Let My People Know

"What the Talmud is all about"

“There was a certain tzaddik — a righteous person and leader of a hassidic group — who lived in the city of Bershad, in the Ukraine.

(This city still exists, but no Jews live there today.)

The most important thing in this man’s life and worship of God was truth.

He was loyal to the truth to such an extent that when, for instance, he would enter his home while outside it would be pouring, and someone would ask him:

Is it raining outside?

He would reply:

I don’t know; but a moment before I entered the house, it was.

The very last problem that he encountered in his life was as follows:

A certain Jew was accused of some serious offense, and if he were to be found guilty, he would have had to suffer grave punishment.

The judge said that if this rabbi, who never told a lie in his life, would attest to that person’s innocence, he would release him.

Consequently, the rabbi was torn between two considerations.

On the one hand, how could he say something that was not 100% true?

On the other, how could he be an agent in bringing harm to a person’s life?

He asked God to solve this dilemma for him.

That night, he died.

What would any one of you do when faced with a similar situation?

That is food for thought.

It may not be exactly a Talmudic problem, but this, in a sense, is what the Talmud is all about.”

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “The Pursuit of Truth” an lecture by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz delivered at a girls’ school in Kiev.