Cilibi Moise — Sayings & Proverbs

Editor’s Note:

My great-grandfather, Leon Kupperman (1883–1942), the author of this article, was a remarkable man: fluent in six languages (Romanian, Yiddish, French, German, Hebrew, and English), he studied sculpture with Auguste Rodin, wrote original works in Yiddish, translated literature from Romanian into English, and from German into Yiddish (including a 2-volume translation of Goethe’s Faust), was for many years the theater critic of the New York Yiddish-language newspaper, Der Tog, and taught sculpture to young people under the WPA program in the 1930s. His article on Cilibi Moise (1812–1870) is, to my knowledge, the only essay in English on this Romanian-Jewish folk philosopher, whose name and aphorisms are still well known in the land of his birth.

Cilibi Moise

Folklore is that great store of culture which comprises the literary and musical expression of the people — its aspirations, dreams, hopes, and reflections on life, the product of its long experience in contact with daily existence. In short, folklore is a nation’s creative and contemplative genius. Only at extremely long intervals do we come across the name of a man who helped in the creation of folklore, and whose genius refuses to remain unknown. This rare specimen in Romanian folklore was a Jew, Cilibi Moise.

Froim Moshe was the name given to him at his birth, in Focsçani, Romania, in 1812. Of ten children born to his parents, he remained the only one. He grew up to be a healthy man, sturdy, though short in stature, and of a very pleasant disposition. His eye was clear and searching, his voice rather sharp, and his speech short, decisive. His lips were usually smiling, often good-naturedly, sometimes ironically. His face, “which worry and sorrow could not line,” expressed the goodness of his heart, so that all people liked him and listened to him gladly.

Cilibi Moise had no enemies. As he himself so aptly put it: “God saw to it that Cilibi Moise should not have three things: enemies, gray hair, and money.” He was liked by great and small, Jewish and gentile Romanians alike. His father, Sender Schwartz, was a poor merchant in Focsçani, a small town in Moldavia, where he was born, lived, and died. His son followed in his footsteps. He went to Bucharest, married, and became a trader in small, inexpensive merchandise.

Those who judge human values according to social position will be surprised at the fact that this beloved popular philosopher was only a “petty trader.” This shows that there may be an abyss between the social and personal value of some people. Cilibi Moise so aptly observed: “There are men in this world who wear hats worth five pieces of gold, and their heads are not worth a penny.”

Yes, Cilibi Moise’s business was as strange as the man himself. Usually without a shop, he kept his wares in a large basket or on a table on the street, near which he stood smoking a çibuk, a long Turkish pipe, calling to passersby to buy something — in his characteristic way: “One shoe free, the other for money.”

Exactly when he was named “Cilibi” is not known. He was known initially as “Moshe the Jew.” The first time we come across the nickname “Cilibi” is on the title page of some of his published sayings in 1858. Cilibi, probably of Turkish origin, means ‘gentle, kind, agreeable’, which proves that he had made a good reputation for himself. Some years later, when he became almost a legendary figure, another qualification was added to his name: first, “Cilibi Moise the Renowned,” then, “The Renowned in the Romanian Land,” but to the end of his days he was known as Cilibi Moise.

How does one explain this singularly marked honor? Possibly by two reasons: first, he was endowed with good sense and the kind of tact that is calculated to hurt no one. Secondly, he was not banal; he always knew how to be interesting. His observations and sayings were devoid of rigidity of expression. His brilliant sense of humor and his buoyant disposition rendered these more salient.

Here is one of his innumerable answers, which shows how original, as well as deep, Cilibi Moise could be in his responses: One day, he was praising the collar manufacturers. A young snob approached and wanted to know the reason for the praise. “You boob,” replied Cilibi Moise, “don’t you understand? Long live the collar manufacturers, because there are many people without shirts!”

“Hey, you!” (in Romanian, “thou”), “You boob!,” or “You fool!,” was the way he often addressed anyone, great and small alike, even ministers of state, since he knew them all and what they were worth. Besides, it was all said jestingly, in a totally disarming manner.

Although he sold “penny” goods, he seems to have done fairly well. For who could pass Cilibi Moise and not buy when they heard him say: “People buy goods in big stores, for which they pay high prices, and in three days the goods are torn. Why not buy the same goods from Cilibi Moise, cheap and already torn?” He was always poor. He liked to enjoy himself with friends, and usually paid for the entertainment. He also had to provide for his wife and eight children, besides himself.

