Of what is the purpose of the Jewish exile? Are we just misbehaving children sent by G-d into a epic millennial time-out?  Is there something of deeper meaning and purpose?

The Gemara on amud aleph quotes a verse from

Zephaniah (3:13):

שְׁאֵרִ֨ית יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל לֹֽא־יַעֲשׂ֤וּ עַוְלָה֙ וְלֹא־יְדַבְּר֣וּ כָזָ֔ב וְלֹֽא־יִמָּצֵ֥א בְּפִיהֶ֖ם לְשׁ֣וֹן תַּרְמִ֑ית כִּֽי־הֵ֛מָּה יִרְע֥וּ וְרָבְצ֖וּ וְאֵ֥ין מַחֲרִֽיד׃ 

⁦The remnant of Israel  Shall do no wrong  And speak no falsehood;  A deceitful tongue  Shall not be in their mouths.  Only such as these shall graze and lie down,  With none to trouble them.

Mesilas Yesharim (ch. 11)  takes special interest in this verse, using it to support the universal value of honesty, even when engaging in business dealings with others who are not Jewish, i.e. people who may not ordinarily be trusted to abide by your community’s and tribe’s standards of morality. 

ראה נא בענין ההונאה, כמה נקל הוא לאדם להתפתות וליכשל כאשר לכאורה יראה לו שראוי הוא להשתדל ליפות סחורתו בעיני האנשים ולהשתכר ביגיע כפיו, לדבר על לב הקונה למען יתרצה לו, ויאמרו על כל זה, יש זריז ונשכר, ויד חרוצים תעשיר. אמנם אם לא ידקדק וישקול מעשיו הרבה, הנה תחת חטה יצא חוח (איוב ל״א:מ׳): כי יעבור בעון ההונאה אשר הוזהרנו עליה (ויקרא כה): ולא תונו איש את עמיתו. ואמרו ז"ל (חולין צד): אפילו לרמות את הגוי, אסור, וקרא כתיב (צפניה ג׳:י״ג): שארית ישראל לא יעשו עולה ולא ידברו כזב ולא ימצא בפיהם לשון תרמית.

⁦Consider the prohibition of Onaah (fraud/deceit). How easy it is for a person to be enticed and to stumble in it. For it appears to him proper to strive to make his merchandise appear appealing to the eyes of people in order to make a profit from the toil of his hands; to try to speak to the prospective customer's heart in order to convince him (salesman talk). He will justify himself on all this citing: "some are industrious and profit" (Pesachim 50b) or "the hand of the diligent prospers" (Mishlei 10:4). ⁦But if he does not meticulously examine his deeds very carefully, thorns will sprout instead of wheat. For he will transgress and stumble in the sin of Onaah (fraud) which we were warned against: "And you shall not oppress one another" (Vayikra 25:17) and our sages of blessed memory said: "even to deceive a non-Jew is forbidden" (Chulin 94a). And scripture states: "the remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity nor speak lies, neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth" (Tzefania 3:13).

While the Gemara in Chulin quoted is a clear source for the prohibition against business fraud even with gentiles, how does the verse in Zephaniah serve as an adequate proof text?

To answer this, we may turn to the Orchos Tzaddikim (ch. 23) who expresses a similar idea as the Ramchal, but explains himself more:

ועתה שהאריך הגלות בעונוותינו הרבים יותר מדי, יש לישראל להיבדל מהבלי העולם ולאחוז בחותמו של הקדוש ברוך הוא שהוא אמת, ולקדש עצמם אף במותר להם (יבמות כ א), ושלא לשקר לא לישראל ולא לגוי, ולא להטעותם בשום עניין, שנאמר (צפניה ג יג): "שארית ישראל לא יעשו עוולה ולא ידברו כזב, ולא ימצא בפיהם לשון תרמית". ועוד כתיב (הושע ב כה): "וזרעתיה לי בארץ" – כלום אדם זורע כור אחד אלא להכניס כמה כורים? כך זרע הקדוש ברוך הוא ישראל בארצות, כדי שיתווספו עליהם גרים (פסחים פז ב), וכל זמן שהם מתנהגים עימהם בלא מרמה – ידבקו בהם. והנה הקדוש ברוך הוא הקפיד על גזל של רשעים, שנאמר (בראשית ו יא): "ותמלא הארץ חמס".

⁦Now that our exile has lasted so long because of our many sins it is more important than ever that Israel should separate themselves from the vain things of the world and take hold of the Seal of the Holy One, Blessed be He, which is Truth — and sanctify themselves even in things that are permitted to them (Yebamoth 20a), and not to lie — not to a Jew and not to a heathen, and not to deceive them in any matter, as it is said, "The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies, neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth" (Zeph. 3:13). And it is further written, "And I will sow her unto Me in the land" (Hos. 2:25). Surely a man sows a seah in order to harvest many kurim, thus, the Holy One, Blessed be He, exiled Israel among the nations only so that proselytes might join them (Pesahim 87b). And so long as they conduct themselves among the heathens without guile, the latter will cleave to them. And behold the Holy One, Blessed be He, was furious with the wicked for their robbery, as it is said, "For the earth is filled with violence" (Gen. 6:11).

The verse in Zephaniah is referring to a quality the Jews will have during Messianic times, that is at the end of exile. The quality that is stressed is refraining from deceit, treachery and untruths in any form. Why is that so important, and why is that connected to the Eschaton?

This is where we uncover a surprising and meaningful sociological gem. The long exile is not merely the product of a vengeful punishing G-d, as it were, dismissing and abandoning his children. Rather, it’s purpose is to scatter them like seeds and spread the values of the Torah throughout the world. Therefore, the Orchos Tzaddikim asserts that only through honor and integrity will the message of Jewish and Torah values prevail and impress the nations of the earth. 

As nice as it is to chant, “we want Moshiach now“, looking at the newspapers, looks like we still have some homework to do. We must model probity, fidelity and honesty if we are to achieve our mission. 

For Video versions of this click here, and look for title and daf.  

Translations Courtesy of Sefaria, (except when, sometimes, I disagree with the translation cool.)