We interface this week in the Torah portion that immediately follows the Ten Commandments with scores of new Mitzvoth (religious obligations) that send home the message that the Decalogue is inadequate to comprise anywhere fully God’s legislative enterprise for a society that is continuously challenged to embark on its own path of holiness.
One of these Mitzvoth, “Do distance yourself from anything that is falsehood” (Exodus 23:7), is the only one among the 613 Mitzvoth that calls upon us to proactively avoid coming anywhere near to what is deceitful, which is more stringent than merely refraining from lying.
But when you tell the truth, you never have to repent or regret it, and you do not need even to remember what you said and to whom, as it will never hunt or haunt you down as lying would.
It did hurt Jacob, who impersonated his older twin brother Esau in order to receive (thus deceive) the birthright blessing from his father Isaac, even when Jacob could have justified to himself resorting to such an action. But Jacob would in turn be tricked by Laban (his father-in-law) ,who hinted when answering Jacob’s question: “Why did you deceive me?” (by substituting Rachel with Leah) that he knew of Jacob’s deception back home in Canaan.
Jacob’s deception of father Isaac by providing him with kid-goats delicacies (as though he was Esau with his venison dish) would be returned to him when his own sons – validating the truism of what goes around comes around – would use the same animal for deceiving him about Joseph’s fate when they sent for him his beloved son’s shredded tunic which they dipped in kid-goat’s blood.
And very recently and sadly so we witnessed this biblical veracity replayed when Lance Armstrong, the (so we had thought) legendary cyclist was deprived of all of his accomplishments because “I used drugs. Everything was one big lie... I did not tell the truth all these years … I am paying a heavy price that I deserve to pay…”
The rule of thumb then is if you have any doubt whether you should lie for a “good” cause (both Jacob and Lance did) -- unless it is to save a life or preserve peace and harmony in one’s household -- then there should be no doubt!