Instead of being dismayed by his chronic poverty, however, he laughed at it, joking: “At every moving term, Cilibi Moise has two homes: from one they don’t let him out, in the other they wouldn’t let him in, because he has no money.” Beneath this and other jocular remarks, though, there is hidden a deep sense, a penetrating spirit, as, for instance, when he says: “A millionaire can sooner become like Cilibi Moise than Cilibi Moise can become like him,” implying that it is easier to lose money than to earn or keep it.

Cilibi Moise never sold on credit. When he had a shop, many people would come to buy from him, but he gave no credit. He always said: “I know you. Now you’ll tell me that I smell like perfume, but when I come to ask you for my money, you’ll tell me that I stink of garlic. Better pay now and let’s remain friends.”

A story is told of a single exception to this rule. On one occasion, Cilibi Moise was tempted to extend credit to the police captain of a fair in some provincial town in Romania. The captain promised to pay in the afternoon, but all the afternoons passed until the last day of the fair, and the police officer did not pay. Cilibi Moise did not want to ask, nor did he want to lose the money he was owed. In the evening, so this authentic story goes, many of the so-called better class gathered at the only public place in town — the coffee house. There, Cilibi Moise asked the captain to help him collect a debt before leaving for home.

“Certainly, certainly,” answered the captain and ordered a policeman to do what Cilibi Moise would tell him.

“Thank you very much,” said Cilibi Moise, and turning to the policeman: “Did you hear that, officer?” “At your command, sir,” was the answer. “Arrest that man,” ordered Cilibi Moise, pointing to the captain. “He’s the man.” Peals of laughter greeted the scene. Everyone enjoyed the joke, including the captain, who paid cheerfully.

Cilibi Moise’s kindheartedness and benevolent nature were proverbial. His saying, “If a man can save someone and does not do it, it is as though he had killed that person himself,” characterized admirably this aspect of his nature. He was charitable, altruistic, ever ready to aid his fellow-man. When he was asked for some urgent help, and it was within his means to do so, he gladly gave out of his own pocket. If, however, the sum required was too large, he went to a few rich boyars and wealthy Jews, and always returned with more than was needed, for he was loved alike by rich and poor, who gave him willingly. When a smaller sum was needed, he had another way of getting it. He would see to it that many people gathered around him by telling some jokes. Then he would address the crowd: “Gentlemen, let us stop laughing and dry someone’s tears.” Taking a small glass from his basket, he would throw into it a few coppers, go around with it, and when he would return to the starting point, it would be full. The distressed person was amply helped.

There were many who shared Cilibi Moise’s kindheartedness and generosity, but they were mostly peasants and poor Jews, for he loved them all with brotherly tenderness, and knew well their sorrows and sufferings. “The Jew is cheerful on a holiday, and the peasant when he pays his taxes,” he said, and he resented it bitterly when these people, oppressed by destiny, were wronged or insulted. Many a time did he indignantly admonish some of the great ones, because they did not know how to appreciate and be friendly towards the poor. There are numerous stories told by eyewitnesses about Cilibi Moise’s love for peasants and poor Jews, and how he had helped them. Here is one:

One day, Cilibi Moise was standing as usual near his basket, not far from the courthouse, when he saw a poor peasant and a weakly child close to a cow, caressing her with tearful eyes. Cilibi Moise forgot his jokes and his business. He approached and noticed that the cow had a sign on her neck, which meant that she was to be sold on the auction block. Meanwhile, a few officers of the law gathered around a table and one of them started saying, “Who’ll give more, who’ll give more?”

Cilibi Moise lost his patience and shouted to the officer: “Shut up, you fool! Shut up, I tell you!” Then he asked what the trouble was.

“This man,” the officer replied, “has not paid his taxes for a whole year, so the administration is forced to sell his cow.”

The poor peasant began to cry and, between bitter tears and sobs, told Cilibi Moise that the animal was his sole possession in the world, and that if it were sold, he and his wife and child would die of hunger. Cilibi Moise said nothing. He took out his large kerchief, put into it a couple of coins, then went around to all those who had gathered, forcing even the representative of the law to give. In a short while, he put his kerchief on the table and the money was counted. Not only was there enough to cover the debt, but some extra money was left. Cilibi Moise gave the remainder to the peasant, who was trembling for joy, and said: “Go home. May God help you. Go, go, and don’t thank me.” Then he returned to his basket, content and happy.

