The more we hear people talk about the lack of truth in our world and the need to pursue it, the more it seems to be lacking. So much of what we see and hear is fake, superficial and patently untrue. Yet, to be accepted as with-it and relevant, we all, to different degrees, play along with the lies and don’t dare openly dispute them.
All too often, even when people say that they are telling you the truth, it is a cynical ploy to win you over. In the political world, Senator Kamala Harris was considered a top contender for the Democrat presidential nomination. Every campaign needs a message and a theme, and since most politicians have no core beliefs, they turn to pollsters to choose for them what they need in order to get elected. The New York Times reported that “Extensive polling led [Harris] to believe that there was great value in the word ‘truth,’ so she titled her 2019 memoir ‘The Truths We Hold’ and made a similar phrase the centerpiece of her early stump speech: ‘Let’s speak truth.’”
However, in practice, that didn’t work, so she dropped “truth” and adopted other themes and messages in its place. They didn’t work either, and before pulling out of the race this week she languished at the bottom of the polls.
She and her fellow candidates are still taken seriously and spoken of as politicians worthy of leading this great country, when, in fact, they are hucksters, each one attempting to emerge atop the pile through a different poll-tested lie.
Palestinian Lie Taken to Breathtaking Level
Meanwhile, on a subject more meaningful to many of us, Riyah Al-Aileh, a Palestinian political science lecturer for Al-Azhar University, is reported to have recently said, “The Jews claim that they were in Palestine 2,000 years ago. If we look at the history, we will see that they were not in Palestine in the past, but rather only as invaders less than 70 years ago. For these 70 years, they have been invaders, like the Hyksos, the Byzantines, the Persians, and [British] colonialism.”
The Palestinian lie continues to grow. The new version being tested is that Jews never lived in Israel until they escaped there from the Nazi inferno and sought to evict the native Palestinians. All the archeological and documented proof notwithstanding, the nomadic people without a past who found their way to the Promised Land to prosper from the economy the Jews created turn truth on its head in pursuit of their goal of being recognized as the legitimate dwellers of Palestine, a non-existent country.
Facts count for very little, as many countries already recognize Palestine as an independent country. Just this past Shabbos, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas again called for Europe to recognize the Palestinian state. It is not far-fetched at all for that to happen.
If the Democrats win the White House and maintain control of Congress in 2020, they would also likely jump on the bandwagon. Just last week, 106 Democrat congressmen wrote a letter to the secretary of state calling upon him to rescind the Trump administration recognition of the legality of Jewish settlement in the area known as the West Bank. They are also opposed to the American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and recognition of Yerushalayim as the historic and current capital of Israel.
The idea of a Palestinian state, as illogical as it may be, has been repeated so many times that it has taken root in leftist circles. I was reading a totally non-political article in the New York Times last week about Town Car taxis and was astounded when a certain driver was identified as “a native of Palestine.” Go argue.
Epic Struggles, Unwavering Faith
This week’s parsha portrays the difficult life of Yaakov Avinu. The av of golus, Yaakov left his home in Be’er Sheva and it took several decades until he was able to return home. Through the story of Yaakov’s relationship with his father-in-law, Lovon, we witness the eternal battle between truth and fiction, between good and evil that our people have been fighting ever since Avrohom recognized that the world has a Creator who rules over all.
As Yaakov took leave of Eretz Yisroel to escape his brother’s wrath and find a wife in the home of his uncle, Lovon, Hashem promised him that He would be with him as he wandered; and would protect and bless him. Though alone and penniless, Yaakov was strengthened by Hashem’s promises (Rashi, ibid. 29:1).
The parsha details the ups and downs of Yaakov’s life under Lovon – his marriages, his children, and the financial blessings he experienced despite all the maneuvers employed against him. Finally, at the end of the parsha, Hashem determined that it was time for Yaakov to return to the Promised Land. After all he was put through, Yaakov remained the same strong believer he was when he left the home of Yitzchok. Despite all the many blessings heaped upon him, despite his wealth, Yaakov remained as humble as he was when he fled to escape the wrath of his brother, Eisov.
Thus, at the beginning of next week’s parsha, Yaakov Avinu declares, “Katonti mikol hachassodim umikol ha’emes asher asisa es avdecha – I have become small because of all the kindness and truth that You have performed with me.”
When Yaakov arrived in Choron, he was penniless and alone. As he was returning to Eretz Yisroel with his wives, children and many possessions, instead of becoming haughty, he felt humbled and undeserving of the gifts Hashem had bestowed upon him.
Yaakov, the av of golus, reminds us that when we live in times of plenty such as ours, we dare not become complacent and apathetic. Rather, we must always remember the source of our largesse and be appreciative of the blessings granted to us. Returning home, Yaakov thanked Hashem for His kindness.
In expressing his gratitude, Yaakov thanked Hashem for the chesed bestowed upon him, and also for being dealt with emes, truthfully. He saw the emes as a repayment, middah k’neged middah, for the way he conducted himself even when surrounded by – and in the employ of – thieves.
In a world of darkness, with a brother like Eisov and a father-in-law like Lovon, there was subterfuge at every turn. Yaakov expended much time and effort during his life navigating between liars and their falsities as he sought to pave a successful path.
After being in golus for so many years, Yaakov was thankful that his faith was not misplaced. Hashem watched over him and protected him from the evil plots of those who sought his demise, as he remained loyal to the emes and did not sink to the level of his tormenters. Yaakov was able to marry and raise fine children far from the idyllic home of Yitzchok and Rivkah.
