Yesh noḥalin (Some Inherit)

Abraham ha-Levi Horowitz

Beginning of the 17th Century

The Matter of Negotiation

Look from the top of Amana (Song of Songs 4:8) and [see the type of] negotiation carried out faithfully [emunah]:

1. Be diligent in your transactions, to ensure that they are performed faithfully, for this is one of the questions that is asked of man after his death (b. Shabbat 31a). I have already written about this in my composition ‘Emek berakhah, part two [see ch. 49].

2. Conduct an account of each of your business dealings once a month. Our rabbis have said (b. ḥullin 105a): “One who inspects his property will find a silver coin.” Making an account is also considered an inspection of one’s properties, for without an account a man cannot see his own debts; he will think that he owns everything, and he will increase his expenditures in accordance with this evaluation. He will thus make little profit and will spend a lot. Therefore, every man must examine himself every month, and at least three times a year he should calculate how much profit he has earned. He can then increase or decrease his expenditures accordingly, and his finances will be stable.

3. There is an ancient tradition I received from my ancestors, may their memories be for a blessing, that one should not throw away any old bill, even if it has all been accounted for and paid, and therefore you have nothing to gain from it. Nevertheless, you should not throw it away, but rather hide it away somewhere, for you do not know what a day may bring [see Proverbs 27:1]. Perhaps there will come a time when you will need to prove something from it, for there is a time for everything etc. [see Ecclesiastes 3:1–8].

4. Be very careful about the following: your pocket and your chest should always be properly closed and sealed. I suffered many losses because of this, as I did not think to take the necessary precautions concerning this matter; and therefore you should take care in this regard. This is especially important in a case where the outcome might be heavy financial loss.

5. Do not depend upon the gifts of creatures of flesh-and-blood, God forbid, nor upon their loans. Take pains to request that your sustenance should come from the Holy One, rather than from mortals.

6. If you owe money, make sure to pay it back willingly on its due day. You will thereby find favor in the eyes of the Lord and in the eyes of man [see Proverbs 3:4], and you will never lack anything, as your custom will become widely known, that you act in good faith, and people will always give you all of your needs. If someone owes you money—whether a Jew or a gentile (not to compare the two)—you shall not act to him like a creditor [see Exodus 22:24] by greatly reducing his time for payment, and you should not humiliate him. Rather, speak to him gently, and occasionally be forgiving with your money: “You shall do” [see Exodus 18:20]—this means that one should go beyond the letter of the law (b. Bava Mez.i‘a 30b). They asked Rav, “In what merit did you earn longevity?” He replied, “I was one who was forgiving with my money” (b. Megillah 28a). And do not proceed hastily to litigation (Proverbs 25:8)—with those who are in your debt.

You shall make for yourselves judges and officers (Deuteronomy 16:18)—i.e., “for your own selves.” That is to say, judge yourselves before you come [to court] for judgment. Do not enter into litigation even if you are in the right, for it is a disgrace for a scholar to humiliate himself by coming before judges, as concerning both parties to a judgment, our sages of blessed memory said: “They should be regarded as wicked by you” (m. Avot 1:8) and they did not differentiate between one side and the other.

7. Be careful with regard to interest from a Jew; even in those situations where people are lenient you should be stringent with yourselves. Do not give money to a Jew [at interest] other than in the manner described in Yoreh de‘ah, chapter 160: “It is permitted to say, etc.”1 Distance yourself from all forms of usury, and then, you will prosper.

Warning against Gossip and Worldly Conversation

[ . . . ] All glorious is the king’s daughter within the palace (Psalms 45:14): This is referring to women, that they should not venture out frequently [see Tanḥuma 19a]. I will add that the same applies to a man: it is best for him to stay at home and not to move from his tent [see Exodus 33:11], unless there is a great need. Even then, he is advised to remain in a place where he is secluded, as whenever a man busies himself by coming and going, he will be unable to avoid evil speech, gossip, flattery, or foolishness. I have an appropriate mnemonic for this idea, “when one comes out into the air of the world, an angel comes and slaps him on his mouth, etc.” (b. Niddah 30b). This can be interpreted homiletically as follows: when a man goes out from his house and intermingles with humanity, who are like the air of the world, the breath of life, then the angel—“Satan, who is the evil inclination, who is also the Angel of Death” (b. Bava Batra 16a)—will come and slap him on his mouth. In other words, he will strike him with a blow of the mouth, which is the hardest of all blows, administered when one who speaks despicably and utters evil speech and also nullifies the words of Torah. This is why it is stated there [see b. Niddah 30b] that “the angel makes him forget the entire Torah.” If a person separates himself in a designated house, he will spare himself of all of this.

This is the very reason why the ancient righteous men were shepherds, as we see regarding the righteous Abel, that he was a shepherd (Genesis 4:2), and also the Patriarchs of the world (Genesis 46:34), and likewise the tribes [see Genesis 37:12; 46:34]; and Moses was a shepherd, etc. (Exodus 3:1). They engaged in this profession for that reason, as they desired to be in a place of seclusion, in order to distance themselves from the crowds. For they feared for their souls, that if they were to mix with humanity, they might be negatively influenced by them, which would hinder their quest for perfection. This is why Rabba bar bar ḥanah would walk in the desert, as stated in Bava Batra (73b): “One time he was walking in the desert, etc.” For he was afraid to come into contact with the people of his generation, because he did not want to be affected by their negative attributes or shortcomings, as stated. Consequently, he fled to the desert, to a place in which there are no wicked men, as described by the prophet, may peace be upon him: Oh, that I were in the desert, etc., that I might leave my people, and go from them! For they are all adulterers, etc. (Jeremiah 9:1). It is likewise said about Noah: and Noah walked with God (Genesis 6:9)—according to the interpretation of R. Elijah Mizraḥi, this means that Noah was afraid to socialize with the people of his generation, in case he learned from their ways, and therefore he would constantly isolate himself in secluded places, which were called “Places of the Lord.”

Translated by


[“It is permitted to say to another: take this zuz, and lend ten dinars to So-and-So, provided that he does not go back and take it from the borrower. Also, the borrower may not say to the lender, ‘So-and-So will give on my behalf.’ Some add that a borrower may not appease him by giving the borrower money in order that he should lend him.”—Trans.]


Abraham ha-Levi Horowitz, “Yesh noḥalin (Some Inherit)” (manuscript, Lvov, beginning of the 17th century). Published as: Abraham Horowitz, Sefer Yesh noḥalin (Jerusalem: H. Waldman, 1993), pp. 210–212, 219–220.

Published in: The Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization, vol. 5.

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