No wonder everyone who knew Cilibi Moise loved him. For not only did he love his own people, but all peoples. He once said: “The Romanians have ninety-nine good qualities; only one is missing to complete the hundred: when one person hits another, the third one laughs.”

Another story, characteristic of Cilibi Moise was of helping the wronged: One evening, he heard that some Jewish bakers had been arrested as vagrants. Fearing that they might be sent away unexpectedly, he went, in the middle of the night, to the Minister of the Interior to intercede for the innocent men and have them freed. After listening to his plea, the minister asked: “Tell me, Cilibi Moise, why do you bother about these men; are they your relatives?”

“Cilibi Moise, the Jew,” he replied, does not intercede only for relatives, you know that very well, but they are Jews, and when you hurt a Jew, all Jews weep; they are not like the Romanians — when you hit one, the rest stand by laughing. Because I am a Jew, I ask justice of you for them.” The minister liked his answer, and immediately ordered the release of the so-called vagrants.

Cilibi Moise was not an educated man. He knew a little Hebrew, as well as vernacular Yiddish and Romanian, but only the spoken language, since he could neither read nor write. He had, however, a remarkably penetrating understanding of life and things, and he had a wonderful memory. He might have become a learned man, had not circumstances been against him, for he knew the value of knowledge: “Knowledge to man is the light of the world,” he said. “A man without knowledge or, at least, practical experience, is like a child in a cradle.” “A man without experience is like a gun without powder.”

Many will surely be surprised that a man with such excellent qualities was no more than a poor peddler. It is particularly odd, indeed, that such a man, beset by poverty, should always have had a calm spirit and a joyful heart. But Cilibi Moise was a philosopher in his own way. He saw things not only superficially, but with full cognizance of their ridiculous side as well. Then, too, he possessed that prime condition which made him what he was: nature had endowed him with a superb serenity of soul. He had no longing for worldly goods or vanities. One must possess more than a common power of observation and judgment to see life as he did. There are those who repeat parrot-like that “man is nothing” and life is only “a fleeting moment,” but who, by their very behavior, prove just the contrary. Only those who have attained that truth through inner conviction, by a true philosophical process of thought, and live and act accordingly, only those attain that height of inner tranquility. Cilibi Moise aptly says: “Man cannot be anything unless he feels that he is nothing.”

Cilibi Moise fixed his scrutinizing eye on human life. With his keen mind he examined every aspect of it. Though he was very kindhearted, he always felt the eternal conflict between sentiment and judgment. Even if it were tinged with mercy, judgment was adamant. This happy medium not only saved him from many vexations, but broadened his vision and enriched his knowledge of human nature, and so he became that popular philosopher, immortalized in the folklore of the people among whom he lived.

True, popular philosophy does not create philosophic systems; this is not its domain. It embodies no speculation. Popular philosophy possesses a penetrating spirit of practical observation and the power to formulate a truism in a short sentence, enveloped in that splendid charm of speech, often allegorical, in which its proverbs and maxims are expressed. For example, when Cilibi Moise characterized the hypocrite, with his sweet tongue and poisonous heart, he says: “The bee carries the honey in its mouth and the needle in its back.” When he wants to warn us against evil, he says: “He who takes the snake by its tail gets bitten.”

As Cilibi Moise could neither read nor write Romanian, he dictated his sayings to anyone who cared to oblige him by committing them to writing. And who wouldn’t? Among those who did were printers. In 1858, Cilibi Moise assembled, for the first time, some of his sayings in a small booklet. Their favorable reception by the public made him decide to continue the effort, and on every first of January thereafter he published a little booklet, which he distributed as a New Year present, receiving in exchange a reward “according to the condition of the man and his love for Cilibi Moise,” or “according to the heart of the man and the merit of Cilibi Moise,” as these phrases appear on the title pages of the booklets published in 1858 and 1859. As many as 10,000 copies each of these works of eight or sixteen pages were printed. Although a number of them went through two and three editions, they have become so rare that it took M. Schwarzfeld, the well known writer and editor of the Anuarul Israelit, “The Jewish Yearbook,” of Bucharest, many years of persistent effort in collecting them for republication in 1901 in a modest book, which in its turn has now become extremely rare.

It is interesting to mention the ingenious method Cilibi Moise used in order not to repeat the same sayings in different booklets: he numbered every saying and, thanks to his phenomenal memory, he remembered every one of them by the number it carried.

