Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, most famous for compiling the towering rabbinic work known as “the Mishnah”, was well known for few other things. For example, he was known as “Rabbeinu HaKadosh”, “Our Holy Teacher”. Now you know there’s a story behind that! Here it is:
One day, Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi was engaged in a tense debate about astronomy. Rabbi Yehudah was representing not only himself but the “sages of Israel”, while his opponent represented not just himself but also the “sages of the nations”. Each debater brought his points, his analysis and evidence. The argument raged, along with senses of honor and personal pride. When all had been said, Rabbi Yehudah boldly stated “the words of the sages of the nations are correct over ours, for the evidence sides with them”. From that moment, Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi came to be known “Our Holy Teacher” for he acknowledged the truth even over his own standing (based on Pesachim 94b and Rabbi Avraham ben HaRambam).
When we are willing to acknowledge the truth, we are reminded that we can all be on the same team, each striving to build a meaningful world. Just as importantly, we affirm our self-value, independent of whether we got something right or wrong. When we aren’t willing, we lose sight of our connectedness and give into a lack of self worth, to the detriment of everyone involved. Sometimes the truth is beautiful, brilliant and makes us look good! Other times we need to acknowledge it in spite of the difficulty involved. The good news is that in both cases we are lifted up, together with those around us, reflecting our best selves.
מחשבה/Machshava (Think about it): Truth and untruth pass from our lips on a daily basis. This week, take time to notice or write in a journal, what frame of mind you are in when you tell the truth and what you are afraid of when you tell an untruth. Look at both and see if you can bring some insight from your more truthful moments to those moments when fear kept you from doing so.
מעשה/Ma’aseh (Try it): This week, make an extra effort to speak the truth, without fanfare or embellishments. Let your honest speech be a reminder that just the facts about you, even when revealing imperfections, reveal a brilliant, worthy, soul.