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There's a general prohibition for a Jew to lie, except for specific situations such as Darchei Shalom ("to promote peace".)

"To Tell the Truth" is an old / revived U.S. television game show where 3 contestants appear before a panel. All 3 contestants attempt to claim that they are a specific person. Only one of the three is the actual person and the other two are impostors. (I.e., they lie and try to mislead the panel into thinking that they are the real person.)

Since the rules of the game are known in advance, and the panel expects that two of the people will lie, would a Jew be allowed to be one of the impostors on this show? Or, is this still considered a prohibition of lying?

  • Please provide your sources for "There's a general prohibition for a Jew to lie", I'm not aware of such a general prohibition. – Al Berko Sep 24 '19 at 12:46
  • @Al לא תשקרו in Parshas Kedoshim, and מדבר שקר תרחק in Mishpatim. Also various Gemaras which have to specify in which cases lying is permitted (ex. Yevamos 65b, BM 24a). – DonielF Sep 24 '19 at 18:23
  • @DonielF Well thank you, I meant it didn't make it into our Halacha, did it? – Al Berko Sep 24 '19 at 18:24
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    I would speculate that in a pre-defined game it should be allowed as in any agreed upon contract. Let's ask something outrageous - can a rabbi make a multiple choices exam offering false answers? Can a basketball player make deceiving moves? Etc. As long as the behavior is agreed upom it would be surely allowed. – Al Berko Sep 24 '19 at 18:30
  • @Al As in, is it quoted in Shulchan Aruch? YD 402:12 rules that while there’s no obligation to tell someone a relative died, it’s a violation of מדבר שקר תרחק to tell him he’s alive if asked. – DonielF Sep 24 '19 at 18:36
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The Sources say that you may lie to

-save a life [Yoma 84b],

-keep the peace [Yevamot 65b; also Bava Metzia 87a],

-make people feel good [Ketubot 16b-17a],

-appear humble and modest [Bava Metzia 23b-24a], and

-protect yourself from loss or harm [Mishna Nedarim 27b-28a; Sotah 41b; Yevamot 65b and 63a; Sukkah 46b].

In all other situations, lying is forbidden, from the Torah:

Keep far away from a false matter. [Ex. 23:7]

It does not look like you can make your scenario fit in any of these categories -- unless you can argue that you are not really lying when you play a game. (Is it lying in poker when you make a face that does not match your cards?)

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  • Not to dismiss what you have listed. However, perhaps if someone expects and gives you permission to lie in order to play the game, this may not really be "lying". – DanF Sep 24 '19 at 15:14
  • That's what I said near the end. – Maurice Mizrahi Sep 24 '19 at 16:36
  • Personally, I would recommend not to jump into conclusions based on the Torah text alone - maybe the Sages saw it differently. "lying is forbidden, from the Torah" - you have to support it with Halachic sources - Rambam, Shu"A, etc. – Al Berko Sep 24 '19 at 18:26
  • @AlBerko -- The Sages DID "see it differently" -- witness all the exceptions I listed. (I am not aware of more exceptions, by the way. If you are, please post.) – Maurice Mizrahi Sep 24 '19 at 20:02
  • That's your conclusion (very logical, I agree, and many would agree with you). However, I'd like to point out that it is dangerous to jump into Halachic conclusions basing solely on Biblical sources. You would want to check it first with the conventional Halachic sources. On the other hand, if Rambam and Shu"A don't prohibit it why would you? – Al Berko Sep 24 '19 at 20:11

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