I'd heard that some people have a custom not to give knives as a gift (as knives are a sign of shortening life, not extending it); I asked one rabbi who said he hadn't heard of such a custom, but it seemed reasonable. Does anyone have a source for this custom? Would it therefore be advisable not to register for kitchen knives as part of a bridal registry?


"[Rabbi Nachman of Breslev said] in the name of the Ba'al Shem Tov, one should not give his fellow a knife as a gift" (Sichot Haran no. 9, first printed in 1815. Maaglei Tzedek pg. 3a. This tradition is also found in Baal Shem Tov al Hatorah, Parshas Re’ah in the Mekor Mayim Chaim, no. 6.).

There is an in depth article about this issue by Bency Eichorn on the Sefarim blog. In there he says that the earliest Jewish source is the aforementioned Sichot Haran. The non-Jewish sources for this custom predate the Jewish source by over 300 years. He also brings other students of the Ba'al Shem Tov who would give knives as gifts.

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  • Interesting. I have a relative who gives out knifes for Rosh Hashana. Not sure where she picked up that minhag though. – user6591 Jan 30 at 1:08
  • @user6591 Related to #10335 – Nissim Nanach Feb 3 at 12:47
  • @Nissim Thanks! – user6591 Feb 3 at 20:57

I have never heard of such a custom (though granted, that doesn't mean much); on the contrary, I have read of chassidim who would present their Rebbe with a new knife every year. Could be, though, that there's a difference between gifts for a wedding vs. other occasions.

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Rav Bentzion Mutzafi says there is no source for the custom of not handing someone a knife, but then he says "maybe for being careful for a good (cause)."

שאלה - 2673 שלום לכבוד הרב הגאון האם יש מקור לדבר שאסור להעביר סכין מיד ליד אלה להניח על השולחן ולקחת או שזה סתם שטות והמצאה? תשובה אין לזה מקור, ואולי זה ענין של זהירות טובה

Translation: Hello to the honorable Rabbi-Scholar. My question is: is there a source that it is forbidden to pass a knife from a hand to another hand but rather to set it down onto the table and pick it up, or is this just nonsense and an invention (i.e., a new custom)? Response: There is no source to this, and maybe this is a concern for exercising appropriate caution.

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    That's a custom never to hand knives directly (even "could you please pass the knife?"); this is not to gift them. You can pass a knife without gifting, and (hello bedbathandbeyond.com!) you can gift a knife without passing it directly hand-to-hand. – Shalom Dec 30 '11 at 15:48
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    But fascinating nonetheless, thank you! – Shalom Dec 30 '11 at 15:48

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