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"Yehudah recognized, and he said, 'She is right; it is from me, inasmuch as I did not give her to Shelah my son'" (Bereishis 38:26).
Yehudah was a much respected person in an extremely high position. He was actually considered the king of all of the tribes of Israel. Suddenly he found himself in a very embarrassing situation. His daughter in law was found to be pregnant and he himself had sentenced her to be burned to death. Now she revealed to him secretly that he was, in fact, the father. He faced a great dilemma. On the one hand, how could he let an innocent woman and her twin babies be put to death? On the other hand, his prestige and his entire career were at stake. How could he admit publicly what he had done?
Yehudah decided that, come what may, he must be honest. He announced that "She is right; it is from me," and thought that he had forfeited everything. But Rashi brings the words of Chazal that a Heavenly Voice cried out that "It is from Me that this happened." Hashem Himself declared that He wanted Tamar to bear Yehudah's children, from whom would come out the future kings of Israel and even Moshiach himself. Thus Yehudah did not suffer by doing the right thing.
This is meant to be a lesson for us that one does not lose by being honest.
My mentor, Reb Ya'akov Kaminetsky, zt"l, was known to be extremely strict about telling the truth, no matter what the consequences may be. He once told me the following, very interesting, story.
Reb Ya'akov left his family in Europe and traveled to the States to try to get a position in the "New World" and bring his family there. After many disappointments, he finally was offered a job as the Rav of the Jewish community in Toronto, Canada. A festive dinner was hosted in his honor, and the head of the community, a prominent, rich man (whose name, I believe, was Mr. Rubenstein), rose to greet the new rabbi to the community. A devar Torah (a Torah discourse) was in order, but the layman said some derush (non-literal interpretation) which Reb Ya'akov realized was simply not true. Reb Ya'akov was in a dilemma. To publicly correct the gentleman would be very untactful, and might even cost the new rabbi his job, a job which he needed so dearly. On the other hand, Reb Ya'akov deliberated, to let the vort (lit. "word") pass uncorrected would give the people the impression that he agreed that it was true, and this he simply could not do.
Finally, it was Reb Ya'akov's turn to speak. With a heavy heart, he did what he knew must be done. He objected to the community leader's piece of Torah, explained why it was not true, and proceeded to interpret the passage properly, all the while convinced that he had sacrificed a golden opportunity for his principles.
However, Reb Ya'akov said, the speaker was enormously impressed with this uncompromising rabbi, and immediately became his dedicated follower who always stood loyally at the Rav's side, in every communal matter, all through the years he served as Rabbi of Toronto. With this episode of his life, Reb Ya'akov taught us that the truth need not hurt.
May we always follow the path of truth and then we will be truly happy in this world and in the World-to-Come.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network