Accidental Talmudist: Day 1574 – Don’t Eye the Merchandise


My son’s 7th birthday is coming up and he wants a punching bag so he can practice tae kwon do at home. I studied the art myself for years, so I know what he needs, and it’s not an inflatable, wobbling piece of dreck that ends up punctured in a week. He’s got a solid roundhouse. He needs a good bag, with a heavy base, that will survive thousands of punches and kicks.

The problem is we don’t have a spot for a bag like that inside our house, and the elements will eventually ruin a bag if you leave it outside. I did lots of online research, but I couldn’t find the right solution. So I did something I hardly ever do anymore: I went to the store.

Good thing. By seeing the bag in person, and talking with an expert, I learned we can keep a good bag outside because the punching part comes off the base quite easily, and can thus be stored inside. Having done the research, however, I also realized the bag in the store was overpriced. I could therefore simply go home, one-click on Amazon, have the right bag delivered free of charge (love that Amazon Prime) and save a fistfull of dollars. But there’s a big problem:

One should not say to someone, “How much is this item,” if he does not want to buy. (Bava Metzia 58b)

I first heard this teaching from ” target=”_blank” title=”Leviticus 25″>Leviticus 25, where the words “man shall not wrong his fellow” are mentioned twice: once to ban deceit in business, and again to prevent every other form of harmful speech. Examples range from reminding people of past wrongs, to branding them with mocking nicknames.

The ban on humiliation is readily understood because damage to a reputation cannot be undone. But why is it so wrong to inquire about the price of an object when you do not intend to buy? After all, Mama said, “” target=”_blank” title=”Rabbi Reuven Wolf teaches at Maayon Yisroel”>Rabbi Reuven Wolf regarding “>facebook.com/accidentaltalmudist. More pieces like this at

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