In Persian culture, there is a principle named taarof in which if something is being offered to you, you must decline it, even if you want it. The giver will ask again if you would like the object but even still you must decline it. This process repeats one more time. Then, if the giver was offering out of politeness but didn't actually want to give it to you, he would no longer ask if you would like it. However, if on the 4th round, the giver asks if you would like the object, only then can you accept this object. Here is the Wikipedia page on it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taarof

Let's say that you know about this custom. You go into an Iranian jewelry store and ask for the value of a necklace. As per taarof, the shop owner says it is worthless ("ghaabel nadaareh"). You know this is taarof but you thank the shop owner and take the item free of charge. You are aware that her offer was mere etiquette but you took advantage of her and 'stole' a necklace.

Is this halachically allowed? If not, is this considered a robbery in public or robbery in private? What penalties must he pay?

P.S. I am aware that this is extremely unethical and goes against all ethical and moral values. This is a hypothetical question. I am not actually going to do this.

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    I somehow doubt that, in practice, you would be able to leave the store with the necklace, any more than you would if the shop owner didn't abide by the taarof custom, and quoted the necklaces actual price. From the Wikipedia article, I get the impression that taarof is an etiquette of conversation (when hosting guests, or in negotiations), and all other rules (like paying the expected price for items, or services) still apply, and are upheld,(at least by the giving party).
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 6:26
  • @TamirEvan Yes, but the same question ethically applies to any exploitation of someone being polite.
    – The GRAPKE
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 8:38

1 Answer 1


In general, the concept of דברים שבלב אינם דברים (see Kiddushin 48b) dictates that if one verbally expresses his participation in a legal or halachic process, it is legally binding even if one didn't actually mean it.

Accordingly, if you were to ask someone for the price of an item and the merchant tells you to take it for free – and you performed a kinyan – the merchant would not be able to subsequently claim that he didn't mean it.

However, there is a limitation to this rule – 'דברים שבלבו ובלב כל אדם'. If something is self-evident (אומדנא דמוכח) – where through the context it is self-understood that the verbal expression was not meant to be binding – then we do take his 'דברים שבלב' (thoughts) into account.

How to define אומדנא דמוכח is a complicated question, which I do not have a clear answer to. I believe that the answer to your question depends on this: In a situation where the taarof process is self-understood and apparent, one who walks out the store with the item is stealing. However, in a situation where this would not constitute the level of self-evident necessary to be considered אומדנא דמוכח, it would be permitted to take the offer at face-value, and take the item without paying for it.

  • The above answer is based on the position of most poskim that the question of דברים שבלב is relevant to the actual validity of the acquisition; even if we believe him that he didn't mean it, his actions outweigh his thoughts and the acquisition is valid. Some, however, understand the gemara's discussion of devarim shebalev to be discussing whether one is believed to contradict his actions/words by saying he didn't mean them. Accordingly, if one would know that the statement was simply a matter of etiquette, it would be forbidden to take it regardless.
    – chortkov2
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 11:44

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