Some people claim that Cilibi Moise was not original, that he “collected” his sayings from here, there, and everywhere. There may be a semblance of truth in this contention. It is not unlikely that some of the proverbs used were current among Yiddish-speaking Jews. He himself said it so aptly: “Gentlemen, you will pardon me if, in what I have written in this little booklet, you will find some things you already know. But I believe that hearing them from me, too, you will not feel sorry.” It cannot be denied, though, that the genius of Cilibi Moise put its unmistakable mark on everything he said, and that all his sayings display the same spirit, the same penetrating mind, the same ethical content so characteristic of their singular author.

Many of his sayings became “winged words,” words that pass from mouth to mouth, frequently repeated, so that in time they become the spiritual property of the people. And so did the peddler-philosopher, “Moshe the Jew,” “Cilibi Moise, the Renowned of the Romanian Land,” become an almost legendary figure and one of the creators of Romanian folklore.

The people of Romania took Cilibi Moise to its heart. When the Romanian Academy ordered one of its members, I. Zanne, to collect the proverbs, sayings, maxims, etc., of the Romanian people, Cilibi Moise was not overlooked. In the most complete collection of Romanian folklore, issued in Bucharest at the beginning of the twentieth century in twelve large volumes under the title Proverbele Romanilor, many of Moshe the Jew’s sayings are immortalized with the name of their author, “Cilibi Moise.”

Cilibi Moise died of typhus on January 31, 1870. Twenty-six years later, in 1896, a monument was erected on his grave — a large marble slab with the following inscription:

≥twdyjw µylçm rbwd ysyam ybylyçf hnwkmh ≈rawwç r[dn[s òB hçm µyrpa g |P

≥h |bxnt ≥q |pl l |rT tnç rda çdjl a |y rfpn ≥b |[qT tnçB dlwn

Cilibi Moise Vestitul din Tçara Româneasca¨ na¨scut Focsçani, la 1812,

mort în Bucuresçti, la 1870, Ianuarie 31.

[Cilibi Moise, famous in the land of Romania, born in Focsçani in 1812,

died in Bucharest on January 31, 1870.]

Sayings and Proverbs



* God does not look at the hands that are full, but at the hands that are clean.

* God is pleased with two things: when a rich man honors a poor man and when a woman loves her husband.

* God is very pleased when two poor men help one another.

* God is displeased with three things: when a young man takes an old wife, when an old man takes a young wife, and when a rich man lies.

* God has two stores, one with wisdom, the other with money. In the one with wisdom He has a guard, in the one with money, none. That is why there are more rich men than learned ones.

* God gives us rain and the peasant gives us food.

* Luck comes in a cart and leaves in an express.

* Luck became very proud: it stays only in rich houses.

* One who makes a difference between man and man is no man.

* A faithful friend is the kind of article you cannot buy.

* Happiness brings friends; misfortune is their touchstone.

* The swallows come in summer, in winter they leave; friends come during the beautiful days of your life, but they leave when luck is against you.

* To lose a true friend is the greatest misfortune.

* Two things are sorrowful: when a friend is sad and an enemy is happy.

* The bee keeps the honey in its mouth and the needle in its back.

* An honest and assiduous woman is half a fortune.

* I prefer the woman with a spindle to the one with a pen.

* A childless woman is like a barren field.

* A woman does not need many tongues, the one she has is too much.

* The arm that the devil uses mostly is woman.

* I have noticed that of all animals, cats, flies, and women spend most of their time in grooming themselves.

* Two things in this world are the most difficult to guard: the soul and the woman.

* Man’s honor is in the hand of woman.

* A woman may go out of the house alone — with a child who cannot speak yet.

* Better to live with lions and dragons than with an irate, wicked woman.

* What is love? Ask God, He is the only one who knows it.

* Love in a woman’s heart is like balm on a wound.

* A father may give his child the greatest wealth, but he cannot give him three things: wisdom, health, and luck.

* He who does not admonish his children when they are young is admonished by them in his old age.

* Children who do not fear their parents surely do not fear God.

* A long life means a full life. What good is it when a man lives eighty empty years?

* Some live to eat, others eat to live.

* Youth is light as a bird, age heavy as a rock.

* Old age is the winter of life.

* Life is a dream often disturbed.

* Man may not know what will become of his wealth, but he knows what will become of his body — dust.

* Man’s birth is for others — death only for himself.

