Halacha for Wednesday 1 Cheshvan 5779 October 10 2018

The Laws of Verbal Oppression

In the previous Halacha, we have begun discussing the prohibition of verbal oppression between man and his fellow and between husband and wife. We shall now discuss some of the laws of verbal oppression based on the rulings of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat, Chapter 228).

“Verbal” Oppression
The Gemara (Baba Metzia 58b) states: “Our Sages taught: ‘One shall not oppress his fellow,’ this refers to verbal oppression although it is not monetary cheating. What is verbal oppression? One should not affix his eyes to a sale when one has no money.” This means that one should not inquire about the price of a given item if one has no intention of purchasing it. Similarly, one may not enter a store where a given item is sold and ask how much it costs if one has no intention of buying it at the present time and only wishes to know the price out of curiosity, for the seller believes that his reply will yield positive results and that the inquirer may purchase the item. Thus, the inquirer will have transgressed this prohibition on the part of the seller.

Another example is, as follows: One calls an expert carpenter to one’s home to build kitchen cabinets. In order to know how to plan the modeling of the kitchen, the individual enters many large stores where kitchens are sold and troubles the sellers with his various questions merely in order to get an idea of how to design his personal kitchen in an esthetic manner and then to request from his personal carpenter to do this job. This is indeed considered verbal oppression since one is bothering the owners and workers of the store for no reason while they think that something will actually come out of all of his inquiries. The individual is merely taking advantage of their naivety.

A Ba’al Teshuva
If one knows an individual who is a “Ba’al Teshuva” (a non-observant Jew who has since repented), one may not tell him, “Remember your previous deeds (lifestyle),” for this causes the individual to remember his past sins and causes him needless pain. Similarly, one may not tell the child of converts, “Remember the deeds of your parents,” for this is likewise needlessly taunting him. We have mentioned in the previous Halacha that verbally offending a convert is more severe than offending others because we have been warned about this multiple times in the Torah.

Iyov’s Friends
The verse in the Book of Iyov (4, 6-7) states that when terrible calamities and suffering befell Iyov, his friends came to him and told him, “Is not your fear your confidence and your hope the integrity of your ways? Remember who ever perished being innocent?” This means that they meant to tell him that the calamities were befalling him because of his sins which only served to add onto his suffering and pain. The Gemara states that one should not say such things to someone whom suffering and punishments have befallen, for this is considered verbal oppression; Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch rules likewise. Nevertheless, the Perisha (authored by one of the greatest Acharonim, Rabbeinu Yehoshua Volk Katz, a student of the great Maharshal and Rama) writes that Iyov’s friends were correct in what they told him, for Iyov was busy justifying himself and though that, G-d-forbid, Hashem was acting unjustly with him. This is why they needed to rebuke him and convince him that the suffering he was experiencing was a result of his sins.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Praying Shacharit Early

By Popular Demand: When is it permissible to begin praying Shacharit? Many individuals must arrive at their places of work at a very early hour in the morning and would like to know when the earliest possible time to pray Shacharit is. Answer: Preferably, the time to pray Shacharit is from sunris......

Read Halacha

The Proper Order of Prayer for a Workers’ Minyan

In the previous Halacha, we have explained that one should preferably not pray Shacharit before sunrise. Nevertheless, workers who must arrive at their jobs early in the morning and do not have an opportunity to pray after sunrise may act leniently and pray beginning from dawn which is calculated as......

Read Halacha

Praying for Spiritual Matters- Rabbeinu Moshe Alshich zt”l

We have quoted in the past Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l’s words regarding one of the “Harachaman” texts customarily recited in Birkat Hamazon, “May the Merciful One sustain us in permissible ways as opposed to forbidden ones,” that although our Sages teach us ......

Read Halacha

The Mitzvah of Counting the Omer

The Torah states (Vayikra 21, 15): “And you shall count for yourselves, from the day following the Shabbat, from the day the waved Omer offering is brought, seven complete weeks shall they be.” Our Sages (Menachot 65b) have a tradition that the “day following the Shabbat” ref......

Read Halacha


Personal Requests During the Amida Prayer- Maran zt”l’s Behavior

Question: May one add one’s own personal requests into the Amida prayer? What is the correct custom regarding this matter? Answer: Our Sages (Berachot 34a) discuss whether or not one may add personal requests into one’s Amida prayer and said, as follows: “One may never ask for o......

Read Halacha

Inserting Personal Requests in the Amida Prayer on a Constant Basis

Question: You have written in the Halacha Yomit that one may insert personal requests into the blessings of the Amida. Is this permitted even on a constant basis, i.e. adding personal requests in one’s Amida prayer every day? Answer: Indeed, it is permissible to add personal requests into t......

Read Halacha

Using Sifrei Kodesh (Holy Books) For an Alternate Purpose

Question: May one place one Sefer on top of or lean it against another Sefer so that it is easier to read from the Sefer? Answer: Some have the custom to take one Sefer, such as a book of Mishnayot, and lean it on an angle against another Sefer, such as a Siddur, so that it easier to read from th......

Read Halacha

The Way to Have One’s Prayers Accepted

Question: What does it mean that one should “not make one’s prayer established”-our prayer services are established three times daily? Also, is there any special advice for how one can have one’s prayers accepted? Answer: Regarding the first question, let us quote the Mish......

Read Halacha