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.