads grew. Esau was a man who knew hunting, a man of the field, and Yaakov was a guileless [tam] man, living in tents.”

Esau was an expert hunter, and hunting requires deception so that the animal will be caught unaware. Yaakov, on the other hand, was an ish tam, a guileless man. Rashi notes that tam refers to someone who isn’t an expert in trickery and guile. “Yaakov wasn’t an expert in all this. As his heart was, so was his mouth.” The incident in which Yaakov disguises himself as Esau to deceive his father into blessing him is the exception that proves the rule. The rest of his life exemplified truth.

The sages called this world alma d’shikra (the world of falsehood), whereas the world to come is known as alma d’kshut, (the world of truth). G-d is concealed in the physical world. The word for world, “olam”, has the same root as “ne’elam” (concealed). We’re deceived into believing that the world operates independently, with no creator in charge. We speak of nature, with a capital “N”, as an independent entity. And mankind is full of lies, as King David said, “In my haste, I said, ‘All men are false.’” For a host of reasons, people will say one thing even when they believe something else. This could be because of shame, fear, self-preservation, or self-deception. The world has always been a place of falsehood, but with the advent of social media, the sheer quantity of lies and “fake news” has reached unprecedented levels. Lies are posted online and shared ad infinitum. Even if they are debunked, the lies persist because there are masses of people who ignore the truth.

The so-called Simchat Torah War has brought to the fore the pervasiveness of falsehood. It’s accepted as fact in many quarters that Israel is an apartheid state that practises genocide. None of these claims have any basis in reality, yet they are taken as the truth. Social media is awash with fake images, videos, statistics, and reports of the war in Gaza. I have seen artificial intelligence-generated “photographs” of scenes of destruction. I have seen a video of a photoshoot in which a young girl has fake blood smeared on her face and is given torn clothing to wear. Some pictures of Gaza aren’t Gaza at all, they are scenes from the civil war in Syria. An example of “Pallywood”, Palestinian fake TV, is a certain man who pops up at every crisis situation, sometimes as a victim, sometimes as a doctor, and sometimes he’s screaming hysterically at a so-called explosion site. The man is an actor paid by Hamas. He has been exposed by a number of news channels, yet the videos are still shared. It’s difficult to counter the wave of falsehood. But we should be encouraged by the words of our sages, “Truth will stand, but falsehood won’t stand.” You can fool people for only so long.

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