This Shabbos we read Parshas Mishpatim. In the Parsha we read the mitzvah of Midvar Sheker Tirchak – to stay away from saying a lie (Exodus 23:7). The commentaries point out the unusual wording used by the Torah in this prohibition – instead of just telling us that we may not say a lie, the Torah tells us to stay away from a lie. This is mean to show us that it is not enough to simply say that we won’t lie. The challenges that come up to keep on saying the truth are so great that sooner or later we will fall. We have to avoid even coming anywhere near a situation that will push us to lie. In the famous work Pelah Yoetz, the author advises us that even if we feel that we will have embarrassment by telling the truth, we must realize that this is less than the embarrassment that we will have in the world to come if we lie. He adds that a sinner once came to a wise man and asked him for advise how he could overcome his many temptations. He answered that he should make just one commitment – to always tell the truth. Since he was sincere about this one commitment, he found himself avoiding all sin, so he would never have to lie about what he did.

The commentaries tell us that not only do our words have to be truthful. Even our nuances, our gestures and hints must be truthful. If we nod our head to indicate yes, shake it to indicate no, or motion in any other way, it must be truthful. The famous sage Rabbi Akiva Eiger once responded in a letter to a question posed to him from another country: “I would like you to know that I generally do not respond to questions that are sent to me from outside my district, as you have your own Rabbis who can answer your questions. However, in this instance I will answer. Why? I recently attended an affair and a member of your community asked me to respond to your question. I remained quite, but I fear that I may have nodded my head slightly and given the impression that I agreed to respond to your question. That is why this time, I will respond to your question”…

When a king chooses a symbol to serve as his signet, it is because this symbol represents something very valuable and special to him. The Talmud tells us that the Almighty chose truth to be His signet. Obviously, the message is that truth is a value that the Almighty holds very dear. This is why the Torah is so strong in telling us not just to tell the truth, but to stay away – to distance ourselves from lies. In truth this is necessary for our very belief in Hashem. When a person detests falsehood, and only seeks to live with truth, they will be unable to allow themselves to live with anything but belief in the Almighty. Living with only truth is the gateway to live a life that is not only ethical to other people, but is honest in our relationship to Hashem.