* If someone spoils the truth by lying, he may also spoil it by silence.

* When a liar tells the truth, he gets sick.

* A clock, a woman, and a merchant seldom tell the truth.

* Life without work is sister to thievery and poverty.

* Labor is the law of society.

* Labor is the father of capital, economy its mother.

* If I have enough for my daily needs, I consider myself rich.

* Money that comes easily leaves on an express.

* Many trades means poverty.

* Where politics and luxury outshine one another, poverty grows.

* A young spendthrift is a beggar in old age.

* A clever man makes money more easily than an honest one.

* A rich man is glad when he looks in the mirror, a poor man when he looks in the plate.

* Pity the man who counts what he had; happy is the one who counts what he has.

* To be poor is no shame, but it is a shame to suffer it.

* He who laughs at a poor man laughs at his Creator.

* A rich man who is arrogant among poor people is like an ass who believes himself to be chief among sheep.

* The richest man in the world cannot say *enough!”

* If all people were poor, there would be much love among them.

* In business you recognize the honest man.

* There are two kinds of doctors: doctors of medicine and doctors of law; the first feels your pulse, the second feels your purse.

* A physician asks to see your tongue, a lawyer wants to see your wallet.

* All that is asked of a lawyer is a little bit of brains and lots of talk.

* There are two kinds of lawyers: those that win a crooked case and those that lose an honest one.

* The most beautiful animal in the world is man: he has knowledge.

* Knowledge to man is the light of the world.

* Knowledge is more precious than gold.

* One who has no parents is not poor, but one who has no knowledge is.

* Happy is the one who has learned children.

* He who wants the kernel must crack the shell.

* He who reads is not learned, but he who knows what he reads.

* Time is the best teacher.

* The difference between the learned and the ignorant is that between a live man and a dead one.

* Wisdom demands five conditions: (1) silence, (2) listening, (3) memorizing, (4) work, (5) advice.

* Wisdom learns from youth to old age, and when you have one foot in the grave, you must still learn.

* From words to deeds is as far as from heaven to earth.

* A word let loose cannot be caught.

* A man who does not think of what he says always sins.

* Silence is a good cloak for the ignorant.

* A good word extinguishes fire more easily than water.

* A wise man learns from a fool, but a fool is known by his words.

* A fool can ask more questions than seven wise men can answer.

* Knowledge for a bad man is like a weapon in the hands of a thief.

* Some say what they know, others know what they say.

* For silence there can be no repentance.

* God became a herdsman; He put his money in cattle.

* A man who turns his eyes upward may fall in two bad ways: either he may break his head or he may fall into sin.

* All thinking creatures are made to help one another.

* Nowadays, understanding is easier between the wolf and the lamb than between man and woman.

* So many people commit crimes that, if it could be seen on their foreheads, a great many would walk with bowed heads.

* If God wants to turn a good poor man into a bad one, He will make him rich.

* Good and evil is like a lottery: he who does good wins, and he who does evil loses.

* If your heart is blind, what good is your open eye?

* God does not demand from man to be only honest, but also merciful.

* To give quickly is to give double.

* Every good deed is useful.

* A good deed wrongly placed is a bad deed.

* An honest and good man is one who forgets the wrongs done to him and remembers only the good.

* Misfortune follows him who runs after sin.

* One who is bad for himself cannot be good for others.

* One who spreads good deeds emulates God, one who demands their return imitates a usurer.

* Honesty is the mirror of God.

* An honest man is like a fine jewel: it is rarely found.

* A dishonest man lives in darkness in this world and in the other world.

* A dishonest man does not sleep on a pillow, but on fear.

* When an honest man eats, he looks into the plate; a dishonest man looks through the window, for fear of an officer of the law.

* Many people would like to be honest, but they can’t afford it: it costs them too dear.

* The knave laughs when he cheats, but in the end it is he who weeps.

* When an honest man rises in the morning, he has only one road; the knave has many roads.

* The most precious thing is honesty, but what good is it if some sell it too cheaply.

* When a man loses his honor, he loses all.

* Happy the man who is not ashamed of the years he has lived.

* One who seeks a horse without a blemish — walks.

* The world is a mirror in which people see one another but not themselves.

* Even if he had ten eyes, man could not see his own deeds, but could see someone else’s even if he were blind.

* Wine is easy to drink, but it bites like a snake.

* Anger is the mother of all crimes.

* Since the appearance of *Pardon me,” mistakes have increased.

