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.

Qitzur Shulchan Aruch – 62:11

יא: חיבים ראשי הקהל להעמיד ממנים שיהיו מחזרים על החניות. וכל מי שנמצא אתו מדה חסרה או משקל חסר או מאזנים מקלקלים, רשאים להכותו ולקנסו כנראה בעיניהם

The heads of the community are obligated to appoint supervisors who will audit the shops. And whomever is found having with him a defective measure, deficient weight or crooked scale, they are entitle to beat him or hit him as they see fit.


Since the impact of dishonesty in business is communal, the community has a duty to enforce honesty amongst the individual storekeepers.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 62:12

יב: אסור לאדם להשהות מדה חסרה בביתו או בחנותו, אע”פ שאינו מודד בה. ואם משהה, עובר בלאו, שנאמר, לא-יהיה לך בכיסך אבן ואבן גדולה וקטנה, לא-יהיה בביתך איפה ואיפה גדולה וקטנה. ואפלו לעשות את המדה עביט למי רגלים, אסור, שמא יבא מי שאינו יודע וימדד בה. ואם יש מנהג בעיר שאין מודדין אלא במדה הרשומה ברשם הידוע וזו אינה רשומה, מתר להשהותה

It is forbidden for a person to keep a deficient measure in his house or in his shop, even if he does not measure with it. If he does keep [such a measure] he transgresses a prohibition, as it is said (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…”.’ Even to make the measure into a chamber pot for urine is forbidden, as perhaps someone will comes who doesn’t know and measure with it. If there is a local custom that one doesn’t measure except with a measure that has been marked with an official mark, and this (pot) is not marked, one may keep it (at home).


We already mentioned this point in Rashi’s name a few times. The prohibition is even just owning the tools for fiscal dishonesty; even with no intent of being dishonest. The “just in case” of someone perhaps being misled should be considered too evil to risk.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 62:13

יג: המחזר אחר דבר לקנותו או לשכרו, בין קרקע בין מטלטלים, בין מנכרי בין מישראל, וכבר השוו על הדמים, וקדם שגמרו את הקנין, בא אחר וקנאו או שכרו, נקרא רשע. אבל אם עדין לא השוו על הדמים, אלא שהמוכר רוצה בכך והקונה רוצה בפחות, מתר לאחר לקנותו. ואסור להשיג גבול רעהו בשכירות בתים וכדומה מנכרי – רל”ז

One who is pursuing an object to buy or rent it, whether it is real estate or goods, whether from a non-Jew or from a Jew, and has already agreed on the price, but before they can close the sale, another comes and bought it or rented it, he  is called a wicked person. However, if they have not yet agreed on the price, but the seller wants a certain amount and the buyer wants [to pay] less, it is permitted to another to buy it. It is forbidden to encroach on a neighbor’s business territory, in rental of houses and so on from a non-Jew.


There is nothing binding in our case where the deal was negotiated, but neither property nor money exchanged hands.

We rule that Torahitically, it’s the the exchange of money that causes the transition of ownership from buyer to seller. However Rabbinically, the rabbis use their power to redistribute wealth to instead make the sale of objects not used for a mitzvah final when the object being bought is exchanged. (E.g. Say someone sold some fine china, received the money, but didn’t ship the object yet.  Then the china breaks. Torahitically, it’s the buyer’s loss. Rabinically this was shifted to be the seller’s loss — he either has to replace the item or return the money. A more frequent but more complicated example is if the deal is done in a hyperinflationary environment, and therefore the value of the money can measurably change before delivery.) Real estate, and objects used for a mitzvah (e.g. buying a share of someone’s chanukah candles immediately before the lighting) are transfered where the money is. Here, neither occured.

When Moshe goes out to the slaveyards of Egypt, sees one Jew striking another, “and he says to the rasha, ‘Why are you striking your neighbor?” (Shemos 2:13) A Jew who strikes another is summarily branded a rasha.

The person didn’t cheat financially. And yet, their word has to be binding (regardless of whom he gave it to). Someone who breaks their word is classed with someone who hits another — both are labeled “rasha“.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 62:14

יד: הנותן מעות לחברו לקנות לו קרקע או מטלטלין, והלך השליח וקנה את החפץ במעותיו בשביל עצמו, הרי זה רמאי. ואם קנאו ממעות של המשלח, מחיב לתנו לו, אע”פ שקנאו לעצמו

One who gives money to a friend to buy for him land or goods [as his agent], and the agent went and bought the object with his own money for himself, this one is deceitful. If he bought it with the money he was given, he is obliged to give him it, even if he [was trying to] buy it for himself.


A continuation of the theme we began yesterday. Committing to a deal is not fiscally binding until the deal is complete, but there is a lack of yosheir (integrity) in breaking one’s word.

Qitzur Shulchan Arukh – 62:15

טו: מי שנתן אפילו רק מקצת דמים על המקח או שרשם על המקח סימן בפני המוכר, או שאמר לו המוכר רשם מקחך, אע”פ שהוא בענין שלא קנה בזה, מכל מקום כל החוזר בו, בין הלוקח בין המוכר, לא עשה מעשה ישראל וחיב לקבל מי שפרע, דהינו שאוררין אותו בבית-דין ואומרים, מי שפרע מאנשי דור המבול ומאנשי דור הפלגה ומאנשי סדום ועמורה וממצרים שטבעו בים, הוא יפרע ממי שאינו עומד בדבורו

One who has given even only a little money on a purchase, or has just marked the object in the presence of the seller, or the seller said to him: “Mark your purchase”, even though he has not formally bought this object, in any event any one who goes back on it, whether the buyer or the seller, has not done an act becoming to a Jew, and is obliged to receive a “May He who took payment”. That is, he is cursed in court and they say: “May He who took payment from [ie: punished] the people of the flood, and from the people of disunity [the generation of the Tower of Bavel],  and from the people of Sedom and Amorrah, and from the Egyptians whom He drowned in the sea, He will take payment from one who does not keep his word.


A continuation of the theme we began two days ago.

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. Here 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.

Notice the text of the curse explicitly ties the concept of Divine Punishment to that of a metaphysical “repayment”.

One’s word must be binding; and as we noted in 62:13, it does not depend on whom that word was given to.

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.

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 – 62:18

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.