Qitzur Shulchan Arukh 62:1

סִימָן סב – הִלְכוֹת מַשָּׂא וּמַתָּן

Chapter 62: Laws of Buying and Selling

א: צריך לזהר מאד שלא להונות את חברו. וכל המאנה את חברו, בין שהמוכר מאנה את הלוקח, בין שהלוקח מאנה את המוכר, עובר בלאו, שנאמר, וכי תמכרו ממכר לעמיתך או קנה מיד עמיתך אל-תונו איש את-אחיו. והיא השאלה הראשונה ששואלין את האדם בשעה שמכניסין אותו לדין, נשאת ונתת באמונה – חו”מ רכז, שבת לא. ועי’ באו”ח קנה, וביו”ד רמו

One must be very careful not to take advantage of his peer. And someone who does take advantage of his peer, whether the seller takes advantage of the buyer, or the buyer taking advantage of the seller, is defying a prohibition. As it says, “‘If you sell anything to your neighbor, or buy anything from your neighbor’s possession, do not cheat one another.” (Vayiqra 25:14)

This is the first question that they ask a person at the time they bring him to justice [after his passing], “Did you conduct your buying and selling with trustworthiness?

C.f.: Choshein Mishpat 227, Shabbos 31a, and also see Orakh Chaim 155, and Yoreh De’ah 246.


The Qitzur opens with a discussion of how evil ona’as mamon, cheating is.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh 62:2

ב: כשם שיש אסור אונאה במשא ומתן, כך יש אסור אונאה בשכירות ובקבלנות ובחילוף מטבע

Just as there is a prohibition of cheating in buying and selling, so too there is a prohibition of cheating in hiring, contract work, or money exchange.


I think this required spelling out because of the definition of ona’ah. By default, the relevant value of a business deal is the value of the item. When we speak of unlawfully overcharging or underpaying, we mean by more than 1/6 of the item’s market value.

This applies to goods. Extending it to services, which are not objects holding inherent value, required an explicit statement.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh 62:3

ג: הנושא ונותן באמונה, אינו חושש לאונאה. כיצד. חפץ זה בכך וכך לקחתיו, כך וכך אני רוצה להשתכר בו, אע”פ שהוא נתאנה בלקיחתו, וכל המתאנה אינו רשאי להונות אחרים בשביל זה, מכל מקום זה מתר, שהרי זה כמפרש לו, שלא יסמך על שוי המקח אלא על הדמים שנתן הוא בעדו

Someone who buys and sells with trustworthiness never has to worry about cheating [anyone]. How so? [Let him say,] “This property I bought for this and this [price], and I wish to sell it for that and that”. Even if he was cheated when he bought it, and one who was cheated doesn’t have permission to cheat others because of it, in any case it’s allowed. Because he explained to [the buyer] not to depend on the value of the item, but rather on what he paid for it.


In the previous installment, we noted that halachic business deal requires one charge what the item is worth. This includes a risk, since if the seller over-estimates the worth, he will accidentally violate the prohibition of ona’ah. Therefore the Qitzur recommends being up front about one’s own purchase price. By explicitly tying the deal to purchase price rather than a straight buying of an object of a particular value, the deal is valid regardless of the price.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh 62:4

ד: מי שיש לו איזה דבר למכור, אסור לו ליפותו כדי לרמות בו, כגון להשקות בהמה מי סבין שמנפחין וזוקפין שערותיה כדי שתראה שמנה, או לצבוע כלים ישנים כדי שיתראו כחדשים, וכל כיוצא בזה

One who has some item to sell, is forbidden for him to beautify it in order to thereby fool [prospective buyers]. For example, [it is forbidden] to feed an animal bran-water to make it swell, or straighten its hair so that it looks fat, or to paint an old pot so that it looks new, or anything else that derives from this [principle].


