Ethics

For the week ending 8 September 2012 / 20 Elul 5772

"Did You Come to Visit Me?"

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: I recently went to the hospital to visit a close friend and after I left him learned that another friend was hospitalized as well. When I went to his room he beamed with joy and asked me if I had come especially to visit him. What is the right thing to do in such a case?

Answer: While it is forbidden to deceive outright the one you did not really come to visit, there are two things you can do. One is to avoid answering the question and allow the asker to misinterpret your silence as an affirmative reply. If this is difficult, you can diplomatically reply that he is certainly worthy enough for one to take the trouble to come and visit him. This too fits into the formula presented by the Talmud (Mesechta Chullin 94) for avoiding a direct deception but allowing for self-delusion.

It should also be noted that if the patient is seriously ill and a "white lie" that you intentionally came to visit him will bring him the comfort that can improve his condition, then it is permissible to deviate from the truth if the other options are not feasible.

  • Based on the ruling of Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, rabbi of the Ramat Elchanan community in Bnei Brak.

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