Is talking sarcastically with a friend as an innocent joke (not intending to offend him or bother him) a transgression of the ninth commandment, Don't lie (לא תענה)?

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    Note, the ninth commandment is not "Don't lie". It's "Don't lie to a court". – Double AA Jan 6 '16 at 12:41
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    I wonder also if it's prohibited for musar-dik reasons. As in, if you get used to it you'll eventually use it in contexts where you are bothering the other person. – andrewmh20 Jan 6 '16 at 12:57
  • @DoubleAA I know but I always believed it applied to all kinds of lies. – Gabriel12 Jan 6 '16 at 16:56
  • @Gabe12 You probably should have asked that first before just assuming it. – Double AA Jan 6 '16 at 18:16
  • @msh Given that no answer is currently upvoted, woudn't it make more sense to adjust the question to match the title, including reference to the 9th commandment as mere motivation for asking? – Double AA Jan 6 '16 at 18:18

We actually find sarcasm used in the Talmud. One example that comes to mind is in Taanis 24b, where Rav Papa declared a fast day during a drought, but felt very weak. He ate a handful of cereal and went to Daven. The prayers for rain went unanswered. Rav Nachman b. Ushpezati told Rav Papa, 'If you'd eat another handful then you'd get rain'. Rav Papa was embarrassed and then it started raining -- in the merit of his pain.

  • Quoting the line(s) you are refering to would help people understand what you mean to say so they could agree or disagree. – user6591 Jan 10 '16 at 23:05
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    +1, though people should be careful in applying this sort of sarcasm as it may violate אונאת דברים in many cases. (Whether Rav Nachman b. Ushpezati was justified in this particular instance is another question). – Fred Jan 11 '16 at 7:51
  • Didn't the story of Hannah taught us that exactly this is forbidden? – Gabriel12 Jan 14 '16 at 8:29
  • @Gabe12 In what way? – HaLeiVi Jan 14 '16 at 15:33
  • @HaLeiVi Peninnah would embarrass Hannah in order to make her pray harder to G-d, so that G-d would grant kids to Hannah. From here we learn that one can't embarrass or give pain to somebody, even if it's for a greater cause. – Gabriel12 Apr 10 '16 at 2:12

It seems from the Mesilas Yesharim chapter 11 seen here that lying in a joking manner, which we can call sarcasm, is not exactly what is described as a real lie, but is nonetheless detestable to Hashem and at least included in the admonition in exodus 23:7 to distance oneself from falseness. Emphasis mine.

There are others whose sickness is milder than that of the first two types. The members of this third group are not confirmed in falsehood, but do not take heed to withdraw from it, and speak it when the opportunity presents itself, and very often by way of jest and the like, with no evil intent. The Sage, however, has made it known to us that all of this is contrary to the will of the Creator, blessed be He, and to the attribute of His saints (Proverbs 13:5): "The righteous hate a false thing." And it is in relation to this that we were warned (Exodus 23:7), "Withdraw from a false thing." Note that we do not have, "Guard yourself from falsehood," but "Withdraw from a false thing," this to awaken us to the greatness of the extent to which one must withdraw himself and flee from falsehood. As has been stated (Zechariah 3:13), "The remnant of Israel will not do wrong and will not speak falsehood; and a deceiving tongue will not be found in their mouths." Our Sages of blessed memory have said (Shabbath 55a ), "The seal of the Holy One Blessed be He is truth." Indeed if the truth is what the Holy One Blessed be He selected as His seal, how abominable must its opposite be to Him. The Holy One Blessed be He furnished us with a great exhortation concerning the necessity of abiding by the truth (Zechariah 8:16), "Let one man speak with another in truth; " and (Isaiah 16:5), "And a throne will be established in loving-kindness and He will sit upon it in Truth;" and (Ibid. 63:8), "And He said, `But they are my people, children who do not lie;' " (one is dependent upon the other) and (Zechariah 8:3), "And Jerusalem will be called "The City of Truth" (this to magnify its worth).

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    I think it is referring to a joke on someone, as actually fooling him. Sarcasm is just a manner of speech. Lashon Sagi Nahar is not lying because w know what it means. – HaLeiVi Jan 8 '16 at 3:47
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    I would tend to disagree as immediately beforehand he was discussing someone who tells false stories for no personal gain. – user6591 Jan 8 '16 at 3:58
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    Lashon Sagi Nahor is possibly only allowed for the kindness and decency involved in wording it that way. But you do remind me that the gemara says the Chachamim do give exaggerated illustrations at times. But that may be closer to sarcasm, but at the same time it is an exaggeration of the truth, not the polar opposite. – user6591 Jan 8 '16 at 4:01
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    I'm inclined to agree with @HaLeiVi; the previous category was people who always mix falsehood into their stories and statements ("They have implanted this evil so deeply within themselves that their words cannot leave their lips clean of falsehood"). This category is people who occasionally speak falsehood. – Fred Jan 11 '16 at 7:44

Sarcasm seems to be the translation of letzonus which is at least assur mi'divrei neviim.

At worst it seems to relate to the way the Nachash spoke to Chavah, 'D'you really think Hashem has your best interests in mind? Yeah.'

Sarcasm is often the beginning of a counter relationship with the thing, person or group you are being sarcastic about.

However kol letzonusa asira chutz me'letzonuso de'avidah zarah, so if you are bringing down a false deity or modern incarnation thereof that's fine.

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    Sarcasm seems to be the translation of letzonus how do you get to that? – Danny Schoemann Jan 7 '16 at 15:34

The Poskim say that Lo Se'ane only forbids lying in court, while the prohibition of lying is from a different Pasuk, "midvar sheker tirchak." It is permitted to exaggerate or talk sarcastically (in a nice way) if the other person knows its a joke.

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    Please provide sources; since we don't know you personally, we can't merely rely on your intuition for this, no matter how right your answer sounds. – Noach MiFrankfurt Jan 6 '16 at 15:43
  • @NoachmiFrankfurt There is no requirement for sources on this site. See meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/a/3684/6599. If you have a reason to argue, by all means do so, but lack of sources is no reason for a down-vote. – LN6595 Jan 6 '16 at 17:10
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    However, that same link puts preference for sourcing answers where possible, FWIW, that downvote isn't mine, I rarely downvote. – Noach MiFrankfurt Jan 6 '16 at 17:13
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    I personally would consider that a source, as I often bring what my LOR says as a source myself – Noach MiFrankfurt Jan 6 '16 at 17:21
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    @LN6595 I'm not convinced this is true. Middevar Sheker Tirchak is also said in the context of the court (see Shevuot 30-31) – Double AA Jan 6 '16 at 18:17

The main component of sarcasm is condescendion and that is 'gaivah, meaning pride or elitism.


You're right. Sarcasm is a serious transgression. You should stop doing it.

Source: Maseches Shoteh 32b

  • Is this answer sarcasm?... – Gabriel12 Jan 7 '16 at 18:09

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