The Laws of Wronging a Colleague
1. Just as it is forbidden to wrong a colleague in trade or commerce, so
too, it is forbidden to wrong him through speech, as [Leviticus 25:17]
teaches: "A person should not cheat his colleague, and you shall fear G-d."
This refers to wronging someone with words.
Wronging someone with words is more serious than wronging someone
financially, because the latter can be repaid, while the former cannot.
Furthermore, financial loss affects merely one's property, while this
affects one's person. A person who cries out to G-d over being wronged
through speech will be answered immediately.
In particular, it is necessary to be careful that one does not wrong one's
wife in this manner or distress her by speech. Women have a sensitive
nature and are prone to cry, even about minor things. G-d takes particular
note of tears [as Berochos 32b teaches]: "The gate of tears is never locked."
2. What is meant by wronging someone with words?
One should not inquire about the price of an article from a colleague when
one has no intention of buying it. If one seeks to purchase grain, one
should not tell him, "go to so and so," when he knows that the latter does
not have any grain to sell.
To a Baal Teshuvah, one should not say: "Remember your previous deeds." If
a person was afflicted with suffering, Heaven forbid, one should not say
anything to him which resembles the remark made to Job by his colleagues
(Job 4:6-7): "Can you not rely on your fear of G-d"...Please, try to
recall, did an innocent man ever perish?" (They addressed him in this
fashion only because he had complained against G-d's providence and His
If a person asks with regard to an aspect of wisdom, one should not
approach a person unfamiliar with the subject and ask him: "What is your
opinion of the matter?" The same applies with regard to similar matters
which cause emotional aggravation.
3. It is forbidden to call a person who has an uncomplimentary nickname by
that name - even though he is already accustomed to being called by it and
is no longer embarrassed - if one's intent is to shame him. This is also
considered as wronging someone with words.