Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Kislev 5766 - December 21, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Home and Family

Truth to Tell
by Tzvia Ehrlich-Klein

[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 publishers.

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 everything?

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 HaShem's ways.

Especially if that person is a teacher of our children!


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