FLATTERY (Hebr. "ḥeleḳ," "ḥelḳah"; lit. "smoothness"; Neo-Hebr. "ḥanufah"):
Insincere, obsequious, or venal praise. Flattery is condemned by Jewish moralists as an offense against sincerity (Ps. xii. 3). It spreads a net for man, and may work his ruin (Prov. xxvi. 28, xxix. 5; compare ii. 16, vi. 24, vii. 21). "He is more blessed that rebuketh a man than he that flattereth with his tongue" (Prov. xxviii. 23, Hebr.). Evil-doers command their seers to speak flatteries and prophesy deceits (Isa. xxx. 10; Ezek. xiii. 10, 16; Jer. xxiii. 17); true prophets do not smoothen their words in reproving the people for their sins (Jer. xxiii. 22).
In the same spirit, the Rabbis praise truthfulness of speech and frank reproof, and condemn the insincerity of flattery (Shab. 104a, 119b; Tamid 28a; B. M. 49a). "Flattery causes degeneracy," said R. Simeon b. Ḥalafta. "The flatterer brings wrath into the world; his prayer is not heard; he is accursed and is doomed to Gehinnom," said R. Eleazar. "Despicable is the congregation which flatters." "When Israel flattered Agrippa, it deserved annihilation," said R. Nathan. "Upon flatterers the Shekinah doth not rest" (Soṭah 41b, 42a). It is reprehensible to flatter the great (Ket. 63b, 84b). "Hate him who lauds thee so that thy wisdom be not lessened" (Derek Ereẓ Zuṭa ix.). "A man should not accustom himself to the use of flattery" (Maimonides, "Yad," De'ot, ii. 6.
In the Middle Ages the Rabbis frequently condemn flattery in their moral treatises and ethical wills. R. Eleazar b. Judah of Worms (d. 1238) said: "Mislead no one by flattery or untruth" (Zunz, "Z. G." p. 134). "Flatter not even relatives or children when they are not doing right. Especially should the head of a congregation, the judge, the administrator of charity, be a candid man who would never flatter from personal interest. Most blameworthy is that flattery which aims at tempting another to wrong-doing" (ib. p. 155). Asher b. Jehiel (d. 1327) said in his testament: "Flatter not your companion, and speak no untruthful word to him; be sincere with every one, also with those who are non-Jews" (ib. p. 148). Frequently testators request that no eulogy ("hesped") be delivered over their remains, lest the preachers incur the guilt of falsehood and flattery ("J. Q. R." iii. 469; Liebmann Adler's "Last Will," in "History of Ḳehillath Anshe Ma'arabh," Appendix iv., Chicago, 1897).