Bava Basra 163 - 169
When Compliments Backfire
Lashon Hara - forbidden speech regarding other people - is not limited to saying uncomplimentary things about them. Rabbi Dimi has warned us never to say nice things about another because this can lead to saying uncomplimentary things as well.
The obvious question which such a ruling invites is resolved by the following approaches.
- Don't be excessive in your praise of another for this will inevitably lead to mentioning his shortcomings as well. (Rashbam)
- Don't praise someone in front of people who do not like him because you invite them to mention the features they dislike. (Rambam)
- Bava Basra 164b
The Sages Beat Him to It
The Sage Abaye offered a bit of sage counsel which served him as well as others.
When there is a need for a man who is signed as a witness on a document to submit a signature specimen to the court to help it in certifying his signature he should be careful to write this signature only at the very top of a sheet. Should he write it lower there is the danger that it may fall into the hands of an unscrupulous person who will then write a promissory note on top of that signature and present it for collection as a signed admission of indebtedness which is considered a valid document.
An unscrupulous tax collector once came before Abaye and told him that he was prepared to offer an exemption from taxes to Torah scholars who presented a letter of accreditation signed by the Sage. He asked Abaye to give him a specimen of his signature and placed a sheet before him for this purpose. As Abaye started to write his signature on the top of the sheet this fellow attempted to pull the sheet away so that he would sign at the bottom and thus enable him to write what he pleased atop that signature. But Abaye simply reminded him:
"The Sages have already beat you to it!"
- Bava Basra 167