A straightforward truth in advertising law – you can’t misrepresent the product. What I personally found this interesting is that in 62:1 we ruled out selling the item overpriced. So this appears to be saying that even if one of these subterfuges is done in order to make the item easier to sell for what it’s really worth.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh 62:5

ה: וכן אסור לערב מעט פרות רעים בהרבה פרות יפים כדי למכרם בחזקת יפים, או לערב משקה רע ביפה. ואם היה טעמו נכר, מתר לערב, כי הלוקח ירגיש

Similarly, it is forbidden to mix a few bad fruits with many good fruits in to order to sell them under the presumption of [them all being] good, or to mix some bad drink with good.

However, if [the few bad fruits' or the bad drink] taste was obvious it’s allowed to mix, because the buyer will notice.


The first paragraph is the same as the previous law, that one can’t doctor merchandise to sell it under false pretenses. This last clause is clarified in the second paragraph — that it’s okay to sell a batch or mixture of uneven quality as long as the buyer will certainly know that the purchase does include inferior product. That isn’t false pretenses.

However, as per the law we saw in 62:1, one may not overcharge. The buyer knowing the product is of mixed quality, but selling it to him at the market price for top quality product, could be ona’ah. Unless there is so little of the low-grade product that the market prices are nearly the same anyway. Otherwise, he would have to lower his price to the weighted average of the two quality lines sold.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 62:6

ו: מותר לחנוני לחלק קליות ואגוזים לתינוקות, כדי להרגילם שיקנו ממנו. וכן יכול למכור בזול יותר מהשער, כדי שיקנו ממנו, ואין בני השוק יכולין לעכב עליו

A store-owner may give out seeds and nuts to children so as to get them [i.e. their parents] in the habit of shopping by him. Similarly, he may sell at a cheaper price than the going rate so that they would buy from him. And [the others in] the marketplace are not able to stop him.


After looking at false advertising, the next step in the Qitzur is to discuss the forms of marketing that are allowed. Since everything is honest and up-front, being generous to the shoppers’ children or just underpricing the competition is permitted.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 62:7

ז: המודד או שוקל חסר לחברו או אפילו לנכרי, עובר בלאו, שנאמר, לא תעשו עול במדה במשקל ובמשורה – ועין לקמן סימן קפ”ב סעיף א’ וסעיף ד’. וענש המדות והמשקלות קשה מאד, שאי אפשר למודד או לשוקל שקר לשוב בתשובה הגונה, שאינו יודע מה ולמי ישיב. ואף שיעשה צרכי רבים, אין זאת תשובה הגונה. – רל”א

One who measures or weighs less [than the agreed amount to be sold] to any one, even to a non-Jew, transgresses a negative commandment, as it is said (Leviticus 19:35): ”Don’t do unrighteousness… in measurement of weight or volume.” (See also Ch. 182:1 and 182:4, [below]) The punishment for [deficient] measures or weights is very severe, for it is impossible for the lying measurer or weigher to return in proper repentance, because he does not know how much and to whom to return [the money]. Even if he performs public works [with this money],this is not considered as full repentance.


See the se’ifim that Rabbi Ganzfried cites: 182:1 and 182:4.

This quote is a little frustrating to me, since the goal of this series of posts was to reinforce the need for ethics in the workplace, and here Rabbi Ganzfried discusses situations in which a lack of monetary ethics is technically permitted (halakhah), even if still of questionable ethics (mussar, lifnim mishuras hadin [the obligation to go beyond the letter of the law, where appropriate and one is capable]).

