We are here to improve our relationships with others
in order to transform the Jewish people in these urgent times.
Last week’s Stretch of the Week: Call someone you know who may need a little extra support, being careful not to say something that might hurt them.
(Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute).
Taking A Deeper Look
SHAMING OTHERS - HALBANAS PANIM
The Torah is meticulous about protecting a Jew from shame and values kavod ha’b’ri’ose (human dignity) to the utmost degree. Even the dignity of a simple thief is taken into consideration. One who steals and then sells or slaughters an ox has to pay back the equivalent of five oxen. However, one who steals and then slaughters a sheep, and therefore has to suffer the shame of publicly carrying the beast on his shoulders, is only required to repay the equivalent of four oxen.
According to most opinions, the obligation not to shame another Jew is a Torah prohibition. There is a debate among rabbinical authorities as to the source for this. Some say that the issur (prohibition) of halbanas panim (making a person’s face turn pale) is derived from the issur of lo sonu, not hurting another Jew.
According to other opinions, the issur is derived from the following: “Reprove your fellow, and do not bear sin because of him” (Vayikra 19:17). Therefore, we should not rebuke a wrongdoer in public since this will cause him shame. Even when rebuking him privately, we should choose our words carefully, so as not to embarrass him.
(From The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver.)
Story: (based on a true story)
My minivan emptied out as I took each boy home after picking them up from a late night at school. The boys were behaving as typical teenagers, exchanging lively opinions on homework and baseball, but nothing out of the ordinary.
About halfway through the ride, I heard my son Joseph saying something critical about another boy. Rather than point it out to him in front of the others, I filed it away and decided to speak to him privately when we arrived home.
With Joseph, I need to tell him what he did wrong clearly but succinctly. If I go on for more than a sentence or two, even if I’m adding encouragement, he starts to feel embarrassed and tunes out. Sometimes, before I’m halfway into the first sentence, he looks straight at me and simply says, “I know, Mom”.
In this case, I knew Joseph might not have realized what he said, or how he said it, and needed it to be pointed out to him. While I only needed a minute, the conversation would have to take place in private. Finding a quiet place in our house wasn’t going to be easy. As soon as we would walk in the door, I would be engulfed in late homework/bath time/bedtime rituals, while he would wolf down some leftovers and head to his shared room to do homework.
I did my drop-off, and headed to our house in the silent and darkened car. I realized that there were still a few minutes until we got home, so I seized the moment. I calmly told Joseph what I had heard him say about the other boy and why it was inappropriate. I then quickly checked in to make sure he understood, and received a silent pause, followed by a very low and reluctant, “Uh huh.” I was confused by the response, but proud of myself for correcting him in a brief, yet sensitive manner.
Minutes later, I pulled into our driveway and turned off the car. As the rear door opened, I heard, “Thanks, Mrs. Steinberg!” and saw a flash of movement across our front lawn. And everything in me suddenly went still and heavy. I had forgotten that my neighbor’s son had gone to visit the school for the day and I’d taken him home that night. He was in the darkened car, sitting just behind Joseph, for the entire ride. No wonder my son had reacted so reluctantly. Had I checked more carefully, I would have seen this extra, quiet boy who Joseph spends time with and would have to face the next day.
Though I know he was embarrassed, Joseph was less upset with me than I expected. He knew it was an honest mistake. But it serves as a continual reminder that I have to be extra careful to ensure I don’t embarrass my kids. My job is to correct them in order to build them up, not to take them down.
Discussion Question Options:
Is there a difference between shaming someone intentionally and shaming them accidentally through rebuke?
How can we correct someone in a productive way that does not shame the recipient?
How can we avoid shaming the people we care about? What are some pitfalls that might cause us to slip up?
Stretch of the Week:
Think about the best way to address a problematic issue without harming anyone’s dignity.