Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 65:1

סִימָן סה – הִלְכוֹת רִבִּית

Chapter 65: Laws of Interest

א: לפי שנפשו של אדם בטבעו חומד ומתאוה אל הממון, וקרוב יותר שיהא האדם נכשל באסור רבית מבשאר אסורין שבממון, כי בגזל ואונאה וכדומה, הרי משגיח על עצמו שלא יהא נגזל ושלא יתאנה, וגם זה שהוא רוצה לגזול או להונות את חברו, לפעמים הוא נמנע מחמת בושה או מחמת יראה, מה שאין כן ברבית, כי הלוה נותן לו ברצונו הטוב, והוא שמח, כי מצא מקום ללוות על כל פנים ברבית, וגם המלוה חושב בדעתו, כי הרי הוא עושה טובה גדולה עם הלוה שיוכל להרויח בממון זה כפלי כפלים יותר מן הרבית, ולכן נקל מאד שיהא אדם נתפתה חס ושלום מן היצר הרע להיות נכשל באסור זה. על כן החמרה תורתנו הקדושה מאד באסור זה, והרבה לאוין נאמרו בו, המלוה עובר בששה לאוין, ולא יקום בתחית המתים, שנאמר בנשך נתן ותרבית לקח וחי, לא יחיה. הלוה עובר בשלשה לאוין, הסופר, והעדים והערב עוברים כל אחד בלאו אחד. וכן הסרסור שהיה ביניהם או שסיע לאחד מהם, כגון שהורה מקום להלוה ללוות או שהורה מקום להמלוה להלוות, גם כן עובר בלאו אחד – יו”ד קס

A person’s soul naturally longs for and desires money, and it is more likely that a person will fail in the prohibition of interest than other monetary prohibitions, for theft, deceit, etc… a person can watch himself that he doesn’t steal or deceive his fellowman. At times he is stopped by embarrassment or fear/awe [from violating those other prohibitions]. Which isn’t true for interest, because the borrower gives it to him in goof will, and he is happy because he found a way to borrow the money even if with interest. And also the lender thinks in his mind that he did a great favor for the borrower who can now gain through this money multiples upon multiples more than the interest. Therefore, it is very easy that a person would (G-d forbid) be tempted by the yeitzer hara to fail in this prohibition.

Therefore, our holy Torah was very strict about this prohibition, and many specific prohibitions were declared about it. The lender violates 6 prohibitions and will not arise during the resurrection of the dead, as it says (Yechezqeil 18:13), “”He gave [money] at interest and took an increase – shall he live? He shall not live.” The borrower violates three prohibitions. The scribe [who wrote up the contract], the witnesses and the cosigner each violate one prohibition. So too the broker who dealt between them, or who recommended the deal to one of them, such as if he shows the borrower where to find the loan or the lender where to lend his money, he also violated one prohibition.


A thought about interest. If the problem were general moral grounds, then the prohibition would not be limited to charging Jews interest. As we saw with the laws of speech, which included all people, or those of correcting someone else’s financial mistakes, which included all non-idolaters. After all, as we see in our text, borrowing with money is often a win-win situation. If both sides gain, how can the problem be fiscal ethics?

The text of the verse is “וְכִֽי־יָמ֣וּךְ אָחִ֔יךָ וּמָ֥טָה יָד֖וֹ עִמָּ֑ךְ … אַל־תִּקַּ֤ח מֵֽאִתּוֹ֙ נֶ֣שֶׁךְ וְתַרְבִּ֔ית… — when your brother becomes poor, and his means fail from among you … do not take from him interest or increase…” (Vayiqra 25:35-26) The source of the prohibition appears to be that brothers don’t charge each other interest. The immorality is in the lack of Jewish unity implied, not in the interest itself.

This appears to be the Qitzur’s explanation why lending with interest has up to 6 specific violations involved. Because it lacks the basic moral imperative not to take advantage of others, people lack the natural reluctance or embarassment that keeps us from most fiscal wrongs. Therefore, Hashem provided more explicit exhortations in the Torah.