* Four things are sweet: a child, sleep, money, and government employment.

* Two kinds of individuals are arrogant: a minor employee and a big fool.

* Two things are impossible: a merchant without credit and politics without quarrels.

* From the mouth to the wallet is a long way.

* Truth is an old article, somewhat out of date, but the lie is an article always in fashion.

* When gold speaks, all mouths are silent.

* There are people who wear hats worth five pieces of gold while their head isn’t worth a penny.

* A poor man prays to God more than a rich one, becaus he has more time.

* Cilibi Moise has a bell on his table: when he rings it once, he brings himself a glass of water — because he has no servant.

* Nothing is so fast as to turn light into darkness.

* He who thinks of God seldom sins.

characteristics of various nations

The Jews read much. The Russians sing much.

The Romanians work much. The English have many ideas.

The Greeks talk much. The French have many styles.

The Turks have many women. The Americans tell many fibs.

The Arabs have many teeth. The Circassians wear many laces.

The Germans smoke much. The Italians tell many lies.

The Hungarians eat much. The Serbians grind much.

* When a Jew loses his money, he becomes an agent; the Romanian a lawyer; the Greek a wine merchant; the Armenian a nut seller; the Frenchman a teacher; the German an innkeeper.

* When a Jew is beaten, all Jews rush to his aid; when one Romanian beats another, the others laugh.

* He who does not believe in God lives in darkness.

* He who believes only in gold does not believe in God.

* There are people who have no pity for others, yet they ask it from God.

* He who has no shame has no fear of God.

* No guilt is greater than unadmitted guilt.

* A disease may spoil the beauty of the figure; the beauty of the soul remains all life long.

* The cleanliness of the body shows the one of the soul.

* He who likes injustice hates his soul.

* There are two kinds of people: some lose their lives for honesty; others lose their honesty for money.

* He who tries to do more than he can, fails.

* A bankrupt, a prostitute, and a traitor may have many houses, yet they do not have enough room to hide their shame.

* Night was created for man to judge his daily deeds.

* The first step of virtue is to do no evil.

* If sin were written on the forehead, no one would dare sin.

* A little bit of gall turns the honey bitter.

* The more you travel, the more men you meet — and men are so rare.

* Anything done through goodwill is easy.

* He who respects the law seldom does evil.

* To love beauty is to see light.

* There are two kinds of men: born and self-made.

* A good horse needs a whip; an honest woman needs a husband; and a learned man needs advice.

* Three things are difficult to cure: an old thief, a fool, and a bad woman.

* Three things cannot be guarded: a business partner, a wife, and a servant.

* If one prays only for himself, his prayer is not granted.

* Some laugh, some weep, some sing, others dance, some speak, others shout, but all for some advantage.

* Better a bird in a cage than a thousand in flight.

* To kill a man and to stop the rights of servants is the same.

* When you acquire lots of money, leave some for the lawyers too.

* Woe to the thief who is poor, and woe to the poor man who is a thief.

* Gold is tried by acid, man by gold.

* The debtor is a slave to his creditor.

* When the hen lays an egg, she makes so much noise that the fox hears her.

* He who takes the snake by the tail gets bitten.

* The honest man can live anywhere.

* It is easier to heal the evil done by others than the one done by oneself.

* The fox knows much, but the one who catches it knows more.

* Fire subsides more easily than anger.

* Nothing grows so fast as interest.

* A cabin where people are happy is worth more than a palace where people weep.

* A worthy servant is half a master.

* If a man can save someone and does not do it, it is as though he had killed that person himself.

* He who has no sense of shame is like one dead among the living.

* The food of plants is the nourishment of man.

* The body is nourished by food, the soul by good deeds.

* Freedom cannot be exchanged for all the gold in the world.

* Unity is a fortress very difficult to conquer.

* The true name of devotion is disinterestedness.

* It is a great injustice to put a price on justice.

* When might is right, right has no power.

* Necessity is stronger than iron.

* Patience is a remedy for all suffering and a heaven for all miseries.

* Flattery contains poison.

* The dog is the enemy of the hare; the flatterer is the enemy of man.

* The corpse of a dead enemy does not smell bad.

* Self-mastery is the greatest mastery of all.

* What is the difference between the world and a masked ball? In the world, men hide their hearts, in a ball, their faces.

* What is the most difficult thing in the world? To know oneself. The easiest? To know others.

* Bad examples spoil the best education.