“Titein emes l’Yaakov,” says the novi Micha (7:20). “The truth belongs to Yaakov.” While maligned by those who detested him, Yaakov proved to be the essence of truth, as Avrohom was the paradigm of chesed. Thus, Hashem remained faithful to Yaakov through all his difficulties and blessed him and the shevotim with lives embodying the truth of Torah, the source of emes in our world.
Lighting The Path Through Golus
Yaakov paved the way for us to excel in golus. Away from our ancestral home, removed from the kedusha of the Bais Hamikdosh, ensconced among cultures becoming more depraved by the day, we succeed, with the abilities inherited from Yaakov, in remaining faithful to the Toras Emes, despite all that gnaws at us and all who seek our downfall.
“Titein emes l’Yaakov.” Society preaches that truth is relative, it shifts with the times and the situation. Our forefathers saw through the lies and perceived the truth of the world, and thus were able to lay down the foundation for Am Yisroel. The world was created with Torah, and when we observe its commandments, we contribute to the greater good in ways we cannot understand. As anshei emes, we believe that the more Torah we study and the more truth we bring about, the more we fortify the world.
In a world of decadence, in a stunted, pagan world, our forefathers followed the light of truth. That truth was later delivered to us in the form of the Torah and has been guiding us ever since. We are a people of truth and have always been. Since the days of the avos and imahos, we have been mocked and vilified. We have been accused of every crime, blamed for various catastrophes, and hated throughout the ages.
Through it all, we have survived, and today Hashem has caused us to prosper spiritually and financially as never before. We must take advantage of the blessings, recognize them, and be appreciative of all we have achieved. Like our forefather Yaakov, we should collectively proclaim, “Katonti mikol hachassodim umikol ha’emes,” recognizing the source of our prosperity and the obligations we have because of it.
All we do must be consistent with the truth. Our Torah is a Toras Emes, our foundation is emes, and our lives must be all about emes. It is when we remain loyal to the Toras emes and live lives of emes that Hashem rewards us with success and fulfillment.
Too often, we sense danger, but are unable to properly address our concerns because we aren’t honest in appraising the situation. We see ill winds blowing, but if we don’t honestly examine their roots and causes, we can’t expect to be able to defend and fortify ourselves.
Our community seeks to deal with a wide range of serious problems, including shidduchim, abuse, drop-outs, children being rejected by schools, overcrowded educational institutions, rising tuitions, inadequate incomes, high costs of living, and the other vexing issues you hear and read much about. To formulate solutions, we must honestly examine the substance of the issues without being straight-jacketed by tunnel vision and political correctness. If we are not forthright in our introspection, we will be overwhelmed by the dynamics and complexities of our challenges.
People who care about the truth get upset when told a lie. People who seek the truth are not afraid of it. The truth is what strengthens them. The more the facts emerge, the clearer their focus is and the stronger their convictions are.
Contrast this approach with philosophies built on self-deception and lies. Think of those whose way of life is fraught with duplicity. These people are threatened by the truth. They are scared of the facts. They hide from reality. They crumble when confronted by it.
People who know that they are right don’t have to sweep issues under the rug. They are secure in their beliefs and do not have to resort to convoluted rationales to convey their messages. When faced with an issue, they are able to examine it honestly, allowing them to arrive at a proper solution.
Similarly, countries built on lies and tyrannical governments lock their borders. They don’t permit their people to leave and don’t allow foreigners to enter. They are afraid that if their citizens learn the truth, they will revolt, so they feed their people a steady diet of fabrications, seeking to indoctrinate them with the greatness of their government and the supposed idyllic way of life they have created. The leaders know that they must ensure that the masses are never educated about the truth.
As bnei Avrohom, Yitzchok v’Yaakov, we are heirs to a golden heritage of fidelity to the truth. We know our place in the world and appreciate our blessings. Even in success, we must remain humble, ethical and honorable. We recognize that we become smaller when we become unprincipled and untruthful. When we engage in platitudes and obfuscations, we defeat our cause. We lose when we become disconnected and aren’t able to honestly examine problems that confront us. We jeopardize our connection to the avos and imahos, and risk being separated from our foundation if we don’t follow in their ways.
Yaakov Avinu merited to grow, prosper and receive Hashem’s chesed and emes because he was all about emes. If we want to succeed as a people, as a community, and as individuals, we must do the same.
When embarrassing incidents occur in our community, the way to deal with them is not to lie about what happened and fabricate stories, but to be honest enough to confront what happened and work to ensure that such things do not occur again. When we lobby or work towards a goal, we should not lie and obfuscate.
We are the people of truth. Our strength lies in our loyalty to what is true, honest and proper.
Our power lies in the “hakol kol Yaakov,” the virtuousness of the words that emanate from our mouths. It is how we battle the “yodayim yedei Eisov,” those who use force to get their way. Our way is that of decency and honesty, the way of the avos, our parents and grandparents who were raised by Torah values.
Let us never think that we can get ahead through thievery and chicanery. Leave that for the Eisovs and the Lovons of the world who seek temporary and fleeting gains. What we earn is long-lasting and eternal.
May we all merit to enjoy the brachos bequeathed to Yaakov, and may Hashem continue to watch over us, protecting us from those who would do us harm.