This lack of it actually being a moral issue also goes some of the way to explaining our willingness to engineer a heter iska, a contract that gains many of the advantages of an interest-bearing loan, but without the prohibitions. But that will wait for next chapter.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 64

סִימָן סד – שֶׁלֹּא לַעֲשׂוֹת סְחוֹרָה בְּדָבָר הָאָסוּר

Chapter 64: Not to Conduct Business in Prohibited Items

א: כל דבר שאסור מן התורה באכילה, אע”פ שהוא מתר בהנאה, אם הוא דבר המיחד למאכל, אסור לעשות בו סחורה אם להלוות עליו. ואפלו לקנתו להאכילו לפועלו אינו יהודי, אסור. אבל דבר שאינו עומד לאכילה, כגון סוסים וחמורים, מתר לעשות בהם סחורה. וחלב גם כן מתר בסחורה, שהרי נאמר בו, [וְחֵ֤לֶב נְבֵלָה֙ וְחֵ֣לֶב טְרֵפָ֔ה] יֵעָשֶׂ֖ה לְכָל־מְלָאכָ֑ה

Anything which is Torahitically prohibited for eating, even if it it permitted for [general] benefit, if it is specifically for food, one may not do business in it or take a loan upon it [i.e. with this prohibited food as the collateral]. Even if he bought it to feed his non-Jewish worker, it is prohibited. But something which isn’t generally for eating, like horses or donkeys, one may do business with it. Prohibited fats [sheets of fat from around the kidneys, the pelvic side of the abdominal cavity and some of the fats on digestive organs from cattle, goats or sheep] are also permitted for business, because it says about it “[the fat of a dead or improperly slaughtered animal] any work may be done with it.” (Vayiqra 7:24)

ב: אם נזדמן לאדם באקראי דבר אסור, כגון, שצד דגים ועלה במצודתו דג טמא, וכן מי שנזדמנה לו נבלה וטרפה בביתו, מתר למכרן, כיון שלא נתכון לכך. וצריך למכרן מיד, ולא ימתין עד שתהא שמנה אצלו. ויכול למכרן גם על ידי שליח, אע”פ שהשליח ירויח בו. אבל לא שיקנה השליח לחלוטין, דאם כן, הוא אצלו סחורה

If someone happened upon by chance some prohibited item, for example he was fishing and a non-kosher fish was taken up in his net, or similarly someone who happened upon a naturally dead or improperly slaughtered animal in his home, he is allowed to sell them, because he didn’t intend it. And he must sell them immediately, and not wait until [a living fish or animal] was fattened up by him. He can also sell them via a messenger, even if the messenger will profit on it. However, the proxy may not buy it for [his own] re-sale, because then the messenger is conducting business in it.

ג: וכן מתר לגבות בחובו דברים טמאים וימכרם מיד, דאסור להשהותן כדי להשתכר בהם, אבל מתר להשהותן בכדי שלא יפסיד מן הקרן

Similarly, he is permitted to collect a debt with non-kosher items and sell them immediately. For it is prohibited to wait with them until he makes a profit on them, but it is permitted to wait with them so that he does not lose on the initial capital.

ד: דבר שאין אסורו אלא מדרבנן, כגון גבינות של נכרי, מתר לעשות בו סחורה

Something that is only prohibited rabbinically, such as the cheeses of a non-Jew [even real non-chalav yisrael, beyond products regulated by the FDA or similar government agencies] one may conduct business with them.


I am rushing through this chapted because it’s not really on-topic for our purposes. The idea of this series is to bolster an awareness of the Torah’s business ethical demands. Not so much the laws themselves (for which which one should consult a rabbi when questions arise), but keeping the basic notion in mind and as part of our culture that these prohbitions are no less real than those of kashrus or Shabbos. However, it didn’t seem to make sense to skip one short se’if in a string of consecutive se’ifim.

This chapter addresses the prohibition of making one’s living dealing in non-kosher food. It’s only permitted as an adjunct to trying to do legitimate business, or with respect to chelev, the particular fats of kosher domesticated mammals that are prohbited, where the verse explicitly says one may use them in other ways — so the rabbis didn’t ban business in them.

Interestingly, this prohibition is only with respect to Torahitically prohibited foods; rabbinically non-kosher food may be bought and sold. I can think of two ways of viewing that:

1- There is a general rule that the rabbis do not enact a gezeirah, a fence to protect someone from accidental violation through accident or habit, whose purpose is to protect an already existing gezeirah.  This would rule out a prohibition against selling food that the rabbis declared unkosher as part of a gezeirah, such as our case of chicken parmgan.

