And Hashem said to Avrohom, “Why did Sara laugh, saying, ‘is it really true that I will give birth although I am old?'” (Bereshis 18:13)
Is a person allowed to lie? The Torah states very clearly that a person should stay far away from lying, but there are exceptions. One is learned from this week’s parsha. When Sara first heard that she was going to have a child, she said that she and her husband were both old. When Hashem relayed the message to Avrohom, he only mentioned that Sara said she was old. Our Sages learn from here that a person can lie to keep peace because if Avrohom heard his wife call him old, it might have upset him.
There is an argument between Bais Hillel and Bais Shammai regarding what a person can say to a groom about his bride. Bais Shammai says to say it how it is. Bais Hillel, though, says that a person can say the bride is nice and beautiful, even if she isn’t. Bais Hillel allows the person to lie. It seems strange to hear this opinion of Bais Hillel, but it actually makes more sense. Our Sages state you can lie for the sake of peace (especially between a husband and wife). So the question is really why Bais Shammai says a person cannot lie here.
Bais Shammai agrees that in the case of peace, a person is allowed to lie, but they hold this case is different than the case with Hashem and Avrohom. In that case, Hashem needed to speak with Avrohom about what was said. In the case of groom and bride, Bais Shammai holds that the other person does not need to state anything. He can remain silent instead of lying.
I did not write this to discuss what the actual law would be regarding lying for the sake of peace – please ask your Rav for the exacts in Jewish law regarding this. But I did want to bring out a point and that is how important peace is. Everyone agrees that lying is one of the worst sins. But according to all opinions, a person can lie for the sake of peace. Therefore, the lesson for us is we must strive for peace whenever we can.
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