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Say that a Jew is speaking with another Jew and trying to convince them they should be more observant. During his argument, he states that his life has improved tremendously since he became more observant and he cites this as evidence of how being an observant Jew benefits one's life.

Two questions regarding this scenario:

  1. If the Jew's life actually didn't improve in an obvious way after he became observant, is that considered a lie? (This specific Jew never actually did see his life change in an obvious way. He simply became observant. So is he lying by saying this?)

  2. If you were honest and stated that you didn't actually notice any difference in your life after you became observant, is that doing a disservice to Hashem while being truthful? (In this case, being honest means saying that being observant didn't come with an obvious perk that convinces the non-observant Jew otherwise)

We aren't supposed to lie. That being said, is lying for the sake of Hashem and to promote a positive life change for a fellow Jew considered a positive act? Or does it tarnish the act by establishing it on a foundation of lies?

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A Jew should tell the truth, as the Torah writes (Shemot 23:7): "stay away from falsehood". There is a small list of situations where one might "dance around the truth" to e.g., promote peace, practice humility (e.g., arguing one doesn't know something) or to protect someone from embarrassment. See a good list here including limitations of this approach. Note lying to promote an observant lifestyle or to "help Hashem" is not on the list.

So Hashem doesn't need our lies to promote a religious lifestyle. However one might need to learn to appreciate the benefits of increased observance so one can describe them. Noticing those and speaking about them should be enough without the need to resort to lies. In a small but powerful book (What's the Purpose?) based on the Ramchal and R Dessler, R Hillel Rotenberg lists a number of them

  • Faith in the master of universe endows a person with a feeling of calm. A religious Jew knows he is in good hands
  • Living according to the Torah helps to control anger and negative emotions and creates more happiness
  • To pray before the creator of the world is an awesome experience
  • Torah study (delving into a complicated topic, coming up with novel explanations) is a great pleasure
  • Shabbat is a unique opportunity to step away from daily routine, spend time with family, friends and community, strengthen ourselves spiritually

So by "expanding the aperture", one should have plenty of benefits to describe.

PS. I hope the above doesn't come across as "preachy" - it was not the intent.

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There is no doubt that being observant benefits one's life tremendously. For example, if one properly observes Shabbos (Shabbat), one is free of stress. All enterprising activity is considered completed. There is nothing further to do during Shabbat. It becomes a time for family, relaxation and Torah. Mundane pursuits no longer matter. Shabbat is similar to embarking on a journey at sea. [Kohelet Rabba 1:36]. Once the land disappears, so does the possibility of involvement with all the uncompleted tasks left behind. Everything will have to wait until one returns. Further, upon returning, somehow the tasks left behind are not quite as critical as they seemed before the journey. However, if one just became observant, or if one never learned to block out weekday distractions, Shabbat is not going to be a delight, but may even feel confining, where one struggles with feeling compelled to wash a car, fix a cabinet, buy shoes, research a new investment, text an acquaintance, or any other one of a myriad of tasks that are beckoning. Therefore, unless one has reached the level of appreciation that Torah observance brings, it is absolutely wrong to pretend otherwise, for at least eight reasons:

  1. Mitzvah habah b’avayra. If one transgresses in order to perform a mitzvah, it is considered as though the mitzvah is not accomplished. [Suca 30a].
  2. Ayn omrim chayt kday sheyizke chavayro. One may not transgress in order to confer merit on his friend. [Shabbos 4a].
  3. If one does not notice an improvement in an obvious way, saying that it did, is lying. Falsehood is measured by an objective standard [Shavuos 39a].
  4. At the same time, stating that one has not actually noticed a difference, should also not be said. Such a comment would be from a unripe perspective, before developing appreciation. It is not well thought out and needlessly discouraging. Observance by itself, is not an ends, but a means. The mitzvos would not be given, but for people to be refined by them. [Bereshis Rabba, 44:1]. Observance often begins with ulterior motives, i.e, shlo lishma. The purity of intent comes later. As the Talmud states in several places, “A person should always engage in Torah and mitzvos, even shlo lishma, because out of (observing) shlo lishma, one will eventually (observe) lishma.” [Berachos 17a; Pesachim 50b; Sanhedrin 105a; Arachin 16b; Nazir 23b; Sota 22b, 47a; Horayos 10b].
  5. It is prohibited to mislead any human being. [Berachos 9a; Chulin 94a].
  6. This is the punishment of a liar: Even when he speaks truthfully, nobody listens to him. [Sanhedrin 89b].
  7. Kiruv (drawing another close) is not one of the very few exceptions for slightly altering one’s words. [Bava Metzia 23b].
  8. Last but not least, pretending to have a superior lifestyle is the essence of hypocrisy. One who steals a measure of wheat, grinds it, bakes it and pronounces a blessing over it, is not a blessing, but revilement. [Bava Kamma 94a].

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