The only problem with this second approach is that I do not know if every rabbinic kashrus law is a gezeirah. There is another class of rabbinic legislation, one that implements the lessons gleaned from the Torah law. Gezeiros may be made to protect someone from violating one of those laws. This is discussed at more length in my post on types of halachic rulings. One would need to categorize every rabbinic law related to food to see if this simpler answer is sufficient.

2- If the previous answer doesn’t work, here’s another possibility: As per an earlier blog entry, there is a dispute as to how to view rabbinic prohibitions. Do they actually have metaphysical impact, such that eating chicken parmigan causes negative impact to the soul? Or are they pragmatic advice, tools to help avoid the metaphysical damages of Torah law, or to maximize the advantages of the Torah’s obligations?

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 63:5

ה: לא יבקש מחברו שיאכל אצלו כשהוא יודע שלא יאכל. לא יתן לו מתנה כשהוא יודע שלא יקבל, וכן כל כיוצא בזה, שהוא אחד בפה ואחד בלב. יראה לחברו שהוא מכבדו, ואין כונתו שלמה, אסור, אלא יהא תמיד פיו ולבו שוים, וינהג בשפת אמת ורוח נכון ולב טהור

Don’t invite a friend to eat by you when you know he won’t eat. Don’t offer him a gift when you know he won’t accept it. And similarly anything like it. For this is “one thing in the mouth, and another in the heart” [i.e. duplicity]. If he shows his friend that he honors him, but the intent is not whole [not genuine or not as great as the display], it is prohibited. Rather, at all times he should have his mouth and his heart in consonance, and he should conduct himself with lips of truth, a correct will/spirit, and a pure heart.


The short coda to the Amidah, “Elokai, Netzor“, written by Mar berei deRavina as a personal request following his formalized prayers (Berakhos 17b), begins with “אלהי, נצור לשוני מרע ושפתותי מדבר מרמה — my G-d, stop my tongue from evil, and my lips from speaking mduplicity.” This an adaptation of Tehillim 34:14 (“נְצֹ֣ר לְשֽׁוֹנְךָ֣ מֵרָ֑ע וּ֝שְׂפָתֶ֗יךָ מִדַּבֵּ֥ר מִרְמָֽה׃”), but where David advises the children to strive for this, Mar berei deRavina asks for G-d’s help to be able to accomplish it in his own life.

The Vilna Gaon notes that the difference between the two halves of this line (and the two haves of the next two) is whether we allow the evil to be expressed, or keep it contained within. In the first case, our language is evil. In the second, our lips, the border of our mouths, keeps the hatred within and we falsely speak words of friendship. This compounds the problem of geneivas da’as, lying, with that of violating the verse “lo sisna es achikha bilvavekha — do not hate your brother in your heart”, rather than airing grievances and working them out. (I discussed this idea at greater length last year.)

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 63:4

ד: אסור לגנב דעת הבריות – פרוש לרמות בדברים, אע”פ שאין בו חסרון ממון, אפלו דעת עובד כוכבים. ולכן אסור למכר לו בשר נבלה בחזקת שחוטה. אם מוכר איזה דבר שיש בו מום, אע”פ שהדבר שוה כמו שהוא מוכרו לו, מכל מקום צריך להודיע להלוקח את המום – ועין לקמן סימן קפ”ב סעיף ד’ – ובמתנה לכא משום גנבת דעת

It is prohibited to “steal the knowledge” of people; meaning, to mislead them with words. Even if there is no loss of money involved. Even the knowledge of idolaters.

Therefore, it is prohibited to sell him [an idolater] meat from an animal that died naturally under the presumption that it was slaughtered [according to halakhah]. If he sells any thing which has a defect, even if the item is worth the same as what he was selling it for, still he has to tell him about the defect. (See  later, 182:4)

For a gift, there is no prohibition of misleading.


