The greatest lie

Some would say that there is no Noahide commandment prohibiting lying. They are wrong in two very serious ways.

On one level, it should be known that the seven commandments, the core of them, refer to crimes that would make a person liable to the death penalty if a person broken one of them, serious sins. But the seven are each like roots and trunks of seven great trees of law, with many branches, many details that show us what is wrong without the treat of death. Each law is like a category of many sub-laws and lying is where blasphemy and theft kind of overlap. The law of blasphemy has details involving oaths, keeping one’s word, and thus truthfulness, respecting God by upholding truth. The law against theft has laws against dishonesty in business transactions and damages against property and a person. If you really think about the depth of each law, you will see that it is forbidden for a gentile to lie, even if we don’t have to be in fear of the death penalty.

But on a deeper level, there is a certain type of lie that every person, every Noahide, has to run away from.

I was thinking about the law of theft and its core meaning, having to do with ownership and taking something that’s not yours. Reading Rabbi Yirmeyahu Bindman’s book, “The Seven Colors of the Rainbow,” you see that since God made us in his image, we too can be like him when it comes to owning things, having mastery over his creation, what he puts in our hands.

But then what is theft? Whether intentional or not, it’s where you look at someone else’s stuff and say “that’s mine!” It’s where a person thinks that their mastery domain covers more than it really does. It is a form of self-deception,­ but it’s not the only form. Think about it. Who ultimately gives us what we have and what other people possess? God! So when we over-extend our mastery and encroach on someone else’s territory, we aren’t just invading the other person’s rights. In your actions you are saying, “God, I know better than you! This is mine, even if you say it’s theirs!” A thief is someone who basically slaps off the hands of everyone, including God, to get what he wants. He has the biggest self-deception,­ the greatest lie: he puts himself above God.

And how is that any different from when we break any of God’s other commandments? When we break God’s law, we are, by our actions saying, “I’m in charge, not God! I do what I want and my desire is greater than God’s Law, God’s Word … my desire is greater than God!” The greatest lie!

What do you think?



  1. Lying can be equated with stealing, stealing from a person’s mind by hiding from the person the truth.

    • Halakhically, lying on its own is not theft as theft involves taking or withholding physical ownable property from the person to whom it rightfully belongs. So although it’s philosophically nice to equate lying with theft, halakhically what you state is not the case.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: