The Lost Midrash and the Chofetz Chaim


By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

In the early 1900’s, Judaic studies professors applied mathematical models to estimate the devastating impact of the Roman Catholic Church upon a specific subset of our holy texts.  Namely, the impact was upon the Midrashim. They determined that 90% of the Midrashim that we had in Europe, sadly, are no longer.

They determined this figure of 90% by calculating how many Midrashim are quoted in various works of the Rishonim, such as drashos and other works, and actually trying to source them.  They found that they could only source about ten percent of them.  Lehavdil, these same type of mathematical models are used, for example, to count how many rainbow trout in the headwater streams in the Boise River basin in Idaho.  And while it is true that all sampling methods are wrong, one can get a rough estimate through there use.

Rav Yisroel Meir HaKohain Kagan zt”l, better known as the Chofetz Chaim, wrote a remarkable work promoting the trait of Honesty called, “Sfas Tamim.”  In it, he cites a number of statements of Chazal – some of which are no longer in existence. This work is currently being translated by this author – for the Sfas Tamim Foundation’s weekly parsha sheet (for those who wish to subscribe please contact the author at [email protected]).

In this sefer of the Chofetz Chaim, a number of psukim that deal with emes (honesty) and sheker (lies and falsehood) are discussed.  These psukim are explained and elaborated upon by the Chofetz Chaim.  One such pasuk is from Tehillim 101.

In pasuk 7, Dovid HaMelech describes Hashem’s view of liars:  “He shall not sit in the midst of My House, he who practices deceit, who speaks lies, will not be established before my eyes.”

The Chofetz Chaim explains (Sfas Tamim chapter one) this pasuk as follows:

“How hateful and disgusting is this trait before Hashem, for because of it, Hashem throws him out from before Him!”

And then the Chofetz Chaim cites a portion of a lost Midrash:

Chazal further said, “A Moshol: To what can the matter be compared? To a king who sent out an edict throughout his entire kingdom: Whomsoever is untrustworthy within my kingdom – should leave my kingdom!  And if not, his head shall be chopped off! So said the Holy One blessed be He:  Whomever chases after lies, is not worthy of living in My world for I created this world with truth – without which this world cannot exist. And falsehood cannot dwell with truth.”

QUESTION:  But where can we find the original source of this lost Midrash?

ANSWER:  We can’t. It was a victim of what we can call, “The Holocaust of Jewish Texts.”

QUESTION:  But where did the Chofetz Chaim get it from?

It seems that the only other place that it can be found is in Sefer Maalos HaMidos ( p. 26 under the heading of Midas HaRaMaus)  It was written by Rav Yechiel ben Yekusiel Anav from Rome (late 1260 to 1300’s).  The Midrash is not found in any other sefer.

The sefer was first printed under the name, “Bais Midos” in Kushta in 1512.  Later it was printed under the name that we know it as, “Maalos HaMidos” in Karmona in 1556.

The Chofetz Chaim’s sefer is being translated over the next few issues of the Sfas Tamim Parsha sheet.  Anyone wishing to subscribe should email the author.

The author can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Things like this lead me to question how people who consider themselves bnei Torah can support someone who was documentably the biggest liar ever to occupy the White House. The Washington Post’s fact-checker had tallied the number as 30,573, an average of about 21 per day by the end of his presidency, far more than any other politician in US history, considerably even more than his friend Richard Nixon. Check out Wikipedia on the veracity of his statements for documentation.

  2. > por
    Using the Washington Post to (so they call it) “fact check” Trump make less sense than using Pravda to “fact check” Biden.

  3. georgeg
    Many other fact checkers have come up with similar results, and they’ve documented them, comparing his statements with verifiable facts. And even if only half of the lies they came up with can be confirmed, that’s still staggering.