Everything Depends on It
Truth is the main principle which everything depends on! All of the work of personal development depends and relies upon truth! If you don’t have this honest will, to reach the truth, then there is no reason to begin the work. Why? What is so critical about being truthful or not being truthful? What, it’s impossible to make progress and come closer while continuing to tell small or big lies?
Harav Israel Asulin
Translated by Moshe Neveloff
Monday, 22nd of Shevat, 5776
In all of the Torah- five books, 5,845 verses, 613 mitzvahs- in all of them there is only one time that the Torah asks us explicitly to distance ourselves from something: “Distance yourself from a false word.” (Exodus, Chapter 23, Verse 7) It’s not just that you should not lie, it’s much more than that- distance yourself from lies. There is no parallel to this commandment in all of the Torah.
Why? How can it be that even regarding fundamental mitzvahs like the Ten Commandments or the Seven Noachide laws, the Torah used a matter-of-fact and focused language of positive and negative commandments, and only regarding lies the Torah uses such strong language?
In order to understand this, it needs to be understood what is a lie?
We all know that a lie is anything which is not true, but what is truth?
“The main principle which everything depends upon is truth, to walk in the path of truth according to his level, because the seal of Hashem is truth, and it is the foundation of everything, because truth is the beginning middle and end…” (Likutei Moharan, Torah 112)
Truth is the main principle which everything depends on! This matter of truth and lies is so basic and central and meaningful to the point that it meets us in all aspects of life, and all the more so when talking about personal development, when we want to come closer to ourselves and to Hashem.
When a person comes to work on himself, the main thing that needs to guide him on this journey, before everything and amongst everything, is truth. All of the work depends and relies upon truth! If you don’t have this honest will, to reach the truth, then there is no reason to begin the work.
Personal growth is for a person who wants the truth and agrees to meet it, and it doesn’t matter how it appears. It’s true, I don’t know what I’m going to reveal about myself on this unknown journey inside myself, but what I’m looking for, first and foremost is truth.
Who am I really? Not- who is my poster! Not- what is the image that I built for myself with years of work! Not- what do they think of me and not how do I look! Rather, who am I truly? What’s going on with me? How I am doing right now? Where am I actually? With myself? With my wife? My children? My family? My friends? What I am supposed to attain according to the truth?
When I strive for this deep truth, I’m happy with any revelation about myself, even if it hurts and is not polished and doesn’t look good in a picture and is not heroic like in my dreams. Because truth, Rebbe Nachman says, is the key: “Through truth a person merits to find the opening… and through truth Hashem dwells with him (Likutei Moharan, Torah 9); and for truth I’m willing to sacrifice myself, to put myself in danger, and to examine from anew my life, even if I’m likely to reveal that all of my life is one big lie and that I need to build everything from the beginning and to separate myself forever from the external image, which has accompanied me for years, in favor of the true self.
To lie is the easiest thing to do. Every one of us has a doctorate in lying to himself and to the whole world, however as much as the lies are destructive in all areas of life, when talking about personal development and growth- there is nothing more ironic than lying.
Because it’s impossible to make progress with lies! Without truth you can wander around for years with imaginary attempts to help yourself, without moving a millimeter.
Without truth, you look, for example, every evening at the scale and don’t understand the number that you see. Maybe the scale is broken? What did you eat today? Nothing, really nothing!
Without truth you have no chance of meeting the child inside of you, because why would he trust someone who lies to him?! It’s enough that they lied to him all his life! Why would he fall again into this trap?!
Without truth, in most cases you won’t feel what hurts you. Because, it’s true, life is humdrum… but this pain, which is sharp and cutting, which causes you to scream “I’m weak and I need help”, which pushes you to stand up with courage and decide to change; pain like this is very far from you, and so to also the change.
So what can I do if I lie? I understand that truth is the key to making progress, but I feel, that the lies are welded to me and accompany me already for many years like a true good friend- how can I separate from them?
You need to know that lying is only a matter of a bad habit: “When somebody repeats the lie twice, it becomes truth for him.” (The Life of Rebbe Nachman, paragraph 550) Nobody is born a liar! We were all born truthful and holy and pure! Inside every one of us there is found the point of truth, but it functions like a muscle, that when there is a lack of use it is likely to shrink and become weak, but it is always possible to build the muscle anew, to go back and use it, to give it light and let it grow.
From this faith you will be able to reveal the roots of your lies. You don’t lie for no reason! You have inside of you a reason for lying.
Again you caught yourself lying a big or small lie? Come, sit for a minute quietly and ask yourself: “Why do I lie?” In the same breathe ask yourself too: “What am I afraid of?” Because this is a very great secret, that all of our lies come from fear. The great and terrible fear of a small child in a big and pressuring world which requires an endless amount of arbitrary requests. So clarify to yourself: “What I am so afraid of that I fall into lying?” In this way you will reveal the fear, which controls you and causes you to beautify the reality and to ignore the pain and to shake off guilt and to close your eyes to your actions. The fear of the small child who is sure that he is bad or guilty or mistaken or not okay or not in the right direction, and in any case, lacking any chance.
After you meet this fear, which distances you from the truth, you’ll reveal your inner child, and above this truth there is a deeper truth.
The deeper truth says that as much as you messed up and fell down and made mistakes and got dirty and were not okay, at your root you are completely good. You are part of Hashem. You are God’s only child. You are beloved and important and good! So good, that you have no idea!
Therefore the fear is unnecessary, and so to the lies. Because what is the truth? That everything you will reveal about yourself along the way does not take away from your value and does not cause you to appear unclean; it just helps you come closer, a bit more, to Hashem. Truthfully.