There are two sources in Torah which prohibit lying. “…V’lo teshakru ish ba’amito – and do not lie to one another” in Kedoshim (19:11), and in this week’s parsha, Parshas Mishpatim (23:7), where the Torah doesn’t simply state the prohibition to lie, but rather asserts, “Midvar sheker tirchak,” meaning, “You shall distance yourself from anything false.”
Let’s be honest – it’s tough to always be authentic. It’s among Mankind’s greatest challenges to make truth an unshakable part of life. In fact, the instinctual capacity to lie inherent in every human being was very much on the minds of the malachim when Hashem was about to create the world. The Midrash relates that the ministering angels divided into two parties. Rachamim said: “Create him.” Emes said: “Do not create him, since his essence is falsehood.”
It is obvious then, why only regarding lying does Torah use an expression of harchaka, to separate and distance oneself from any form of lie. Lying seems to be such a vile vice that it requires the avoidance not only of the aveira itself, but of its distant relatives, too.
One day a pretentious scholar came to the Vilna Gaon and asked him for a haskama for his about-to-be-published discourse. The Gaon could not refuse, as much as he really wanted to, and wrote a halfhearted testimonial of a few short lines. Although he had plenty of room, he signed his name at the very bottom of the page.
“Why do you sign your name so far from the actual approbation?” asked the obtrusive author. The Gaon smiled and replied, “The Torah commands us: Midvar sheker tirchak – stay far away from falsehood.”
Midvar sheker tirchak is usually translated as “from a word of falsehood you should distance yourself.” However, the Rebbe Reb Zusha of Anipoli explained these words with an even more impactful interpretation. Hashem, Whose signature is Emes, so detests falsehood that when one speaks or acts in a dishonest way, that person effectively distances himself from Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Just know, says the pasuk, Midvar sheker – when one speaks a word of sheker, tirchak – you are distancing yourself from Hashem.
For more on this, I thought we’d travel back in time to speak to someone who has dedicated his life to the teaching of midos tovos – that’s right, I’m talking about Dr. Midos himself! Dr. Midos has invented something you have never seen – the absolutely Marvelous Midos Machine! The year is 1986 and Mendy & Miri (Berish & Bella Rotenberg) have awoken for an early morning bowl of cereal and milk. But wait! Oh no! Look out! The milk carton is too heavy and drops to the ground, spilling the container’s contents all over the kitchen floor! But instead of facing the music and admitting to what they have done, the two children are contemplating a quick escape from their dairy dilemma…
Looking on from afar, Shnooky Shapiro (Abie Rotenberg) and Dr. Midos (Rabbi Shmuel Yaakov Klein) receive an alert and know just what to do. Through an advanced satellite sound-projector system (too complicated to adequately explain in this limited space), the two do-gooders leap into action and proceed to transmit the appropriate midos message into the home of the aforementioned milk mishap, and into the hearts of young Mendy and Miri. Moshe Yess z’l (who also plays the role of Dr. Doomshtein) is tasked with asking the children the tough questions – Who Spilled the Milk? – as well as inquiring into a multitude of other minor misdemeanors.
So, did the song help the children right their ways? Do they learn their lesson and uphold the words of the pasuk at hand? You’ll need to listen to the original track in its entirety to find out! Episode 1: Up, Up & Away was the first of what would become one of the most popular children’s song/story series of all-time. Masterfully written by Jewish music’s most prolific poet, the compositions and messages found within The Marvelous Midos Machine albums have ultimately proven to be as timeless and universal as Rotenberg’s countless other musical masterpieces.
When the first demo of Marvelous Midos Machine was completed, Moshe Yess and I called in two boys to listen to it. We sat them down on a small couch, waiting to observe their reactions. Sure enough, they’re listening with eyes open wide and mouths agape. Dizzy’s up in outer space, Doomshtein’s cackling, and everything’s going great.
About 40 minutes in, the two boys start fighting. ‘Move over! You’re sitting on my spot!’ ‘I am not! You move over!’ And all the while, in the background, there’s the sweet refrain playing, ‘Shalom is peace and shalom’s the way…’ So thankfully, we got an early dose of reality not to expect too much as far as instant results.
Wishing each of you a marvelous Shabbos Mevorchim Chodesh Adar!