Shavuos 28 - 34
Two Lines of Lying
It is not sufficient to avoid telling an outright lie. The Torah (Shmos 23:7) insists that "you must distance yourself from falsehood." What are the examples of outright lying and only keeping a safe distance?
|A teacher tells his disciple: "You know that I would never lie even if they gave me a fortune of a hundred weights of silver. Reuven owes me some money and I only have one witness to testify in my behalf. I want you to testify as a second witness based on your confidence in me that I am telling the truth."
If the disciple testifies as requested he is guilty of an outright lie and has transgressed the Torah prohibition against bearing false witness.
|A teacher tells his disciple: "I have only one witness to prove my claim. All I ask of you is to stand next to him in court so that Reuven will assume that you are also a witness and he will be intimidated into admitting his guilt."
If the disciple does as requested, even though he has not uttered one word of untruth, he is guilty of not distancing himself from falsehood.
Case of the Cane
A case come before the Sage Rava in which the borrower claimed he had paid the creditor his entire debt and Rava instructed him to take an oath to verify his claim. Unknown to the court the borrower put the contested sum of money into a hollow cane which he used to support himself. When the time came to swear he asked the creditor to hold his cane for him while he took a Sefer Torah in his arms for the purpose of taking an oath. The creditor became so incensed to hear him brazenly swear that he had given him the money in question that he angrily smashed the cane. As the money came pouring out it became clear to the court that this had been a clever subterfuge to lie about repayment without actually swearing falsely, because he had indeed given the creditor the contested sum of money.
In truth, however, he was guilty of taking a false oath. When the court orders a litigant to take an oath he is specifically informed that the oath is in accordance with the court's understanding and not what he is thinking at the moment of oath-taking.
- Shavuos 29a