Is cheating on a test against the Torah?

Yesterday in our class, an interesting discussion came up.  A boy, who is now religious, called me while at school a little over a year ago, while he was becoming more religious.  He wanted to know if it's against the Torah to cheat on a test.

Immediately, people were already up in arms, ready to stone the boy who asked the question (good thing they don't know who he is).

I challenged them, and why is it wrong to cheat on a test?  You see, there are two important things to realize here:  Number one, is that we tend to associate anything we feel good about on G-d, and anything we dislike must be ungodly.  Ever hear, "cleanliness is G-dliness?"  Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against a clean house, but who decided that it's G-dliness? The temple in Jerusalem wasn't a spotless palace.  It was an extremely busy place with animals coming in and out etc.  Was that ungodly?

In our society, cheating is taboo, so is it against the Torah?  It must be!  Why?  Because it's wrong. 

My first point is that right and wrong as defined by Torah doesn't necessarily have to fit with what feels good to me at this time.  Indeed, King Saul was commanded by G-d (it's a mitzvah in the Torah for the king) to kill the nation of Amalek, including, men, women, children and livestock.  With his good heart, he couldn't bring himself to finish the job.  The prophet admonished him, and predicted that "because you had mercy on those who didn't deserve it, you will be cruel to those who don't deserve it."  Indeed, not too long afterwards, he became angry and wiped out a city of innocent kohanim (priests).

Now that I've played devils advocate and made you think that cheating on a test might not be against the Torah, I'll tell you the truth.  The Talmud teaches that there are two kinds of stealing:  stealing money & stealing someone's mind.  If you rob or cheat someone out of money, that is one form of stealing.  If you misrepresent someone and fool them, you are stealing their mind.  The example given, is deliberately inviting someone to your house when you know that they can't come, so that they'll think you're being generous, when in truth, you're just trying to make them think that you're nice.

Cheating on a test is a form of stealing.  By making your teacher think that you know the answers, when in truth you don't, is in fact stealing their mind.

From these past few lines, I hope that I've conveyed that cheating on a test is against the Torah not merely because it feels wrong, but because indeed, it was passed down from G-d to Moses, to the sages of the Talmud, that it's a form of גניבת דעת - stealing someone's mind. 

May Hashem bless us to learn and understand His infinite Torah, and intuitively follow it.

Shabbat Shalom, 

Rabbi Abrams


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