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DO YOU TRUST YOURSELF?

Friday, 4 November, 2016 - 12:30 pm

 

A beggar told Rothschild that since the orchestra had been dismantled, all he had was bad luck.

"What instrument did you play?" asked Rothschild.

"The bassoon," was the answer.

"Wow, that's my favorite," declared Rothschild. "Here is my bassoon, play something for me."

"I TOLD you all I have is bad luck!" replied the poor man.

"What do you mean?" asked Rothschild.

"Well, from all the hundreds of instruments, I had to pick the one you own."

In this week’s Torah portion, Noach, G-d commanded Noach to prepare for the great flood by constructing an ark. In the year 1656 from creation (2105 BCE), four married couples—Noach and his wife, and his three sons with their wives—entered the boat. They brought with them a male and female member of each species of mammal and bird, seeds and cuttings of various plant species, and a year's supply of food and feed.

The Midrash says that one of the creatures that wished to enter the ark and survive the flood was the liar. This was not referring to a particular human being, but to the reality called “the lie.” The lie wanted to be spared from the pending destruction of an unredeemable world.

Noah refused him entry. He asked the liar: Are you married? All who enter the ark must be “married.” The Torah states that all living creature, humans and animals, came in couples, male and female. They could not enter the ark without a partner!

So the liar left Noach in search of a marriage partner.

The Midrash says he encountered another “creature” called “pachat.” In Hebrew, pachat means destruction, collapse. The liar asked “pachat” the destroyer to marry him, so he could enter the ark and be saved from catastrophe. The destroyer responded, “What will you give me in return?”

The liar answered: “I will give you everything. Anything I ever earn will go straight to your pocket.” (Sounds like a good marriage agreement to me….)

The destroyer agreed. They married, and Noach allowed the new couple—the liar and the destroyer—into the ark.

When the flood ended, all the couples left the ark to begin a new life. The liar and his partner also moved on and took root in the new society. The liar brought in enormous amounts of money, as per his skill; lies can generate many profits. But his partner seized and destroyed everything he earned, as per his skill. The liar finally asked the destroyer, “Where is all my money? What happened to my hard-earned profits?” The destroyer responded, “We agreed that all your earnings go to me, and anything that comes to me gets destroyed. That is who I am.”

Thus ends the story in the Midrash.

When the flood consumed an unsalvageable planet, the liar was destined to disappear. The flood, a cosmic Mikvah, was about to cleanse the world and push “restart.” Untruth was about to be eliminated as well.

When Noach asked the liar, “Are you married?” he was asking, “Are you committed to anything? To enter the ark, you need to be married on some level. To survive the flood and redeem yourself from corruption, you need to have some truth, some dedication to something or someone.”

A liar, by definition, is committed to nothing. He has no standards to adhere to; no guidelines to follow; no rules to abide by. In the liar’s world, there is no notion of “reality,” truth, for he creates his own reality. The late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “You are entitled to your own opinions; you are not entitled to your own facts.” The liar believes he IS entitled to his own facts.

Noach told the liar he couldn’t survive the flood because he was too corrupt and committed to nothing. Truth and reality did not exist for him.

In response, the liar got married. To whom? To his most authentic spouse. This is the most honest thing the liar ever did or will do, and it earned him his spot in the ark. He married destruction and death, essentially promising—and it was this “true” promise which gave him access to the ark—that whatever is based on a lie will one day be extinct. A lie will never endure. Lies have no backbone, no soul, no essence, no core, and no truth, and thus can’t survive. What is unreal is always ultimately revealed.

Paradoxically, this is what allowed the liar to enter the ark. Once he agreed to marry his suitable partner, ruin and destruction, he could be allowed to survive, for truth would be destined to emerge.

A rabbi told his congregation, "Next week I plan to give a speech about the sin of lying. To help you understand my sermon, I want you all to read Genesis, chapter 51."

The following Shabbat, before his speech, the rabbi asked for a show of hands. He wanted to know how many had read Genesis 51. Every hand went up. The rabbi smiled and said, "Genesis has only 50 chapters. I will now proceed with my sermon on the sin of lying."

In our own lives we sometimes think that a lie will gain us money, status, respect, influence, power, success, a relationship, or will spare us from embarrassment. “I am sorry I’m late; there was bumper to bumper traffic.” “I am sorry I did not call you; I had to run to the hospital.” “I missed the flight because my taxi never showed up.” An old proverb says, “Never chase a lie. Leave it alone, and it will run itself to death.” We must always remember that the liar is married to the destroyer. Things that are held together with lies come apart easily.

In October of 1985, the famous racquetball player Ruben Gonzalez was in the final match of his first professional racquetball tournament. He was playing the perennial champion for his first shot at a victory on the pro circuit. At match point in the fifth and final game, Gonzalez made a super "kill shot" into the front corner to win the tournament. The referee called it good, and one of the linemen confirmed the shot was a winner.

But after a moment's hesitation, Gonzalez turned and declared that his shot had skipped into the wall, hitting the floor first. As a result, the serve went to his opponent, who went on to win the match.

Ruben Gonzalez walked off the court. Everyone was stunned. The next issue of National Racquetball Magazine featured Gonzalez on its cover. The lead editorial searched for an explanation for this first-ever occurrence in the professional racquetball circuit. Who would imagine it in any sport or endeavor? Here was a player with everything officially in his favor, with victory in his grasp, who disqualified himself at match point and lost.

When asked why he did it, Gonzalez replied simply, "It was the only thing I could do to maintain my integrity."

George Bernard Shaw wrote, “The liar's punishment is, not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.” Integrity is priceless. It not only allows others to trust you, but it allows you to trust and be at peace with yourself! You can be one with yourself!

About 300 years ago, Rabbi Yonatan Eibeshetz (1690-1764) was the chief rabbi of the famed “Three Communities" in Germany. When he was growing up in Poland, his brilliant wisdom became known throughout the country, to the extent that the king of Poland invited him to the palace for a discussion.

When young Yonatan arrived, the king asked him: "Tell me, my boy, how did you find your way to the palace?"

"Well, your majesty," he answered, “whenever I had a doubt I just asked anyone that happened to be nearby.”

"But didn't it ever occur to you that two people might say opposite things? What if one said go right and the other said to go left? What would you have done then?"

The boy paused, thought for a moment, and then said, "Your majesty, in the Torah it says that when faced with differing opinions, one should follow the majority. That's what I would have done—I'd have asked a third person and followed the majority opinion."

The king smiled. "Young man, you should listen to what you yourself just said! If your Bible says you must follow the majority, then certainly you should forsake Judaism and believe as we Christians do, as we are the majority!"

The audience clapped their hands at the royal wisdom, but when the noise died down, little Yonatan cleared his throat.

"Pardon me, your royal highness. When I said that I would follow the majority, I meant when I was far from the castle and uncertain of the location. But now that I'm in the castle and I see the king seated before me, even if all the king's ministers tell me I'm in the wrong place, I will certainly not listen to them, because the majority cannot undo truth. Judaism is true beyond a doubt. I am in the palace already. I see the King. Even if the entire world says otherwise, it is meaningless.”

In the blessing recited after an Aliya, we thank G-d for giving us “Torat Emet,” a Torah of truth. The Talmud says: “The seal of G-d is truth.”  G-d resides where there is truth.

We can combat the falsehood of our world by increasing truth around us—increasing in Torah, prayer, charity, and Mitzvot. These bring truth into a world of lies and will ultimately send the lies to their appropriate destination.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky

 

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