In this week’s Parsha, Sarah heard the news that she would have a child. Her reaction was, “after I am worn out will I have clear skin and my husband is old?” G-d responded to Avraham critical of Sarah, “Why is this that Sarah laughed saying, ‘is it really true that I will give birth and I am old?’” However, that is not what Sarah thought to herself. Sarah did not only think to herself “and I am old”. Rather, she also thought to herself “is my husband old”. Why didn’t G-d accurately report Sarah’s comment to Avraham?
The Gemara makes note of this change and comments, “G-d changed the report of Sarah’s words for the sake of peace.” We learn from this that a person is permitted to tell a “white lie” for the purposes of peace – to suppress even a remote possibility of strife. We find this same idea regarding the death of Aharon. The Torah states, “The entire House of Israel mourned for Aharon.” Aharon was popular because he attempted to make peace between quarreling couples and quarreling friends. Aharon would tell the one person, “He feels bad for what he said.” The he would tell the other party involved, “he feels bad for what he said.” In that way – by telling a “white lie”, Aharon made peace between people.
A lesson that the Torah is teaching us is “not everything that is said needs to be heard.” Before speaking, we must consider potential ramifications of our words. Will anybody be hurt by what I say?
Our main prayer – the Shmone Esrai ends with the bracha of shalom – peace. The blessing of the Kohanim ends with peace. The Talmud ends with the idea of peace. The reason is obvious – peace is a necessary ingredient in order to make progress in the world and in one’s life. Without peace, life is trying and the world’s survival is challenged – recycling, climate change and global warming are not the most important world issues.
The world was created with peace. In the account of Creation, Rashi explains the word “שמים – heaven” – as a contraction of two words, Aish and mayim – fire and water. G-d made peace – so to speak - between the fire and water and created heaven. Rabbi Juzint zt”l explained the phrase said during the prayer for the sick – “a complete cure from Heaven” – that we ask G-d, “just as You made peace between the fire and water and made the heaven, so should You make peace among the limbs of the person and restore his/her health.
Our Rabbis teach us that for the sake of peace one can - so-to-speak- stretch the truth because peace is that important. The Torah goes out of its way to teach us that even G-d stretched matters in order to prevent dispute and discord. One of our goals is to imitate the ways of G-d. As my father likes to say, “A closed mouth gathers no feet.” A closed mouth can also bring harmony.