When is it appropriate to lie?

By Rabbi Mendy Piekarski

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“Rabbi, my child goes to school, where there are various influences with beliefs that are different from my religion. When would it be appropriate for my child to “lie” about her beliefs in order to keep her friendships? When should she stand up for her beliefs?” To address the question, I would like to share the following story: A few years ago, I was a counselor in an overnight camp in upstate New York, for a group of boys who were about 12 years old. One of the boys in my bunk was from Northern California, and went to public school. Over the few weeks of camp, we talked about how he felt about his Jewish background. He mentioned a few times that he was never too proud about it, as he didn’t want to stand out from the rest of his friends and possibly lose friendships. Towards the end of camp, after having a lot of fun with other Jewish children, he decided he is going to try something different about his Judaism when returning home. As it got closer to the holiday of Chanukah, he asked the teacher one day after class if he could share with his class the story of Chanukah. The teacher responded in the affirmative. When Chanukah arrived, he decided to wear his Kippah and Tzitzit to school. All his friends were asking him, “Why are you wearing that cap on your head?” He responded, “Just wait and see.” In the middle of class, the Teacher called him up and introduced him to share the story of Chanukah to the class “The story of Chanukah is about how a small nation was persecuted because of their different beliefs,” he said. “They weren’t allowed to celebrate their holidays simply because they were different. Throughout all the years of history, my nation has been persecuted, yet we always stand strong. My family and ancestry never gave in to the persecution and that is why I am here today wearing my Kippah and Tzitzit. I am carrying on the tradition that my family has held onto and been proud of for thousands of years.” The class gave him a round of applause. After class, everyone came over to him to wish him well done. He felt supported and respected by his friends that he decided to start wearing his Kippah and Tzitzit to school every day. So, to answer the question about saying an “untruth” to keep friendships, I think when a child is proud of their heritage, it will create a sense of respect from others. Of course, this will only occur if the child is respectful of their friends’ beliefs, as well. We thank G-D every day that we live in a country that is supportive of everyone living with their religious beliefs freely and in the open. Here are a few questions that I would like to invite you to think about: •What ideas and beliefs do I encounter that are different from my own? •How do I usually react when encountered with friends who express those ideas? •Do I accept them for their different beliefs? Am I proud to share my beliefs? Please feel free to express your thoughts and any follow-up questions by emailing: RabbiMendyPiekarski@gmail.com. The Chabad of Topanga is located at 1459 Old Topanga Canyon Road, Topanga, CA 90290; (310) 455-1597.

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