Shimon swiped his bus card, sank down into a seat, and opened a gemara. His mind was soon absorbed with the intricacies of the passage in front of him. He hardly noticed that someone had taken the seat next to him. His newfound seatmate was determined to change that.
"Hey rabbi, that book looks heavy. Let me tear out some pages and make it lighter."
Shimon looked up. The first thing that Shimon noticed was the scowl on his seatmate’s face. The next thing was that the assortment of ornaments embedded in the man’s face did little to soften the image. For that matter, neither did the skull and crossbones tattoo etched into his neck. The man touched the screen in front him, and his phone began blasting music. Shlomo Carlebach it wasn’t.
Shimon hurriedly turned his attention back to the gemara in front of him. His bejeweled neighbor took that as his cue to open a newspaper of questionable content, and spread it so that it covered a good bit of Shimon’s lap and the gemara that he was holding.
At that point, Shimon had had it. "I don’t think it’s in your best interest to get so close to me." Shimon announced. "I’m in isolation. It’s very contagious."
At just that moment, the bus doors opened, as the bus reached the next stop. The man grabbed his newspaper, and ran off the bus.
Chaim, Shimon’s friend, who was sitting a few seats away, turned to Shimon. "Shimon, you’re not in quarantine, are you? How could you have said that?"
Shimon smiled. "It’s very simple. What I meant was that I’m engaging in hitbodedut – solitude for the purpose of seeking spiritual elevation. As for being contagious? Well, everyone knows that mitzva goreret mitzva – performance of one mitzva brings another mitzva after it!"
Shimon saw that Chaim wasn’t convinced.
"Look, even Yaakov Avinu spoke like this" Shimon explained. "Esav fooled Yitzchak into thinking that Esav was worthy of receiving the brachot, so Yaakov tricked Yitzchak into thinking that Yaakov was Esav!"
Was Shimon allowed to trick the man who sat next to him?
Answer of Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, shlita:
Shimon was forbidden to say what he said. He committed geneivat da’at (deception). He had other reasonable options for dealing with the unpleasant situation. He could have asked the man to lower his music, or he could have moved to a different seat.
Sometimes, in very extreme situations, there is a dispensation to deceive someone, l’sheim shamayim (for the sake of Heaven). As it says in Sefer Shmuel II (22:27) im ikesh titpatal (with the crooked you act perversely). The implication is that, when dealing with someone who is crooked, it is permitted to act crookedly in return. However, this is only in extreme situations, when there is no alternative.
Additionally, in our case, it is possible that even if Shimon had no alternative, his actions would have been forbidden. This is because, in addition to the deception, Shimon caused the man monetary loss, because the man payed for a ride, and got off the bus early.
It is impossible to draw a parallel to the story of Yaakov Avinu, because he was acting on the instruction of his mother, Rivka Imeinu, who was endowed with ruach hakodesh (divine spirit), and was acting for the specific needs of the situation. Additionally, there are those who say that Yaakov was punished for deceiving his father.
Answer of Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl:
It was permitted for Shimon to do what he did. It is permitted to deceive when one's intention is not merely to cause difficulty to the other person, but rather, as a reaction to another person's impropriety. A related story is told about Rabbi Avraham Genechovsky. He was once sitting on a bus, when a woman came and sat next to him. He informed her that he had "kruspidin." She understood that he was sick and got off the bus. Afterward, a friend of his asked Rabbi Genechovsky about it. He responded "I didn't lie. Kruspidin is the Aramaic word for "tzitzit".
Rabbi Yaakov Ariel: Shimon was not allowed to deceive the man. He should have found a better solution.
Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl: It was permitted for Shimon to do what he did.
Translation: Avigail Kirsch