Lying for the Sake of Tzedaka

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By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld

The posuk in Shmos, Perek Chof gimmel, Posuk zayin says, “Midvar Sheker Tirchok.” The Gemara in Meseches Ksubos, daf yud zayin, amud alef teaches us that when the posuk is telling us to distance ourselves from sheker, it telling us that it is forbidden to lie. There is a machlokes Rishonim about what the guidelines are in this prohibition. The Yereim in siman resh lamed heh says that the Torah only forbade a lie that will cause monetary damage to your friend. A lie that is irrelevant as far as monetary damage goes is not forbidden. Tosfos in Ksubos, daf yud zayin, amud alef s.v yeshabchenu argues with this ruling and says that any kind of lie is forbidden, even if it does not cause monetary damage. The discussion in the gemara takes place when discussing whether one may praise a kallah in front of her husband even if he does not think she deserves the praise. Bais Hillel allows this, because at the end of the day the kallah is really beloved in the eyes of her chosson, so in his eyes the speaker is not lying. However, from this gemara we see that because the husband deep down thinks the words are true, it is permissible; however, if not for that fact it would be forbidden to lie. This is so even when there is no monetary loss. The Chazon Ish and Igros Moshe come to the same conclusion that it is forbidden to lie even in the case where it would not cause monetary damage.

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 LYaakov, Perek Heh, amud ayin gimmel says that it would be permitted based on the above YerushalmiReb 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!

Do you have a topic or discussion you want to read about? Please send comments or questions to hymanbsdhevens@gmail.com or berachsteinfeldscorner@gmail.com

1 COMMENT

  1. There is a famous story with Rav Aharon Kotler z”l, when he saw that a piece of material produced to solicit funds for his yeshiva had a depiction of the property/campus that was not accurate (I think a tree was added where one did not exist), he objected and had it pulled (removed).

    That is a maaseh rav, where we see practically how such a matter is viewed by one of the gedolim (it is strongly rejected!).

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