Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


Exceptions to the Golden Rules


As Jewish children, we were always taught to practice the ten commandments, to be honest and follow the straight and narrow path, accept the ten commandments and adhere to them, in addition to the edict to not steal or lie.  These rules were ingrained in each young one as soon as the individual could understand simple language and concepts.  There is a proverb which points to the reason why lying is detrimental:  “Wer einmal lugt dem glaubt man nicht und wenn er selbst die Wahrheit spricht.”  (He who lies once is never believed again, even if he tells the truth at another time).  As we know, we frequently do not tell an ugly person that he or she has those looks, we avoid hurting the feelings of fellow human beings.  To embarrass someone is a “Nevere” (sin) so we avoid talking about what the person cannot change.

There are exceptions to the edicts,  when lying is permissible, and we can avoid the truth and have little choice. This as Jewish people we learned.  We had to lie if we wanted to live when we were fleeing from the Nazis in Hitler’s Germany.  The Germans joyfully killed and or maimed anyone that had an iota of Jewish blood in him.  The majority of Jewish people could not hide their religion because the Germans kept intricate specifications of any one not an “arian” (a pure German).  The Nazis kept spotless records and prided themselves in their expertise.  These birth records were accompanied with descriptions of each Jewish individual.  These criminals took pride in alleging that the looks, manners, and attitudes of the victims were so different in every part of their appearance, behaviors, speech, and body build that they could be found instantly and the “pure” German had the right and responsibility of annihilating these “creatures,” these nonpersons  (They can be compared to the ISIS criminals of 2015 who joyfully cut off the heads of innocent human beings).

The lies that were created and utilized as described were insinuated into the  thoughts of young children, so that they felt delighted to leave out their aggression, and hostilities toward  their Jewish neighbors at an early age without guilt and without remorse.

Under the circumstances, was it any sin for the Jewish people to attempt to hide their religion?!  The very rare person that succeeded in hiding his identity was plagued by the fear of possibly being discovered and instantly being annihilated. The Nazis had no remorse for any atrocity.

We have learned much from history.  There are no absolutes!  There are times when reality must be considered.  We are a small minority in the world.  We have to make an effort to follow our humane and religious tenets, to practice as many as possible of the “caryagim mitzwot” (613 good deeds), avoid and defend ourselves against those who would destroy our  brethren and other fellow human beings. To live in Sholom (peace) is essential for all of humanity.


 Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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