Yonie was learning Avot with his father: “The wise one doesn’t speak in front someone wiser than him, doesn’t interrupt his friend, doesn’t hurry to answer, asks on the topic and answers properly, speaks about the first thing first and the last thing last and if he didn’t hear something he’ll say I didn’t hear it, and he admits the truth, these 7 things are the opposite by someone not wise.” Yonie’s father read to him.
“Daddy, you know, I think the hardest one is to admit the truth! It’s the hardest to say ‘I don’t know” or “I made a mistake.”
“You’re right Yonie it’s very hard but that’s exactly what a wise person does; he doesn’t try to lie to gain something, he always will stick to the truth at all costs. Here’s a story:
A group of important American Jewish donors came to visit the Chafetz Chaim, Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan in his home in Radin, Poland. Some of these generous people already visited the Chafetz Chaim before and helped his Radin Yeshiva greatly. When the wealthy donors went into the room to speak with the Chafetz Chaim they said: “Surely the rabbi remembers us from our last visit here?”
The Chafetz Chaim was already old and weak and the previous visit was a long time before. The Chafetz Chaim answered: “No, I’m already old and weak and my memory isn’t so good.” A family member tried reminding the Chafetz Chaim to awaken his memory; “You remember them don’t you?” He then turned around to the guests as if the Chafetz Chaim remembered them but the Chafetz Chaim repeated and emphasized: “I don’t remember! I don’t remember!”
After the group left the house the family member apologized to the Chafetz Chaim for trying to portray him as if he really remembered the visitors. “I only did it for the yeshiva’s benefit” the family member said.
The Chofetz Chaim said: “Even to benefit the Yeshiva is not sufficient reason to justify changing from the truth even one iota!”
Daddy, It’s amazing that the Torah giants stuck to the truth without making any calculations or rationalizations saying it’s okay!” Yonie exclaimed.