I sit with a wonderful friend at lunch on a date that had been agreed upon over a month ago.
We have arranged to meet early because we anticipate the downtown crowds will arrive shortly after noon and the many conversations will make it more difficult for us to hear one another.
My friend and I exchange the usual pleasantries and he then removes a small piece of paper from his pocket.
"We always have great conversations," he says, "but today I wanted to make sure we talk about 'TRUTH.' I want to explore what it is and when it is. And I want to do this with you!"
I am flattered and a bit intimidated. Like most people, I use the word truth in everyday conversation, and I try to "tell the truth" (if I know it) when I am asked a question.
For an unclocked amount of time, we explore the word truth. I share that the rabbis of old taught: "The first letter of the Hebrew alphabet is Aleph; the middle letter of the alphabet is Mem; and the last letter is Tav. And, they said, Aleph, Mem, Tav spell the Hebrew word for —TRUTH."
They further explained the beginning, middle and end of all endeavors must be truth.
"Please send that quote to me in an email," my friend requests.
The restaurant is filling up and we are so engaged in our conversation — each wanting to be truthful in even trying to understand truth — that other voices, when noticed, sound joyful and complementary rather than disruptive. My friend reminds me of the verse from John 8:32, —¦ and the truth shall set you free."
We are both quiet for a few moments and I ask. "Which truth will set us free, and does everyone want such freedom? I don't have the answer, but the question is very much alive in me."
As I rethought our conversation and how I might write about it, I found a quote by an unknown author, who suggested, "Truth is a description of reality." In this quote I find there may be multiple perceptions of truth and each genuine to the core of its reality.
There are religious truths, emotional truths, historical and scientific truths — and all are based on a reality. Yesterday's reality may fall to a new truth; and a new truth may replace an older one. Where, then, is the truth?
We look closely and intensely at one another. The maxim, "Truth shows in the eyes; lies stay behind the eyes," is evident in our respect and care for one another.
"I don't have an answer to your larger question," I say. "But I know the depth and sincerity of our relationship is based on a shared truth, and I cherish that truth and you."
We gather our pens and scraps of paper and prepare to go back to the beautiful day outside. I look at my watch and realize we have shared two hours discussing truth. More importantly, we were honest with one another.
We both understand, even without words, "Man finds God through truth."
Dr. Albert M. Lewis is rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth El in Traverse City. He is a public speaker and author of "Soul Sounds: Reflections on Life," available at www.soulsoundsbook.com. Contact him through the Record-Eagle, 120 W. Front St., Traverse City MI 49684.