August 20, 1911
I have a tendency to lie, and every form in which this tendency manifests itself is tethered to something base. As I have instructed: lying is not permitted to us.
Already a few days since I last saw people. Sunk all the deeper into my own mind, searching for laws to give myself. It was almost good; that constant feeling, that I am, in and of myself, something unclean, grew weaker. Today, among people, was again the same as always. What is this? Where are my laws? In the heat of conversation, I lose myself, and all my laws fall to the earth, perhaps to hell. I fell silent for a moment--one moment, and it was bitter in my mouth. And I keep on crawling, hiding.
Everything a person does remains within their life. That which you had done or overcome, that is your fortune. Life is not a textbook, with your own mistakes erased--but accompanied, nonetheless, by a teacher’s remarks to demonstrate your progress to your parents--and so without mistakes. Nor is life a stroll along the sandy shores: where you write all manner of nonsense, then erase it to write still other nonsense, or, perhaps, wisdom--so that might remain. What you have done is done, and what has happened--happened. But I hold no reverence for the Done and Happened. That is the essence of lie.
We are terrified of the inevitable. Lying knows not of fear, there is nothing inevitable for that which lies. Do I know what that horrible word means? The inevitable!
Lying can endlessly avoid, making that which is as if as it were not.
Lying knows not of responsibility; we are responsible for something--something which is, which remains, which will never lower its gaze. You look and say: Well, yes, I have spilled blood, the sin is on my head. I have blessed them, suffered.* Come, I have built a nest for you inside my heart, come.
But you know a trick of perspective: one, two three--and everything that you have done and broken has vanished! It is loathsome to a point of repulsion: one, two, three, and something smiling stands before you, and it is charming and full of grace. For you? Lying denies the soul.
The soul is a deep well--good and evil, it all falls into its depths, and there it remains, and there, in secret, it performs secret acts. We cannot disavow something which is in those depths, for a bas-kol, a voice of heaven, will come and say: it is lie. In deep anguish you can destroy that which is in the soul, but not naively--that, a light conscience cannot disavow. Lying nullifies the soul, lie’s judges are strangers, others, who look for grace only in someone else’s eyes. And that someone is a stranger to you, to whom you feel but cold ambivalence. Whoredom in place of spiritual union. Dirty parody in place of mystery.** Lying is whoredom.
Am I, in and of myself, deceitful, lying? There are moments when I am all lie. I want to be holy, and in unworthiness I live. Only man has the right to think about a holy life, a life which can decree law unto itself and which serves as its own judge and discipline.***
So, can I not not lie? I have to be able. I do not want to be a base and lying creature. I want to be a truthful person with responsibility, I must kill the base in me--or kill myself. Only he who can die when there is no other way has the right to live. Is there no other way for me?
By Moyshe Varshe
Translated by Corbin Allardice
*- The Yiddish is fragmented and unclear here: “Yo, ikh hob dos blut gegosn, af mayn kop iz di zind. Gebentsht zey, payn. Kum, in mayn hartsn hob ikh dir a nest geboyt, kum.”
**- Varshe seems to be using mystery (misterium) in the Christian, theological sense.
***- Because the possessive for “his” and “its” are the same in the case, the Yiddish is slightly ambiguous. Given the nature of this discussion, I interpreted Varshe to be talking about religion, unique as it is to humans, as the only means of producing a transcendent or external value system. The word I translate as executioner (shtrofer), literally means “punisher.” What I translated as “discipline” literally means “punisher” (shtrofer).