We discussed this earlier, on 62:7, where I also provided the halakhah at 182:4, which Rabbi Ganzfried refers us to. From 182:4:

What is fraud? One person obtains his peer’s money with his peer’s consent, such as he has a loan or rental payment, but he doesn’t want to repay him…

Since it says “rei’ekha — your neighbor”, it is not prohibited when [the victim is] a non-Jew and there is no risk of chilul hasheim (desecrating G-d’s reputation)…

Even in a situtaiton where [the non-Jew] does not know [and thus there is no risk of chilul Hashem], it is not permitted except to avoid a loan or some other debt that he owes him. However, an object which is visible, one may not use trickery, for this is actual theft. Not only that, but even if he bought an object from him, he can’t trick him in the calculations when paying him the money, as it says “and he shall reckon with him who bought him” [the verse in question is originally about a slave]. Which applies to a non-Jew, because he only gave over the ownership of the object for a payment which is equal. Therefore, someone who tricks him in the calculation of the money, it is like he stole the object, and not like he avoided his debt.

Even geneivas da’as (stealing knowledge; i.e. lying or intentionally giving a false impression) that does not cause a loss of money, is prohibited in commerce as I wrote in chapter 63. In any case, if the non-Jew errs himself, it is permissible — if there is no chilul hasheim — not to inform him. Although it is appropriate for the Jew to tell him, “I am relying on your calculations.”

Notice the term for fraud and lying, “geneivas daas“, theft of knowledge. Halakhah is rarely structured in terms of rights, but here that seems to be the clear intent. That people have a right to knowledge, and thus intentionally misleading someone is a form of theft.

Even more interesting, it would seem from 182:4 that the right to knowledge is more enforced, at least in the case of idolaters than property is! After all, one may make money on an honest mistake made by an idolatrous non-Jew in a case where the mistake would never be caught and lead to chilul Hashem. But if the non-Jew assumes something that makes no difference to him — e.g. whether an animal he bought would be kosher for Jews — we have to clear up an error in that assumption. Implicitely causing a misunderstanding, such as being a Jew who generally sells kosher meat, is also geneivas da’as. As I noted earlier, this seriously minimizes the scope in which money can be gained through misunderstanding as well.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 63:3

ג: מי שיש לו שם כנוי לגנאי, אף- על-פי שהוא רגיל באותו כנוי, ואינו מתביש בו, אם זה כונתו לבישו, אסור לקרתו בכנוי זה, משום אונאת דברים

Someone who has an insulting nickname, even if he is already used to that nickname and isn’t embarrassed by it, if someone’s intent is to embarrass him, one may not call him by this nickname because it is hurtful speech.


Calling someone a nickname that if taken literally would be  insulting, but neither the person it refers to nor the person using it still think about what the term really means is permissible.

When it comes to trying to give offense, as should be obvious, saying “everyone does it” is no excuse. Nor is insulting someone just because you know they’ve learned to ignore this particular insult.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 63:2

ב: כיצד הוא אונאת דברים. לא יאמר לחברו, בכמה אתה רוצה לתן חפץ זה, והוא אינו רוצה לקנתו. היה אחד מבקש לקנת תבואה, לא יאמר לו, לך אצל פלוני, והוא יודע שאין לו למכר. אם היה חברו בעל תשובה לא יאמר לו, זכור מעשיך הראשונים. אם באו יסורים על חברו, רחמנא לצלן, לא יאמר לו כדרך שאמרו חברי איוב לאיוב, הלא יראתך כסלתך וגו’, זכר-נא מי הוא נקי אבד, – והם שאמרו לו כן, מפני שהיה מעות דברים כלפי השגחת השם יתברך ומדותיו. אם שאלו מאתו איזה דבר חכמה, לא יאמר למי שאינו יודע אותה חכמה, מה אתה תשיב בדבר הזה. וכן כל כיוצא בדברים אלו שהם צער הלב

What is hurtful speech?

[1] Do not say to a fellowman, “For how much would you sell this item?” when one has no desire to buy it. [Or,] if one seeks to buy grain, one should not tell him, “go to so-and-so,” when he knows that [the person he named] does not have any grain to sell.

[2] If his fellowman is a ba’al teshuvah [someone who repented], one should not say to him, “Remember your earlier deeds.” If a person was afflicted with suffering, may the All-Merciful forbid, one should not speak to him in a manner similar to the way Iyov’s friends spoke to Iyov:  (Iyov 4:6-7): “Can you not rely on your fear/awe of G-d”… Try to recall, please, did an innocent man ever perish?” They addressed him that way only because he had complained against Hashem’s Providence and His [actions'] attributes.

