[Note: Written in response to a Reader's Letter about
teachers aiding their students to "up their scores" by
cheating on tests.]
I was reading a biography written by the daughter of a man
who quite obviously learned a lot of Torah and lived a life
devoted to HaShem and His mitzvos. The book was
published by one of the "Big Three" frum
I was very surprised to see the much-beloved father portrayed
as driving a government car to do mitzvos when, due to
gas rationing, it was strictly forbidden by his host
government to drive anywhere unless it was specifically
necessary for his profession. Later in the book, I was again
surprised to read of this very observant man walking into an
unoccupied stateroom on a ship in order to look around with
his daughter, without first even trying to ask permission
from someone to enter the room.
We live our lives according to a Higher Authority. And when
the Laws of that Authority are contradicted by general
society, we, of course, abide with HaShem's instructions. But
that does not mean that we are above the prevailing law of
any land. And it certainly does not mean that we can ignore
the secular law, or only pay attention to it when it suits
our mood. One would think that dina d'malchusa dina
(the halachic imperative to follow the laws of the prevailing
government), already clarified that.
It is more than double-parking on a busy street — the
selfish inconsideration of that act is blatantly obvious to
everyone except the self-centered person who is doing it. And
it is more than waiting for the traffic light to turn green
before crossing the street even though no cars are coming
through the intersection.
Maybe we're told to keep very very far away from non-truths
because not being truthful can become habit-forming, and
perhaps it also gradually changes us as a person as we become
used to doing X or Y and/or ignoring Z . Of course, this is
in addition to the fact that any sort of cheating or lying
for one's own personal gain displays a tremendous lack of
faith in Hashem, as well as providing a gargantuan
possibility for chillul Hashem. Cheating, after all,
is just a variation of lying.
Take someone who cheats on his income tax. "It's not hurting
anyone," he says. "The government taxes us too much, anyway,"
or, "Everyone does it." (As if that was an excuse for
anything!). But doesn't such an action show that we think
that we, rather than HaKodesh Boruch Hu, are in control of
our financial assets? How can we think that we'll diminish
the funds we have at our disposal, if we know that we're
doing the right thing? Or, conversely, can we conceivably
believe that we can possibly increase our assets if we do
something wrong? Don't we trust that Hashem is overseeing
It's like cheating on a test in school. Doesn't this reflect
a tremendous lack of emunah and bitochon, in
addition to all of the other prohibitions involved? Dina
d'malchusa dina, stealing the teacher's mind, putting a
stumbling block in front of the other children, etc.
That a child somehow neglected to "pick up" in his or her
family that "getting ahead at any price" is not the Torah
way, is bad enough. But how is it possible that a teacher
could actually ignore cheating?!! Or, G-d forbid,even seem to
condone or encourage such behavior?! For what? So that her
class might get higher scores on some test or another that is
ultimately irrelevant? As if any such thing could justify
using means that are contrary to Torah and mitzvos!
This is education? Impossible!!
If a teacher wants to help a student who works hard but just
doesn't do well on tests, or who might not get into an
appropriate high school without better grades, there are many
kosher ways to do this, such as giving extra credit for
writing additional reports or for class participation.
But, when giving a test, how is it possible for anyone to
think that by "looking the other way" he or she will not
remain culpable in training a child in the way the student
should NOT be going? Can anyone seriously not realize that by
not preventing cheating on a test, s/he is training a new
generation to cheat and lie in life? As well as teaching that
Hashem doesn't see everything we do — or else that we
can outsmart Him, and get more than we deserve, even if we
are using unkosher means!
Would anyone want to let our children think that there are
times that Hashem doesn't care what we do? Or that He doesn't
mind how we do what we do?
Can anyone doubt that by condoning cheating s/he is providing
the antithesis of a true Jewish education? And can anyone
imagine that by even making it easier for a person to cheat
s/he is doing anything less than what is forbidden?
Keeping very, very far away from falsehood has many
ramifications. It behooves all of us to remember to examine
and analyze all of our actions in the light of the Torah, and
not to allow extraneous "reasons" to impinge on the Truth of
Especially if that person is a teacher of our children!