I have not told a lie in 12 years. Not even a white lie. I am the only person I know who can say this.
I’m told that my obsession with truth is a remnant of my Catholic upbringing, and it will fall away like a vestigial tail once I become a Jew. As Rabbi Joseph Telushkin wrote in The Book of Jewish Values, “peace is valued more highly than truth.” That is not to say that Jews lie more, or value truth any less, than non-Jews. But I have found in Judaism that there are situations in which ethics can trump truth-telling.
Dennis Prager gives the example of a rapist chasing after a woman. The woman rushes past you and runs down an alley. The rapist comes upon you and asks which way she went. If you tell the truth, the rapist will catch the woman and rape her. If you tell a lie, the woman will go free. What do you do?
According to Dennis Prager, the ethical Jewish answer is: lie to the rapist in order to save the woman.
I have a different answer.
My first instinct is to throat-punch the rapist. That would stop the problem at its source. If the throat-punch doesn’t stop him, I might go after his offending appendage, without which he could never rape anyone, ever again. Problem solved – and solved in a way that doesn’t debase me (like he wanted to debase that woman) by having me lie.
If that’s too Old Testament for you, or if you’re just not the throat-punching type, here’s another option: consume the rapist’s time. Ask him to describe the woman. What was she wearing? How old was she? How tall? Does she have kind eyes? It would consume the rapist’s time, and perhaps even humanize her in the rapist’s eyes (and maybe cause him to think twice). Either way, it would certainly give the woman enough time to get away.
Or you could just throat-punch him.