[3] If a person asks of him about some kind of art/wisdom, one should ask of someone who doesn’t know that art/wisdom, “What is your opinion of the matter?” The same applies with regard to similar matters which cause heart-ache.


The halakhah spells out three subtypes of ona’s devarim, and I turned the translation into a numbered list to make the point more evident.

1- Most similar to ona’as mamon, hurtful business practices, is getting someone’s hopes up about a deal that you know is fictitious.

2- Outright insult.

3- Saying something that one knows will embarass someone or cause them other emotional pain. This would seem to me to be more insidious than the previous category, since it includes an element of mirmah, duplicity. The victim could never know that the speaker intended harm, and could continue to trust him,

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 63:1

סִימָן סג – אָסוּר לְהוֹנוֹת בִּדְבָרִים וְלִגְנֹב דַּעַת הַבְּרִיּוֹת

Chapter 63: It is Prohibited to Use Hurtful Speech
or to Misinform People

א: כשם שאונאה אסורה במקח וממכר, כך אסורה אונאה בדברים, שנאמר ולא תונו איש את עמיתו ויראת מאלהיך, זו אונאת דברים. וגדולה אונאת דברים מאונאת ממון, שזה נתן להשבון וזה לא נתן להשבון, זה בממונו וזה בגופו. והצועק על אונאת דברים, נענה מיד. וצריך לזהר ביותר מאונאת אשתו, שלא לצערה בדברים, לפי שהאשה רכה בטבע, ועל צער מעט היא בוכה, והשם יתברך מקפיד על הדמעות, ושערי דמעות לא ננעלו

Just as wronging others [ona'ah] is forbidden in business dealings, so it is prohibited to be hurtful [ona'ah] with speech, as it says (Vayiqra 25:17): “A person should not wrong/hurt his colleague, and you shall fear your G-d.” This [refers to] hurtful speech. Wronging someone by words is a greater [sin] than cheating in money, because: (1) [money] is returnable,  but [words] can not be returned [taken back]; and (2)  [money] involves one’s property but words involve one’s self.

The one who cries [to G-d] about hurtful speech is answered immediately.

One needs to be especially careful about wronging his wife, and not distress her by speech, because a woman has a sensitive nature, and in mild distress she cries, and Hashem, may He be blessed, is strict about tears, and “The gate of tears is never locked.” (Berakhos 32b)


The previous chapter was about ona’as mamon, cheating with respect to money. This chapter is on ona’as devarim, hurtful words, in addition to lying, intentionally misleading, and defrauding. The fact that both are called “ona’ah” puts a perspective on both prohibitions.

The closing warning, that all these highfalutin ideas about how to speak to others even applies to one’s wife — who might be taken for granted but who would care more than other people about her husband’s put-downs — is quite poignant.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 62:18

יח: הרוצה למכר קרקע או בית, ובאו שנים, כל אחד אומר: אני אקח בדמים אלו, ואין אחד מהם בעל המצר, אם היה אחד מהם מיושבי עירו והשני מעיר אחרת, בן עירו קודם. היו שניהם מיושבי עירו ואחד מהם שכנו, שכנו קודם. ואם השני הוא חברו הרגיל עמו ושכנו אינו רגיל עמו כלל, חברו קודם. היה אחד מהם חברו ואחד מהם קרובו, חברו קודם, שנאמר טוב שכן קרוב מאח רחוק. אבל לשאר כל אדם, קרובו קודם, חוץ מתלמיד- חכם שקודם ואפלו לשכנו וחברו הרגיל אצלו. אבל אם היה אחד מהם בעל המצר, הוא קודם לכלם. ואפלו לאחד שמכרו לאחר, יכול בעל המצר לתן את הדמים להלוקח ולסלק אותו. ואפלו לאחר שמכרו לאחר, יכול בעל המצר לתן את הדמים להלוקח ולסלק אותו. ואפלו הלוקח הוא תלמיד- חכם ושכן וקרוב למוכר, והמצרן הוא עם -הארץ ורחוק מן המוכר, המצרן קודם ומסלק את הלוקח. וכל קדימות אלו, מצות חכמים הם, לקים מה שנאמר ועשית הישר והטוב בעיני ה’ – סימן קע”ה ורז”ש

Someone who wants to sell land or a house, and two come [to buy], each one saying: “I will buy it at such a price”, and neither of them is a next-door neighbour [who has right of first refusal (see below)],  if one of them lives in his city, and the second is from a different city, the one from his city has precedence.

