The value of truth in a complex world


The words “truth” and “true” pervade Jewish prayer, and we even explicitly identify God with truth at the end of the Sh’ma. This speaks to the high place that Jewish tradition assigns to truth as a divine value, a bright light that shines into our sometimes murky human world. Even if we cannot always agree about what that light of truth reveals, the idea that we are searching together for the truth at the center of our lives is core to Jewish community. At this very fraught moment in our national political life, there has been a lot of talk about truth and lies, but mostly the conversation has focused on the personalities involved, as if determining the truth is a popularity contest or something decided by elections. At such a time, we need to hold fast to the idea of truth as a divine value, something independent of personality or circumstance, and we have to refocus ourselves on the search for truth as the bedrock of human society. Words have meaning, actions speak loudly, and the truth is not subject to a vote. We must hold each other and the political figures who represent us to this strict standard of truth, and we must fight against any attempt to elide or erase the distinction between truth and falsehood. Only then can we hope that the divine light of truth will reveal to us the right path to follow in this very complicated world.