The Rav replies, “Israel.”
“And did you pack your bags yourself?” she asks.
“No,” responds the Rav.
The ticket-agent continues, “and were these bags with—wait you didn’t pack the bags?”
“No,” the Rav answers once again.
“Were you there when they were packed?”
Now the ticket-agent seems flustered, “who packed them?”
“I’m assuming a family member, but I cannot be sure,” the Rav answers.
“Um—um,” the ticket-agent seems lost. It is quite apparent no one has ever answered no to all these questions.
What was the Rav doing? Couldn’t he just have lied, everyone else does it? Is it even a real lie? It’s just a small white lie.
Obviously, the lesson behind this story is the importance of emes and how in all situations, no matter how inconvenient, emes takes precedence (except when it affects shalom which is another subject). But what was wrong with saying one little white lie for convenience? To answer this question let us explain what the relationship between emes and the world is. The Gemara says that emes is what Hashem uses to sustain the world. All the letters of emes have two legs. The letters א, מ, and ת, all have two “feet” touching the ground. Whereas the letters of sheker, ש, ק, and ר, have only one leg touching the ground. Emes is what Hashem uses to keep the world “standing” or existing.
The Shaarei Teshuva explains that emes is even the foundation of the soul! Just as emes keeps the world “standing” so to it is what supports our souls. Now maybe we can understand why the aforementioned Rav was so careful not to even say the smallest bit of falsehood. What could happen if there is even a little weakness or small cracks in the foundation of a building? The building could fall! Can we imagine what happens when we bring even a little sheker into the world? Emes is the foundation of our souls and the world, and if we speak sheker we cause cracks in that very foundation. We have to strengthen ourselves against falsehoods, no matter how small, and only speak Emes. And with us helping to sustain the world and fortify our own souls, may we be zocheh to see Mashiach B’mehaira B’yamainu.