Flattery is forbidden


Rabbi Elazar says: Any person who has flattery in him brings wrath to the world, as it is stated: “But those with flattery in their hearts bring about wrath” (Job 36:13). And moreover, his prayer is not heard, as it is stated in that same verse: “They do not cry for help when He binds them.”

There are exceptions for example your wife for peace, you teacher to teach you and for peace (to protect yourself)
Pele Yoetz

flattery our Sages allowed towards a person’s wife, for the sake of domestic peace, and towards his rabbi, so that he should teach him Torah. A person is also allowed to flatter wicked people due to the ways of peace.

but it is good to be nice (to say what people what to hear, even when it is not "true") always and to all peaple/creations

Beit Shammai said to Beit Hillel: In a case where the bride was lame or blind, does one say with regard to her: A fair and attractive bride? But the Torah states: “Keep you from a false matter” (Exodus 23:7). Beit Hillel said to Beit Shammai: According to your statement, with regard to one who acquired an inferior acquisition from the market, should another praise it and enhance its value in his eyes or condemn it and diminish its value in his eyes? You must say that he should praise it and enhance its value in his eyes and refrain from causing him anguish. From here the Sages said: A person’s disposition should always be empathetic with mankind, and treat everyone courteously. In this case too, once the groom has married his bride, one praises her as being fair and attractive.


לעשות לאיש ואיש כרצונו


הָיָה דִּבּוּרוֹ בְּנַחַת עִם הַבְּרִיּוֹת וְדַעְתּוֹ מְעֹרֶבֶת עִמָּהֶם
his social conduct is [attractive] to others

what is the difference? (when is it being nice when is it flattery?)
sources please

  • read this he.wikisource.org/wiki/…
    – kouty
    Apr 19, 2017 at 18:16
  • ויחניף אדם לאשתו, משום שלום בית. וכן לבעל חובו, שלא ילחצנו. לרבו, שילמדנו תורה. ומצווה גדולה להחניף לתלמידיו ולחבריו, כדי שילמדו ושישמעו לדבריו, לקבל תוכחתו לקיים המצוות. וכן כל אדם שהוא סבור שימשכנו אליו, שישמע לו לקיים המצוות, ואם יבוא עליו בכעס לא ישמע לו אלא בחניפות יקבל תוכחתו – מצווה גדולה להחניף לו כדי להוציא יקר מזולל. כי יש אדם שאינו מקבל תוכחה בגערה אלא בנחת, שנאמר (קהלת ט יז): "דברי חכמים בנחת נשמעים".
    – kouty
    Apr 19, 2017 at 18:25
  • @kouty yes I see very nice but latter he says לכן צריך הצדיק להתרחק מאוד מן החניפות, שלא יחניף ולא יקבל החניפות מאחרים. So it is not clear to me
    – hazoriz
    Apr 19, 2017 at 18:28
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – kouty
    Apr 19, 2017 at 18:44
  • hanifa in Jewish literature generally refers to flattering others for the purpose of personal gain. This is very different from validating others, or otherwise making them feel good for the purpose of helping them.
    – mevaqesh
    Apr 19, 2017 at 20:46

1 Answer 1


Here is a quote from an article about the prohibition of flattery:

Although the word chanufah in Modern Hebrew means "flattery," and, indeed, is even occasionally used by Chazal in this sense, the prohibition against chanufah has a slightly different meaning. Chanufah is the deception that occurs when someone encourages the performance of misdeeds, aveiros, or when someone fraudulently misrepresents something as Torah or as acceptable behavior when it is not. The primary case of chanufah is when someone sees or knows that a person sinned and tells the sinner that he did nothing wrong or, worse still, tells the sinner that the sinful act was the correct thing to do.

In other words, the forbidden flattery you are inquiring about is limited to cases which can cause misunderstanding of the Torah or justify bad behavior. Otherwise, there's no prohibition in being nice to people.

The article goes on to delineate different forms of flattery and other aspects and applications of the prohibition; I think you will find the sources mentioned there helpful.

  • +1 is it correct to say that to be nice to people is a good thing to do and that there are no boundaries you can lye and be nice for any reason to everyone, except complimenting a bad behavior?
    – hazoriz
    Apr 20, 2017 at 16:14
  • Thank you for defining flattery, but I am also interested in the definition of being nice
    – hazoriz
    Apr 20, 2017 at 16:15
  • @hazoriz I think there are two distinct issues: 1) the parameters of "chanufah", and 2) the parameters of forbidden lying. Your question was about the former. Your comment "...there are no boundaries you can lie and be nice for any reason to everyone...", however, introduces a new issue - the latter issue of honesty. This is really a different question - is it permitted to lie to make someone feel good, does that fall under the Talmudic statement "it is permissible to lie for the sake of sholom" or not. But that would be a question of lying vs being nice, not halachic flattery.
    – Jay
    Apr 20, 2017 at 17:10
  • halacha.co/en/flattery
    – hazoriz
    Apr 24, 2017 at 1:19
  • @hazoriz Strange. The very source he brings - Shaarei Teshuvah - is in agreement with my answer above that chanufah only applies in special cases (a rasha or when some harm will befall people as a result), but not to regular flattery - though the article implies the opposite. He also quotes from the chapter on lying but applies it instead to flattery (see footnote 10). I don't have time now to look up his other sources to see if they're also similarly mischaracterized, but if you find any authoritative sources that are actually in conflict with my answer, please let me know.
    – Jay
    Apr 24, 2017 at 3:44

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