The Ten Principles for America
The Ninth Commandment
“You shall not bare false witness against your fellow”. The Supreme Court of the United States of America in its “infinite wisdom” has come up with a split ruling against the display of the Ten Commandments in public. However, when all reference to God is being removed from the public square, it is still mandatory for witnesses appearing in a court of law, including the Supreme Court, to place one hand on the holy bible and is asked, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God”. The irony is unmistakable.
It is indeed extremely difficulty to know when someone is telling the truth. It is common practice for politicians to lie in order to obtain votes, and for sales men to be dishonest in order to acquire sales. At times, even pastors and preachers will not tell the truth in order to receive handsome offerings. It seems as if we live in a culture of moral relativism, and the truth as we know it is shaped by what seems to be best suited for our own purposes. The ninth commandment was given by God for one reason only – to protect the truth.
God does not want us only to tell the truth in the Court of law, but throughout and in every aspect of our daily work. No lies or spinning of the truth is allowed by God.
It seems in this pluralistic society that men, have very little regard for this principle given by God. Surveys demonstrate that over ninety percent of people lie everyday, many even more then once per day. It is unfortunate that being dishonest has become an expected form of communication.
The ninth commandment in addition to its literal meaning of false testimony in court also prohibits gossip and slander. The Sages apply it to prohibition of testimony even in cases in which a witness is convinced that an actual occurrence took place but did not see it happen. If someone’s testimony is based on knowledge given to him by a friend, even the closest friend, he cannot claim to be a witness.
As we learned in the previous essays, there is a parallel between the commandments on the first tablet and those that are on the second tablet and we demonstrated the relationship between the commandments in accordance of their positions on the tablets. For example, there is a parallel between the first and the sixth commandment, the second and the seventh, the third and the eighth, and like wise, the fourth commandment, “Remember the Sabbath Day to sanctify it”, and the ninth commandment “You shall not bare false witness against your fellow”.
The Sabbath is testimony that God created the world in six days; thus, one who lies in court may well come to deny God as the Creator. When we come to testify in a court of law, we come to either protect the reputation of a man of whom we have come to witness, or destroy his reputation. Life and death lies within the power of the tongue, and therefore telling the truth is the bases of moral and civil laws. Honoring and respecting the reputation of man is a derivative from honoring the reputation of God himself.
Dishonesty, exaggeration, half truth, false statements, evasion of truth, fallacies, ambiguities, manipulations, inventions, deceit, corruption, misrepresentation – all are included in the prohibition. Can we as human beings say to ourselves that we keep the ninth commandment in tact?. Unfortunately the answer is no, because society deems “white” lies as harmless. To lie in many ways is a sin more serious then stealing. Replacing a stolen object is always possible. However, a lie can generate injustice, distrust, damage and misery that could last a lifetime.
It is astonishing to find out that most lies are due to pride and convenience. Many people lie so easily and so often that they do not even consider telling the truth anymore. However, lies eventually are exposed and the truth always comes out. People lose all trust when they have been lied to, and eventually all communication that allows society to be unified is destroyed with very little possibility for restoration.