I share Erica Brown’s outrage at the state of the world (“A Place Called Honesty” 11/25/11), but I am uncomfortable with her reference to the story in the Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 97b). It is a wonderful morality tale for a group of four-year-olds. These are the stories that we tell children to give them the basic understanding of the consequences of our acts. Morality, however, is more complicated than that. If it were not, there would have been no need for commentaries, and commentaries upon commentaries through the ages. Joseph Zabara (a satirist, poet, and physician in13th century Spain) said, “A lie may be forgiven in three cases only: in war as a stratagem; when you make peace between others; and if a husband propitiates [appeases – ed.] his wife.” That’s quite a broad spectrum!
Here in Wayne, we have high school football players who allegedly witnessed a terrible beating. We are told that they are afraid to step forward. The legal questions will be sorted out by the police and the judicial system. The moral question for the witnesses, their parents, and their friends, is about lies of omission. I’d like to see that addressed in The Jewish Standard by our area rabbis, based on Jewish texts, taking into account fear of reprisals, the ages of the witnesses, the role of the parents, and peer pressure. Jewish law addresses real world issues, and should serve as a basis for our moral understanding and actions. Elementary school stories are not sufficient.