By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
The posuk in Shmos, Perek Chof gimmel, Posuk zayin says, “Midvar Sheker Tirchok.” The Gemara in Mesech
Chazal learn in the Gemara in Yevamos, daf mem gimmel, amud alef that one is allowed to lie for the sake of peace. Some are of the opinion that it would be a mitzvah to lie for the sake of peace.
The Gemara in Brachos, daf mem gimmel, amud bais is mashma according to some opinions that one is allowed to lie in order to save one from embarrassment. The Gemara brings down that an Amora paskened in accordance with a Tana based on the Amora’s actions. The halacha was really not like the Tana. The Amora paskened that way in order to save himself from embarrassment. The Gra and Bach have a different version of this account. Some are of the opinion that it would be permissible to lie in the above case not because of avoiding embarrassment, but in order to keep the peace.
The question arises whether lying in order to avoid embarrassment is permissible if it would not fall under the category of keeping peace? For instance, a person exaggerates a story for tzedaka or exaggerates the number of students in a school one is collecting for. Is lying permissible in such a case? It would seem from the Gemara in Bava Metziya, daf chof gimmel, amud alef that one may even lie for the sake of middos tovos since the Gemara says that a talmid chochom may lie for three things and these three things are not necessary for the sake of peace. Tosfos on that Gemara wants to say that two of the three things are for the sake of peace so we would not be able to say that one may lie even for the sake of midos tovos or for the sake of a mitzvah. The Maharsha concludes that according to Tosfos one would only be able to lie for the sake of shalom (peace.) The Drisha on the other hand in Choshen Mishpat, siman resh samech bais, os chof alef writes that according to Tosfos one would be able to lie for the sake of any mitzvah since the mitzvos were given as darkei sholom.
Based on what was written above it would seem that a gabbai tzedaka would be allowed to exaggerate in order to collect more funds. The Yerushalmi at the end of Meseches Peah recounts that the Amoraim would collect money and say it was for them despite the fact that they had no need for the money and they would give it out for tzedaka. This was done even though the people who contributed gave more money thinking the money was going to a talmid chochom. It would seem that a person who is collecting on behalf of others may lie and say that he is collecting for himself in order to save others from embarrassment.
The Shevet Halevi does not like this svara. He said that it would be forbidden to mislead the donor into thinking he is supporting a talmid chochom when he really isn’t, since he would not give the same amount if he knew otherwise. Reb Yisroel Fischer in Titen Emes L’Yaakov, Perek Heh, amud ayin gimmel says that it would be permitted based on the above Yerushalmi. Reb Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach in Minchas Shlomo says he does not see a hetter for exaggerating in a story connected to tzedaka, but he says that he is sure that those who do this practice probably found a hetter to do so.
It is clear that we must be very careful what comes out of our mouths. May we keep the peace!