However, let’s look at the total picture:

  • One may not steal, even through mis-measurement, from a Jew or a non-Jew. Actually, it’s worse than the Qitzur spells out. As we will see tomorrow, Rashi (citing Chazal) explains that there is a prohibition not to even own the dishonest measures — even if one does not use them! After all, using them would be included in the prohibition against theft. Merely owning the tools for such subterfuge without attempting to use  itself what Hashem is calling a toeivah (disgusting).
  • One may not lie, or even actively mislead, a Jew or a non-Jew.
  • What the Qitzur does permit is passively allowing a non-Jew to lose money on a rental or loan (so that no object is involved) for his own mistake, in an instance where there is no chance of chilul hasheim (such as one is dealing with the borrower’s estate on a loan that has no evidence or documentation, or a math error that is unlikely to get caught). Because of the above about lying, one can’t actively say anything to imply the money is really yours. And it’s better to state clearly that you are paying according to his words, not alleging to agree that the amount is correct.

But even with all these limitations, why is ta’us akum, the error of a non-Jew, grounds for simply not correcting him and walking away with the profit?

With respect to returning lost property, which is not only non-obligatory, it’s outright prohibited, the Rambam and the Shulchan Arukh (CM 266:1) write that this is specifically with respect to an aku”m, literally a “star worshipper”, ie a pagan whose own morals are suspect and who is our adversary. It would seem to be based on the notion that one isn’t obligated to lose being more honest than the norms of the industry, particularly when dealing with adversaries.

However, the restrictions that this does not apply where there is any chance of chilul hasheim nor where the person may be an ethical monotheist, makes this leniency effectively moot. The topic is bound to only be theoretical with respect to our lives, even if one sticks to the precise line of the law.

PS: You might have noticed I wrote “chilul hasheim (desecrating G-d’s reputation)”, rather than “chilul Hashem“. This is because G-d Himself is unchanging, and certainly can’t be desecrated. The latter, “Hashem”, is used as a reference to G-d Himself. What one desecrates isn’t Hashem, but His reputation, i.e. “the name”.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 62:8

ח:כתיב, לא יהיה לך בכיסך אבן ואבן גדולה וקטנה, לא-יהיה לך בביתך איפה ואיפה גדולה וקטנה, אבן שלמה וצדק יהיה-לך, איפה שלמה וצדק יהיה-לך וגו’. ותבת בכיסך וכן תבת בביתך, נראות לכאורה כמיתרות, ודרשו רבותינו זכרונם לברכה, לא-יהיה לך בכיסך, ממון. מה טעם, משום אבן ואבן. לא-יהיה לך בביתך, צרכיך. מה טעם, משום איפה ואיפה. אבל אבן שלמה וצדק אם יהיו בביתך, יהיה לך ממון. וכן איפה שלמה וצדק אם יהיו בביתך, יהיו לך צרכיך. עוד אמרו רבותינו זכרונם לברכה, מה יעשה אדם ויתעשר. ישא ויתן באמונה, ויבקש רחמים ממי שהעשר שלו, שנאמר, לי הכסף ולי הזהב – נדה דף ע

It is written (Devarim 25:13-15): “You shall not have in your bag weights, a large one [for measuring what you buy] and a small one [for measuring what you sell], you shall not have in your house measures, a large one and a small one, a full and just weight shall you have, a full and just measure shall you have…”.

The word “בכיסך” [in your bag] and also the word “בביתך” [in your house] appear apparently superfluous. Our Rabbis of blessed memory expounded (Bava Basra 89a): “‘you shall not have in your bag’ – money. Why will this be ? Because of [having] one weight and [a different] weight. ‘You will not have in your house’ — your necessities. Why will this be ? Because of [using] one measure and [another] measure. However, [if] ‘a full and just weight will be in your house’ — then you will have money. Similarly, [if] ‘a full and just measure will be in your house’ — you will have your necessities.”

On addition our Rabbis of blessed memory said (Niddah 70b): “What should a person do to become wealthy? He should buy and sell with integrity, and ask mercy from the One Who owns all wealth. As it is said (Chaggai, 2:8), “silver is Mine, and gold is Mine.”


