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Is it mutar to lie if telling the truth will embarrass yourself? For example, if Reuven asks Shimon if he went to minyan, and Reuven says yes because he doesn’t want to embarrass himself and give a bad impression (since he actually didn’t go to minyan), is that ok?

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    Something similar is in Bava Metzia 23b the Rav Yehuda says in the name of Shmuel that there are three things that Rabanan would be able to lie about. One of them is about "bed". Tosfos says the case is where you're a baal keri and when they ask you why didn't you come to the bais medrash today, you would say you're sick or something. But it sounds like its more about tznius than embarrassment. Mar 2, 2023 at 19:25
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    Lies like this are going to come back and bite you later. People saw whether you were at minyan or not. Bava Metzia's case is something deeply private.
    – Shalom
    Mar 3, 2023 at 1:20
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    It’s not clear cut. halachipedia.com/index.php?title=Prohibition_to_Lie#cite_ref-67 See footnote 67
    – Chatzkel
    Jun 2, 2023 at 20:49

4 Answers 4

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Bereshit Rabba 100:9 in parsha Vayechi says:

"The brothers said to Bilha, whom Yosaif considered like his mother since she had raised him, "Go to Yosaif and tell him, "Your father commanded before his death that you be told, "Please forgive the sin of your brothers!" Although Ya'akov had said no such thing before his death, the brothers were justified in making this statement since it is permissible to relay a false report for the sake of peace"

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  • Why is lying in order not to be embarrassed in front of others, considered relaying a false report for "the sake of peace"? Jun 2, 2023 at 21:59
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See the gemara in Bava Metzia 23b which talks about certain things that Talmidei Chachamim are משנו במלייהו. One of the things in the gemara is פוריא, which Rashi there explains, that if they were asked if they had ביאה the previous night, he should say "no", even if they did.

Tosfos argues on Rashi, because it's not common that a Talmid Chacham would be asked such a question, by their colleague. Rather, Tosfos explains that the case is if the Rebbe was a בעל קרי and didn't come to the Beis Medresh and his talmidim ask him why he didn't come, he should say he was sick instead of saying he was a בעל קרי. Alternatively, Tosfos answers, if his talmidim ask him if he slept on a particular bed, he should not say "yes", because perhaps they will see קרי on the bed and he will be disgraced.

בפוריא - אין רגילות שישאלוהו כפירוש רש"י אם שימש מטתו אלא אם בעל קרי היה ולא בא לבית המדרש ושאלוהו למה לא בא ישנה ויאמר שחולה היה או שאר אונס אירע לו אי נמי שאלוהו שכבת על מטה זו לא יאמר לו כן פן יראה בה קרי ויתגנה.

I don't know for sure if this is applicable to non-Talmidei Chachamim as well, feel free to do your own research. Hopefully this will open up the sugya for everyone!

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In halacha, you may not testify for or against yourself [Sanh. 9b–10a; Yev. 25b]: "A person cannot render himself wicked". So, in your example, the subject is not allowed to tell the truth. But is he allowed to lie? The Sources allow you to lie to avoid loss or harm. The Mishnah explains:

One may tell murderers, plunderers, and [corrupt] tax collectors that the produce they wish to steal is terumah, even if it is not terumah, or that the property they wish to seize belongs to the Royal House, even if it does not. [Mishnah, Nedarim 27b-28a]

Rabbi Shim’on ben Pazzi said: “One may flatter wicked people in this world.” [Sotah 41b]

I would conclude that you may lie in this case.

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  • I wonder if this would apply to not going to shul, which isn't necessarily "rendering oneself wicked"? Embarrassment might be linked to loss or harm but would be nice to see some responsa that agrees with your points
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 2, 2023 at 17:45
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    "A person cannot render himself wicked" seems like more of a rule of evidence admissibility and not a literal prohibition.
    – Double AA
    Mar 2, 2023 at 22:34
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Chapter 1 Mishna 12 פרק א משנה יב Hillel and Shammai received from them. Hillel would say: Be of the disciples of Aharon, loving peace, pursuing peace, loving the public and drawing them closer to Torah.

Bartenura - "be of the disciples of Aharon.." - this is explained in Avot d'Rebbi Natan: "How would Aharon 'pursue peace'? When he saw two people in dispute, he would go to each one separately without the other's knowledge and say to him: "see how your fellow regrets and hits himself for having wronged you. He asked me to come to you so you would forgive him". Through this, next time they met, they would kiss each other.

Not saying that it's OK to lie, but here we see that a white lie could be a mitzvah in the correct context, as Aharon Hakohen would embelish the truth and fabricate stories in order to bring peace between 2 Jews.

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    The cases in which lying to your spouse is going to improve your relationship are ... few are far between. (There may be cases where it's best to say nothing -- that's different.)
    – Shalom
    Mar 3, 2023 at 11:58
  • Is it really a lie? Or did the person in their deep inside really wanted peace even if he didn't realize it?
    – mbloch
    Mar 4, 2023 at 18:03

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