This week thousands of people learning Daf Yomi completed Meseches Bava Basra. The mesechta ends off with the halacha regarding loans. In order for a person to guarantee a loan, a kinyan (means of acquisition) must be done. However, there is one scenario that doesn’t require a kinyan, which is when a person accepts to be a guarantor while in Beis Din. The party involved does not need to do a kinyan. The gemara explains that the satisfaction derived from the knowledge that the court trusts him is enough to guarantee the loan without any additional kinyan (See Tur 129).
Rashi in Mishlei (12:19) teaches us that “Sheker Ain Lo Raglayim”, that falsehood has no legs. This adage is often explained with the actual letters; shin, kuf and reish being all single legged letters without the ability to stand on their own. Whereas the word Emes, truth is composed of all letters that have two legs and can stand on their own. The Baalei Mussar point out that ultimately emes prevails and sheker ultimately fails.
One of the lessons of this gemara is the importance of one’s word, we see that the gemara even puts a value on the word of an honest person. The importance of truth in speech and living a life of truth goes much further than any one incident where a person feels the need to change the truth. It speaks to the heart of who we are as a people.
In November 2016, the Oxford Dictionary named “Post-truth” as the word of the year. The dictionary defines “post-truth” as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” The Washington Times (11/16/2016) explained that the word “post” doesn’t mean “after” as much as it implies the irrelevance of the truth. We live in a world where truth has become irrelevant.
If one does a google search for “Alternative facts”, they will find approximately 193 million results and a search of “Fake News” generates 174 million results. We live in an “Oilam Hasheker” where it is hard to discern between fact and fiction, truth and that which isn’t. A world, where a president’s spokesperson can cite alternative facts as reality and no one knows whether the news is real or fake. Our Chachomim teach that 99% truth is 100% false.
Our entire educational system is based on a father or a rebbi teaching his child or student. The Torah commands every generation to teach the next Torah and to link the next generation to the one’s of the past. This can only be done if there is trust, it can only be successful if those who are learning trust those who are teaching. The relationship of trust of a child or a student towards their parents, rebbeim or moros must remain sacrosanct. A breakdown in trust will ultimately create a breakdown in the ability to educate another generation.
When finishing Maseches Gemara Bava Basra during a period like this we can be see it as a lesson of the importance and the value of a person’s word. We can internalize the value our Chachomim have placed on the trust of a person’s word. With a society around us that has eroded to the point where “post-truth” and “alternative facts” have become the norm; we must ensure that we are living lives represented by Torah and by the Emes.
Rabbi Mordechai Fishman serves as Rav of Tzeirei Agudas Yisroel of Passaic and Menahel/Principal of Be’er Hagolah Institutes. Rabbi Fishman also serves as a crisis counselor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.