If both of them live in his city and one is his neighborhood, his neighbor has precedence.

If the second was a close friend [someone who is frequently at his house], and his neighbor is not at all a friend, his friend has precedence.

If one was his friend and the other his relative, his friend has precedence, as it is said (Prov. 27:63): “a close neighbor is better than a distant brother”. However, with any other people his relative has precedence, apart from a sage who has precedence — even over his neighbor or his friend who is often by him.

However, if one of them is his next-door neighbor, he has precedence over all of them. Even after he has sold to another, the next-door neighbor can give the money to the buyer and evict him. Even if the buyer is a sage, a neighbor and a relative, and the next-door neighbor is an unlearned peasant and socially distant from the seller, the next-door neighbor has precedence and can evict the buyer.

This system of precedences are commandments of the Sages, to carry out what was said (Devarim, 6:18): “And you shal do what is good and honest in G-d’s ‘Eyes’.”


I think there are two factors here. The first is to be fair to the next-door neighbor, who is much impacted by the sale. Aside from having a new neighbor, it also means an opportunity to expand his property.

The second is a matter of giving priority to someone close to you. If I may quote R’ Shimon Shkop (yes, yet again — you should be used to it by now!):

Although at first glance it seems that feelings of love for oneself and feelings of love for others are like competing co-wives [tzaros; the etymology meaning: troubles] one to the other, we have the duty to try to delve into it, to find the means to unite them, since Hashem expects both from us. This means [a person must] explain and accept the truth of the quality of his “I”, for with it the statures of [different] people are differentiated, each according to their level.

The entire “I” of a coarse and lowly person is restricted only to his substance and body. Above him is someone who feels that his “I” is a synthesis of body and soul. And above him is someone who can include in his “I” all of his household and family. Someone who walks according to the way of the Torah, his “I” includes the whole Jewish people, since in truth every Jewish person is only like a limb of the body of the nation of Israel. And there are more levels in this of a person who is whole, who can connect his soul to feel that all of the world and worlds are his “I”, and he himself is only one small limb in all of creation. Then, his self-love helps him love all of the Jewish people and [even] all of creation.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 62:17

יז: וכן מי שאומר לחברו, לתן לו איזה מתנה קטנה, שזה סמך בדעתו שבודאי יתן לו, אם חזר ולא נתן לו, הרי זה ממחסרי אמנה. אבל במתנה מרבה אין בה חסרון אמנה, שהרי זה לא סמך דעתו על זה. ומכל מקום בשעה שהוא אומר לתן לו, צריך להיות בדעת גמורה, ולא יהא בדעתו לשנות, כי לדבר אחד בפה ואחד בלב, אסור מן התורה, שנאמר איפת צדק והין צדק יהיה לכם. מה תלמוד לומר הין צדק, והלא הין בכלל איפה הוא, אלא שיהא הן שלך ולאו שלך צדק. וכל זאת לעשיר. אבל האומר לתן לעני, בין מתנה מעטת בין מתנה מרבה, אינו יכול לחזר בו מן הדין, מפני שנעשה כמו נדר. ואפלו גמר בלבו לתן, צריך לקים מחשבתו – סימן ר”ד רי”ב רמ”ט. וביורה דעהסימן רנ”ח וז”ש

Similarly, one who said to his friend that he would give him some small present, and that one depended on him certainly giving him, if he changed his mind and didn’t give him, he is from among the untrustworthy. However, with respect to a large present it isn’t a lack of trustworthiness, because he [the typical recipient] would not rely on such a statement [to necessarily receive it].

