The Rabbinic Concept of Geneivat da'at

The Rabbinic Concept of Geneivat da'at

There is a rabbinic concept that I would like to share with you. It came to mind during the President's State of the Union address last night. I wasn't planning to listen at all, but was lured in for part of it. The rabbinic concept is called geneivat da'at. Broadly, it means deception. Professor Hershey Friedman of Brooklyn College School of Business on a Jewish Law website explains:

"The literal meaning of geneivat da'at in Hebrew is theft of one's mind, thoughts, wisdom, or knowledge, i.e., fooling someone and thereby causing him or her to have a mistaken assumption, belief, and/or impression. Thus, the term is used in Jewish law to indicate deception, cheating, creating a false impression, and acquiring undeserved goodwill. Geneivat da'at goes beyond lying. Any words or actions that cause others to form incorrect conclusions about one's motives might be a violation of this prohibition. One does not have the right to diminish the ability of another person, Jew or Gentile, to make a fair and honest evaluation, whether in business or interpersonal relations."

Our Talmud contains many pages devoted to this subject. Knowing this concept helped me in some ways see what was unfolding before the Houses of Congress, the American people and the world. I felt sad. It was so strange and painful to watch and listen to the applauses from all assaulted by geneivat daat. We need to work harder for truthfulness and the moral strength to lift these social cell blocks that divide us.

This week's Parsha, Terumah, teaches us a step in that direction. It is about creating a sacred space for the Divine within our encampments and within ourselves. Everyone, no matter what their status in society or their economic distinction, is equally welcomed to contribute to creating that sacred space, the Mishkan. Creating contemporary mishkanot for ourselves and others can move us toward a society based upon truthfulness, compassion and justice. It can be done by one person, one home, one community at a time.

Next week JUFJ and other organizations are going to Annapolis to lobby for several Bills that affect us all.. I will be joining the Health Care for All Coalition on Thursday to lobby for controls on prescription drug costs. Join us Shabbes at Cedar Lane if you can. Welcome to the month Adar I, May our joy increase! Reb David