* When you are among wolves, you must howl.

* Near a rose, the thorn also has a nice aroma.

* When gold talks, every mouth is shut.

* Man should come before God with clean habits and true mercy, not with riches.

* Prefer poverty to life from the sweat of others.

* Learn from the one who knows, teach the one who does not know; then you will know what you did not know and not forget what you know.

* As long as man lives he has to learn, and not think that age will bring knowledge.

* Run to the gates of the learned, not to those of the rich.

* Be more content to stand before a wise man than to sit near a rich one.

* Better with a wise man in jail than with an ignorant one in a palace.

* If you want to learn, listen to others and speak little.

* When the mouth of the wise opens, shut yours.

* When God gives you light, do not keep others in darkness.

* Do not be well behaved only in your words, but also in your deeds.

* Honor the young man who has something of the aged in him, and the aged man who possesses something of youth.

* Weigh your gold with scales, but your words with your mind.

* If you want to be spiritual, do not drink spirits.

* No matter where you are, be master of your eyes and mouth.

* Man should use his mouth more than his eyes.

* A mouth must say all the heart knows.

* Do not put yourself across the truth.

* Do not speak ill of your neighbor.

* Never remain cold before suffering.

* When you decide to give, give immediately.

* Do not be lazy to do someone good.

* Do not leave for tomorrow a good deed you can do today.

* Do not give with one hand and take back with the other.

* Give to the one who asks, but do not promise.

* Spread your good deeds to right and left — when in need, you will find them.

* Do not praise the beginning of man, but his end.

* Do not speak of your happiness to an unfortunate.

* Be as humble as you are exalted.

* Better one shirt of my own money than a dozen of someone elses’s.

* Lose your eyes rather than your honor.

* Better to die honorable than live scoffed at.

* Run away from sin not because of fear, but because of duty.

* Leave an irate man for a minute, but always run from a hypocrite.

* Forgive the man who is ashamed of his mistake.

* It is very difficult to find a true friend. If you have found him, keep him like your eyes, for losing him, you are losing a whole world.

* Three things must be open to a friend: the wallet, the heart, and the door.

* Do not exchange an old friend for a new one.

* You may have many friends, but take advice only from one.

* If you see your enemy drowning, save him with all your heart, as you would your own brother.

* Do not throw stones into the well from which you are taking water.

* When you see someone barefoot, you should know that the feet are his, but if one has many shoes, you may doubt where they come from.

* Beware of four things: an adopted child, a stepmother, a bad neighbor, and a man with a defect.

* Judge yourself first, then you may have a right to judge others.

* A man should be judged by his deeds, not by his words.

* If you have honey, beware of flies.

* If you want to smell a rose, do not fear the thorn.

* If you have lied to a great man, beware of him.

* Either do not approach any highly-placed men or, if you do, tell them things they like to hear.

* Never believe in dreams and in women.

* If you want your affairs to go well, do not mix in someone else’s.

* I would rather by hurt by the kick of an animal’s leg than by the mouth of an evil man.

* Do not laugh without real reason, for that laughter has three brothers: the lunatic, the fool, and you.

* Remember where you come from, where you stand, and where you are headed to.

* It is hard for the poor to live, while it is hard for the rich to die.

* Time is a stairway: one goes up, another comes down.

* Cilibi Moise suffered a great embarrassment: thieves broke into his house one night and didn’t find anything to steal.

* Cilibi Moise has been asking Poverty for several years to leave his house, at least for as long as it takes him to get dressed.

In the preparation of this article, the author drew upon material contained in Moses Schwarzfeld, Practica sçi Apropourile lui Cilibi Moise, Vestitul din Tçara Româneasca¨, Bucuresçti, 1901 [new ed. with introduction by Tçicu Goldstein, Ed. Hasefer, Bucuresçti, 2000] N. Zaharia, Cilibi Moshe ca Filosof Popular, Bucuresçti, 1915; also Iuliu A. Zanne, Proverbele Românilor din România, Basarabia, Bucovina, Ungaria, Istria sçi Macedonia: proverbe, dicetori, pova¨tçuiri, cuvînte adeverate, asemenari, idiotisme sçi cimilituri, cu un glosar româno-frances, Bucuresçti, 1895–1903. 12 vols. Cf. Friedrich S. Krauss, Die Volkskunde in den Jahren 1897–1902. Berichte über Neuerscheinungen, Erlangen, 1903, p. 92.

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