In any event [even where the promise is of something large], at the time he said he would give him, he needs to have finally decided, and not ready to change [his mind]. Because to say one thing aloud and another in his heart is forbidden from the Torah. As it is said (Lev. 19:36): “A just ephah and a just hin you shall have.” What does it come to teach with “a just hןn” ? after all a hןn is [a unit of measure] just like an ephah. Rather, (read it as) your “hein” (“yes” in Aramaic, and therefore plausibly a rare synonym for “yes” – “kein” in other Semitic languages like Hebrew) and your “no” should be just (reliable).  (Baba Metzia 49A)

All the previous applies (only to gifts promised) to a rich person, but whatever one said (one would give) to a poor person, whether a small present or a large present, cannot go back on this by (halachic) law, because it is considered like a vow, and even if he only decided in his heart to give, he must keep what he thought.


With everything we said before about speech, all the more so when you say something someone else came to count on.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 62:16

טז: וראוי לו לאדם לעמד בדבורו, שאפלו לא נתן עדין מעות, ולא רשם את הדבר ולא נגמר הקנין, אם השוו על המחיר, אין לשום אחד מהם לחזור,ומי שהוא חוזר, בין הלוקח ובין המוכר, הרי זה ממחסרי אמנה, ואין רוח חכמים נוחה הימנו, כי ראוי לאיש ישראל לעמד בדבורו, כמו שנאמר שארית ישראל לא יעשו עולה ולא ידברו כזב. וירא שמים יש לו לקים אפלו מחשבת לבו, שאם חשב וגמר בלבו למכר לו בסכום זה, והלה לא ידע ממחשבתו, והוסיף לו על סכום זה, לא יקח ממנו כי אם סכום זה שגמר בלבו, לקים מה שכתוב, ודובר אמת בלבבו. וכן הלוקח שגמר בלבו לקנות בסכום כך וכך, אין לו לחזר בו. וכן כל כיוצא בזה בשאר דברים שבין אדם לחברו, יש לו לקים מחשבות לבו, אם גמר בלבו לעשות איזה טובה ויש בידו לעשותה. אבל צרכי עצמו, כל שאין בהם סרך מצוה, אין צריך לקים אפלו מוצא שפתיו

It is proper for a person to keep his word. So that even if he didn’t yet pay money, and didn’t mark the object, nor completed the transaction, if they have agreed on the price, neither of them should go back. The one who goes back, whether the buyer or the seller, is considered among the untrustworthy, and the sages’ spirits do not rest well about him.

Because it is proper for a Jew to keep his word, as it is said (Zephaniah 3:13): “The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies.” One who is aware of G-d’s Significance (yarei Shamayim) should fulfill even what his heart’s thoughts. So, if he thought and decided in his heart to sell him at a particular price, even though the other did not know his thoughts and offered him more than that amount, he should not take from him except the amount that he had decided on. As to carry out what said (Psalms 15:2): “he … speaks truth in his heart.” Similarly, the buyer who decided in his heart to buy for this-and-this amount, he should not go back on this.

Similarly all things concerning other dealings that are between a person and his fellowman, he should carry out the decisions of his heart. Of he decided in his heart to do a favor, and he was able to do it [he ought to]. However, things for himself, as long as they are not desirable for a mitzvah, he does not need to carry out, even what he spoke.


I wrote on Friday about 62:15:

62:13 established that it is evil to break the promise of a deal to chase a better one. 62:14 continues that someone who serves as a proxy to accomplish the deal, so that there is even no deal promised yet, is devious in trying to thwart the one who sent him. [In 15] we see that someone who someone who took some action to initiate the deal — but again, the sale isn’t yet complete — who breaks that deal is formally cursed.

Here we go the final step in the sequence. Speech and even thought matter. Even when nothing at all was done, even where the context is outside of business.

To add a little emphasis…

וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֖ים יְהִ֣י א֑וֹר וַֽיְהִי־אֽוֹר

And Hashem said, “Let there be Light!” and it was light.

- Bereishis 1:3

The Baal Shem Tov points out that it’s not that Hashem’s speech caused the light to appear. Rather, the speech is light. That which we call “light” is actually Hashem saying “יְהִ֣י א֑וֹר”! (The Besh”t then continues to use this idea to explain continuous creation. Words in a book are written once, and then persist. The spoke word lasts only as long as the speaker is speaking. Thus, Speech as a model for Creation implies that G-d is continually creating the world anew, “Who renews, in His Goodness, daily, continually, the Act of Creation.”)

Speech is the actual substratum of the universe. A davar, a thing, is a dibur, a statement.

To break a promise, even one never articulated, is to pick at the very fabric of Creation.