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Meditations for the Month of Elul....
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Elul and Teshuvah >>

The Importance of Truth

Teshuvah and Moral Courage...

The following entry discusses the nature of repentance. It's my hope that this will encourage you to "return to the LORD and listen to His Voice" (Deut. 30:2).

"Many people love falsehood and only a few love truth. For it is possible to love falsehood truly, but it is impossible to love truth falsely" (R' Yaakov of Pshischa). May the LORD God of truth (יהוה אֵל אֱמֶת) help us to love truth truly, then, with all our hearts, since love and truth characterize God's rule: As it is written, "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and truth go before you" (Psalm 89:14).

אֱמֶת מֵאֶרֶץ תִּצְמָח
 וְצֶדֶק מִשָּׁמַיִם נִשְׁקָף

e·met · me·e·retz · titz·mach
ve·tze·dek · mi·sha·ma·yim · nish·kaf

"Truth springs up from the ground,
 and righteousness looks down from the heavens"
(Psalm 85:11)



Truth springs up everywhere; righteousness shines down over all the earth. This primarily concerns the sacrificial work of the Messiah, of which it is rightly said: "Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other" (Psalm 85:10). Because of the great reconciliation we have through Yeshua, the truth of God shall prevail among men. The "Seed" that was planted in Zion and becomes a Tree of Life throughout all the earth. "Deliverance goes before the LORD, and prepares a pathway for Him" (Psalm 85:13).

We have a moral imperative, given by God Himself, to receive the truth and to live according to the nature of spiritual reality. Those who reject or suppress the truth, however, are responsible for their actions, as it is written, "No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes" (Psalm 101:7).

יהוה מִי־יָגוּר בְּאָהֳלֶךָ מִי־יִשְׁכּן בְּהַר קָדְשֶׁךָ
הוֹלֵךְ תָּמִים וּפעֵל צֶדֶק וְדבֵר אֱמֶת בִּלְבָבוֹ

Adonai · mi · ya·gur · be·a·ho·le·kha · mi · yish·kon · be·har · kod·she·kha
ho·lekh · ta·mim · u·fo·el · tze·dek · ve·do·ver · e·met · bil·va·vo

"O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth within his heart."
(Psalm 15:1-2)


Note that the word tamim, translated "blamelessly," might better be rendered "perfectly," that is, complete in all its parts; where no part is missing. The person who walks perfectly, then, means one who is wholehearted in their faith and trust.... Note that this person does what is right – that is, practices tzedakah and performs good deeds; he uses the "good eye" to bless others. Speaking truth "within the heart" is critical since it implies that the person is sincere, honest, without ulterior motives, and so on... He is a "true" person with a heart that can be trusted. The phrase also implies the person is free from self-deception or the need to pretend to be something he isn't.

The Hebrew word for truth (i.e., emet: אֱמֶת) is composed of the first, middle, and last letters of the alphabet, whereas the three letters that spell "falsehood" (i.e., sheker: שׁקר) stand next to one another. Truth creates a firm foundation, secure, strong, and trustworthy, while falsehood is unstable... As it is written, "truth stands forever, falsehood has no legs."

We are commanded to keep distant from falsehood (Exod. 23:7; Prov. 4:24). People often lie when they want to manipulate reality to serve their desires. In that sense the lie is similar to lust, since lust seeks its own inner satisfaction regardless of the moral duty of the moment... Lying is also like stealing, since it reports reality to be something it isn't, and that difference robs another person of what is needed to navigate their lives properly... "A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech" (Prov. 6:12). Truth is the foundation of reality, and lying is therefore a form of denial of reality – a dangerous denial - since reality invariably proves self-authenticating (John 3:18). "The lip of truth will stand forever; but a lying tongue is but for a moment" (Prov. 12:19).

It requires moral courage to speak the truth to others... A hypocrite is one who wears a mask, who pretends to think or feel one thing when he really thinks or feels something else. The law, "you must not set a stumblingblock before the blind" (Lev. 19:14) includes the implication that you must not hide part of your intention while giving someone advice or when offering someone a benefit. It is important to understand that a sin of omission regarding speaking the truth is as serious as practicing deceit itself. (On the other hand, every bride and newborn is beautiful, regardless of conventional perceptions, and there are times when we might be constrained to lie for the sake of preserving life; for example, responding "no" to the question, "are there any Jews hiding in your house?" when indeed a Jewish family was knowingly concealed in the attic during the time of WWII. In that sense we note the connection between the word "truth" and "trustworthiness").

The lie is a type of violence. Martin Buber once said, "What is accomplished through lies can assume the mask of truth; what is accomplished through violence can go in the guise of justice, and for a while the hoax may be successful. But soon people realize that lies are lies at bottom, that violence is violence - and that both lies and violence will suffer the destiny history has in store for all that is false."

"There are many ways to offend against the truth. One way is to deny it: the way of the liar. Another way is to keep silent when the truth should be spoken: the way of the coward. At the other end is the cruel use of the truth - pointing out failure when silence is the way of honor, or by distorting 'little truths' for the sake of a supposed capital "T" truth, that is, lying for the sake of an ideology or dogma: the way of the politician" (John Cogley).

Being honest with ourselves is absolutely essential for any sort of authentic spiritual life... "No person is saved except by grace; but there is one sin that makes grace impossible, and that is dishonesty; and there is one thing God must forever and unconditionally require, and that is honesty" (Kierkegaard). Confession means "saying the same thing" about ourselves that God says - and that means not only acknowledging our various sins, transgressions, and iniquities, but also affirming our new identity as the beloved children of God. Saying that God doesn't love you is a lie as damning as denying His very existence...

May God help us never to "trifle" with Him, to play "religious games," and thereby fool ourselves... "God chose you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth (πίστει ἀληθείας) - 2 Thess. 2:13. It is the truth that sets us free, and for the truth Yeshua gave Himself up for us: "For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world -- to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice" (John 18:37). May it please the LORD our God to fill us with the Spirit of Truth and to help us be honest with ourselves at all times. Amen.

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