Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

HURTFUL WORDS Part 3

By Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen

In the past weeks we have discussed the prohibition of causing pain through speech. This includes speaking harshly to someone even in private. However, the commentaries write that speaking in such a way to someone in front of other people, and thereby embarrassing him, is considered even more lowly than normal hurtful speech. They go so far as to say that to embarrass someone is considered in a certain respect like killing them.

We further learn about the seriousness of embarrassing others from the story of Yehuda and Tamar. Tamar was about to be executed for a sin that she did not in fact commit. She had the ability to exonerate herself but in the process she would cause great humiliation to Yehuda. She preferred not to openly embarrass him, rather she gave him the opportunity to speak up himself1 . The Gemara learns from here that a person should rather let himself be killed than embarrass his fellow man2 . The halachic authorities discuss as to whether this Gemara should be applied in actual law3 , but regardless, it teaches us a great deal about the Torah’s attitude to causing others pain. The Torah places great concern for our emotional and psychological well-being: When a person is humiliated in public his self-respect is severely effected, this is akin to taking his very lifeblood away from him and is comparable to actually taking away his physical life.

Whilst joking about other people is often in and of itself forbidden, this is even more true when it will cause embarrassment to the victim. This also applies to disciplining children (or students). They also have a right to maintain their self-respect and are likely to feel greatly hurt by being punished or shouted at in public. There may be rare occasions where it is permitted to rebuke them in front of the other children, in order to convey a message. However, this is rarely the case, and if a person finds themselves continually embarrassing their children in front of other people then he must realize that this is unacceptable and can cause them great damage. It is far more recommended to take the child aside and calmly discuss his misdemeanor in private. This way, he will not feel attacked and he can maintain his self-respect.

Another situation relevant to this discussion is when a person may see certain failings in his friend that require candid discussion and perhaps rebuke. Again, it is forbidden to do so in front of other people.

Human beings are made in the Image of G-d and deserve to be treated in such a way. In the vast majority of instances it is forbidden to cause a person to lose his self-respect by humiliating him in public.

1 See Parshas Vayeishev for the full account of this story.
2 Bava Metsia, 58a-59b.
3 See Mishpatey Shalom, p.92-3.


Text Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen and Torah.org


 






ARTICLES ON LECH LECHA:

View Complete List

Universal Responsibility
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5763

Reaching for Perfection
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5761

Cloudy Vision
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5768

ArtScroll

Avraham's Strange Reaction
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5762

No Second Thoughts
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5764

The Grand Prize of History
Rabbi Label Lam - 5773

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

The Beginning & End of the Journey
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5760

Rabbi Frand on Parshas Lech Lecha
- 5769

The Lesson of Avraham
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5763

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Avraham Initiated The 2000 Years of Torah
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5766

The Moral of the Story
Shlomo Katz - 5768

Outsiders
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5756

> Reaching Greatness: Living in the Land of Israel
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5775

Count Us If You Can
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5758

Take the Initiative!
Shlomo Katz - 5774

The Wandering Jew
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5761



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information