We stand before the great holiday of Shavuos – Z’man Matan Toraseinu – the day we finish preparing to receive the Torah. (The Torah was actually given on the seventh of Sivan.) The Torah is the central repository of our values, Ki heim chayeinu v’orech yameinu (It is our very life and the length of our days). While the Torah is infinite, the most significant characteristic that we use to describe it is “Toras Emes,” “the Torah of Truth.” Receiving the Torah could not come at a better time – we live in a world that seems to be dominated by sheker (falsehood). Of course, the world outside of Torah has always contained elements of sheker, but I don’t remember a time in my 60-plus years that we have been bombarded by it on such a constant basis.

Here are a few of the more well-known and egregious examples:


Violence in Society

There is much hand-wringing and angry accusations this week over the terrible school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Many are convinced that the root of the problem is easy access to guns; others vociferously protest that guns are necessary to protect the innocent. However, both sides avoid the Truth – the real cause of so much violence in our society – which was revealed a few weeks ago.

At the time, the talk of the town concerned actor Will Smith, who publicly slapped Chris Rock after he made a joke about Smith’s wife at the Academy Awards show. The intelligentsia and exemplars of high morality of Hollywood were horrified and aghast at this terrible display of violence. “What have we come to? We must strip Smith of his awards and banish him from our midst for such a vile public act of mayhem!”

However, they conveniently forgot that the greatest purveyors of violence in our society are themselves – those who produce endless sick and brutal violence in virtually every movie and on most television shows. They are the ones who have fed violence to children throughout their lives: from cartoons at the earliest age, through movies aimed at kids, through grotesque amounts of violence in movies. (And I am not even speaking about horror movies whose only point is to show unbelievably sick and revolting murder, mayhem, and torture.) Will Smith himself was, up to that point, celebrated for several movie roles in which he was a hitman, villain, killer, and purveyor of brutality – which was fine because it was only a movie.

Is there any real wonder why we have so many kids who decide to go into a school and start shooting? I agree that it is terrible that 18-year-olds have legal access to assault weapons, but is that the source of the problem? It is clear as day that the thousands of hours of violence that kids constantly imbibe from the hypocrites in Hollywood is the main cause of this sickness, not the availability of guns.

A meme that I saw circulating really makes the point: “I don’t remember a single school shooting when I was a kid. What I do remember is our teacher having us begin the day reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, reading from the Bible, and praying. We also had the Ten Commandments on the wall. Maybe getting rid of those things wasn’t such a good idea after all!

The root of all this is pure sheker – the opposite of what a Toras Emes stands for.



“Gender Dysphoria” is the fancy term used to provide credence to the notion that biological gender is irrelevant. One may choose one’s gender as either male or female or other, regardless of one’s physical body and chromosomes. While there have always been people of one gender who may have had some tendencies of the other, according to current thinking, gender is entirely fluid. It can be determined only by how the individual feels about “themselves.” (I hope that is the correct pronoun). It has gotten such that: A middle school student was charged with sexual harassment for using the wrong pronoun. A US Supreme Court nominee picked for her gender cannot define her gender. Girls are subjected to having biological males share their bathrooms and locker rooms. And there are many, many other ramifications, particularly for women’s sports. Perhaps worst of all, utter confusion has been sown in business, academia, and governmental settings such that good and well-meaning people are afraid that any simple remark may subject them to lawsuits and being fired from their jobs.


Roe v. Wade Potentially Overturned

There is endless noise going on now about this potential decision. I will not discuss it except to make one point in this context. Those who say that the debate is about whether to outlaw abortions are engaging in sheker. The debate is really about whether unelected judges may read their own political biases into interpreting the United States Constitution or whether they must follow the words of the Constitution and what those words meant when they were written. The fact is that the Constitution says nothing about abortions, and the move to overturn Roe is a protest against those who pretend that it does.

The constitution provides a mechanism for changing it, adding to it, or deleting parts of it, if a majority of the country agrees. That mechanism is called “Amendment.” The constitution has 27 Amendments enacted over the years – that is the only legitimate way to change it. Unfortunately, however, certain groups have gotten used to the idea that judges have the right to look into the “penumbra” of the Constitution and rule that it says things that it does not. This is important to them for getting policies enshrined in the law that they were not successful in enacting through the legislature by the shortcut of having judges pretend that the Constitution says things that it does not.

That is the truth of this debate, as opposed to the pervasive sheker that engulfs us.

I could bring many, many other examples of falsehood being promoted as the truth, such as “woke-ism” and “cancel culture,” but will suffice with these to bolster my contention that we are drowning in a world of sheker, and we desperately need emes in our lives.

Baruch Elokeinu she’b’ra’anu lichvodo... v’nasan lanu Toras Emes v’chayei olam nata b’socheinu. Blessed is our G-d who created us for His glory…and gave us Toras Emes, and [thereby] implanted Eternal Life in us.

Let us resolve to focus, this Shavuos on accepting the Torah of Truth as our guide in life. We desperately need its light in the dark times in which we live.

Happy Shavuos!

Rabbi Yehuda L. Oppenheimer is a rabbi, attorney, and writer living presently in Forest Hills, and hoping to go on aliyah.  He has served as rabbi in several congregations, and helps individuals with wills, trusts, and mediation.