This post is a continuation of what we started yesterday. What really drove my thinking about the Rashi of Hashem changing the story for the sake of shalom bayis is the following gemara and the Maharl's spin on it. The gemara (San. 97) tells the story of a certain person, R’ Tovus, or according to others, R’ Tovyomi, who declared that no matter how much money he was offered he would not tell a lie. Once upon a time he discovered a town called Keshot (coincidentally, the Aramaic word for truth) in which no one died before their time. Attracted to the town, he married a wife from there and settled down and had two children. Unfortunately the end of the story is not so nice. A neighbor stopped in one day and asked for R’ Tovus/Tovyomi’s wife, who at that moment was washing her hair. Not wanting to speak with a lack of tzniyus and say his was in the shower, R’ Tovus/Tovymi instead said she was not home. Immediately thereafter his two children died, and when the town leaders discovered the cause they asked him to leave the town to remove untruthfulness from their midst.
Maharal calles this gemara “kasha me’od” and discusses it at length. There seems to be a relationship between the name of the town, which means truth, and the behavior of the town’s residents, who all told the truth. But if being in the town influenced its residents to always speak the truth, “hamakom goreim”, why was Rav Tovus/Tovyomi not influenced in the same way to only speak truth? And if the town’s name and character had no influence, isn’t it odd that all the residents, without a single exception, always told the truth?
The Maharal explains that Keshot is not a physical place, but rather is a spiritual accomplishment, a madreiga, which a person can reach. In the place called Keshot no one dies because, as we discussed yesterday, truth is the only thing which is eternal – 2+2 was 4 long before we were here and will continue to be four a million years from now. If you attain the degree of spiritual perfection called Keshot, you gain eternity.
R’ Tovus/TovYomi sacrificed that madreiga of keshot for the sake of the competing value of tzniyus. Undoubtedly this was the right thing to do, but doing the right thing does not absolve one from suffering whatever costs and consequences may result. 2+2 cannot equal 5 even for a good purpose, and though he may have spoken a white lie for good reason, R’ Tovus/TovYomi suffered the consequence of falsehood.
The Maharal has much more to say about this gemara, but enough for now. Compare this gemara to the Rashi in Parshas vaYeira about Hashem changing the story for the sake of Avraham and Sarah’s shalom bayis. B’shlama with respect to Rav Tovus/TovYomi, he reached a madreiga and then fell from that madreiga, albeit for a good purpose. But how is it possible to speak of Hashem kavyachol falling in madreiga? – the words don’t even make sense. So what’s going on here?
Here are two ideas I had:
1) Yesterday I quoted the gemara that Hashem's "chosam", his seal, is truth. When is the seal placed on a letter? After it is complete and all written, ready to be posted for delivery. Sometimes it is only after all the facts are in, after we see the full picture with all the details in context, that things which looked questionable turn out to be closer to the truth than we might have thought.
Did Sarah mean to disparage her husband Avraham? I don't think so. I think a comment posted yesterday headed down this road. Sarah's words did not produce a disruption of shalom bayis. To repeat those words to Avraham and produce an effect never intended may capture her quote word for word more truthfully than if those words were omitted, but in context will produce a false outcome that is a greater distortion of the truth.
2) Before a child is born a bas kol declares, "Bas ploni l'ploni," and I assume that a bas kol declared that Sarah was meant to be the soulmate for Avraham Avinu. A person has the right to exercise his/her bechira and choose whomever he/she wants as a mate irrespective of what the bas kol declares, but that does not change the fact that his/her soul might have been meant in truth for someone else (see here for more on this).
Sarah may have inadvertently chosen the wrong words, harmful words, but that is between her and Avraham. Those words exist only k'lapei her personal bechira and can be measured only based on their effect in this world, which in this case was nothing. However, k'lapei shemaya, in the world where the words of "bas Ploni l'Ploni" reverberate for all eternity, the truth is that the neshoma of Sarah is meant to be united in perfect harmony with the neshoma of Avraham. K'lapei shemaya any disruption of that harmony is sheker, falsehood, and cannot be uttered by Hashem.