As I mentioned yesterday, Rashi quotes Chazal, explaining this verse in Devarim as being about merely owning the tools for dishonesty. That had it been about actually using them, the verse would be superfluous — theft is already prohibited. And thus when the chapter later (25:16) calls it a “תֽוֹעֲבַ֛ת יְ-הוָ֥-ה אֱ-לֹהֶ֖יךָ כָּל־עֹ֣שֵׂה אֵ֑לֶּה — to’eivah to Hashem your G-d whomever does these things”, it is calling upon us to be so disgusted with fiscal dishonesty that we couldn’t stand be around people who just keep the means for it around the house, never mind those who use them, or our actually misweighing merchandise!

The words from Chazal are difficult that the Qitzur next quotes. The bigger problem is that it raises the question of theodicy (tzadiq vera lo; “Why bad things happen to good people” and visa versa). We all know dishonest people who do thrive, and honest merchants who never seem to be able to make ends meet.

The smaller problem is that Chazal say on the verse “aseir ta’aseir” (you shall tithe a tithing) that on tithing alone one may test G-d. Otherwise, one does not do so — and so one isn’t even permitted to be more scrupulous in business for the sake of “doing to become wealthy”, as it is quoted above from tractate Niddah.

Perhaps their point is about wealth defined as Ben Zoma describes it, “Who is wealthy? One who is happy with his lot.” (Avos 4:1) The person who cheats in business may actually accumulate more objects, however, “one who has one maneh [a coin worth 100 zuz] wants 200″. Why is he violating G-d’s commandment? Because he doesn’t believe that his portion is given to him by Hashem, and designed to best fit the path Hashem is leading him down. He doesn’t accept “his lot” in life. It is only the person who buys and sells with integrity and turns to Hashem for mercy who will ever be content.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 62:9

ט:צריך למדוד ולשקול בעין יפה, שיהיה עודף על המדה, שנאמר, איפה שלמה וצדק יהיה -לך. מה תלמוד לומר וצדק. אמרה תורה, צדק משלך ותן לו – בבא בתרא פח: חושן משפט סימן רל”א סעיף י”ד

One must measure and weigh with a generous eye, so that there will be a little more beyond the measure. As it says “a full and just measure you should have”. The Torah says, “be just at your own expense, and give to him”.


As we already established erring in a measurement in one’s own favor is particularly odious. The Torah considers it so bad that owning the tools for it, without even using the dishonest measures, is enough for Hashem to brand the owner a “to’eiavah to Hashem”!

Since it’s impossible to measure product without erring, and since erring in one direction is so wrong, we are advised to “play safe” and overestimate a little in the counterparty’s favor.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 62:10

י: צריך למדוד כמנהג המדינה ולא ישנה כלל. מקום שנהגו לגדוש, לא ימחוק אפילו ברצון הלוקח שפחת לו מדמים. ומקום שנהגו למחוק, לא יגדוש אפילו ברצון המוכר שמוסיף לו דמים, כי התורה הקפידה על עוות המדות, פן תצא תקלה על ידי זה, שיראה הרואה שמודדין כך וידמה לו שכך היא מדת העיר, וימדד כן לאחר שאינו יודע גם כן את המנהג ויטעהו

One must measure according to the customs of the country and not change from that at all. In a place where they are accustomed to use heaping measures, he may not level off [the top] even by the desire of the buyer in order to pay him less. And in a place where they are accustomed to use level measures, do not heap up [above the top of the measuring cup / spoon / etc...] even by the desire of the buyer who would pay him more. Because the Torah is concerned about false measures, lest a mishap will be caused by it. [E.g.] that a viewer may see that they measure accordingly and he would imagine that this is the way of measuring in this city, measure that way for another person who also doesn’t know the actual custom, and mislead him.


This is more on the subject of false measures, and how the prohibition even goes beyond using them to cause theft.

To again repeat the Qitzur Shulchan Arukh 62:1:

This is the first question that they ask a person at the time they bring him to justice [after his passing], “Did you conduct your buying and selling with trustworthiness?

Not just honesty,emunah.