First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/mishpatim-smooth-talkers/
Baal Haturim Exodus: Mishpatim
We kill everybody, my dear. Some with bullets, some with words, and everybody with our deeds. We drive people into their graves, and neither see it nor feel it. -Maxim Gorky
There are people, who through the power of their personality, their charisma and their eloquence can get unsuspecting victims to do something of their own free will that may go against their own interests and well-being. The reason they are influential is because humans on a whole are a trusting species. Our society would disintegrate if the foundation of trust did not underlie basic human interactions.
However, there are some opportunists that take advantage of this visceral trust, play upon people’s feelings and beliefs and sell them something which is simply not real, not true. The Baal Haturim on Exodus 21:14 compares these smooth talkers to false prophets. The false prophet would often prophecy what the people wanted to hear. They would soothe their fears and not confront them with the reality ahead. Not warn them of the error of their ways in time for them to correct it and save themselves. The false prophets doomed themselves and their followers to oblivion.
The Baal Haturim compares both the smooth talkers and the false prophets to murderers. By betraying the trust people put in them, they are killing them. They are destroying the relationship of trust that connects them to life. In some cases they even lead them to actual death.
May truth and honesty always be our hallmark.
To the honest people in our lives. You are a beacon in an often hazy and dark world.