We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create
z’chuyos for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.
Last week’s stretch of the week was: Do an act of courtesy for someone during the course of your day.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
PIRKAY AVOS--ETHICS OF OUR FATHERS
One Who Humiliates His Fellow In Public
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HaMalbin Chavairo B'Rabim
Perek Gimmul, Mishna Tes Vav
Story: (based on a true story)
I’ve always considered myself a very considerate and caring friend, which is why I’m so upset that one of my closest friends, Chaya, has chosen to pull away from me as of late. She won’t take my phone calls any longer, and I’m not sure what to do about it. If only she’d let me into her life right now, she’d see how much of a help I could be, especially now when she needs friends the most. However, most of all she’d see that I’d learned my lesson and just how badly I feel and how sorry I am. Yet, I understand that I have to give her some space to heal her hurt feelings that I caused.
The whole situation began a month ago at a special ladies shalosh se'udos our shul was sponsoring. I was one of the organizers in charge of food, and Chaya was one of the people on the clean-up committee. The shalosh se'udos was held at another lady in the neighborhood’s house. When Shabbos was over, and all the ladies began to disperse to their homes, the only ones left were the clean-up committee and the food committee. There was a lot of food left, and, as my group began to wrap-up bowls of tuna, pasta, and other yummy salads and desserts in the kitchen - someone mentioned that we should make sure that the left-over’s go to some family in our community that can use it. They began talking of donating it to a local organization.
With Chaya still in the dining room clearing paper plates, I quietly said, “Chaya can use the food. Her husband hasn’t been working for over a month now, and I know food shopping has been extra hard for her as of late. With seven children to feed, I think it’s only right that we just let her take the food with her tonight.” The ladies agreed.
I went into the dining room and offered Chaya the containers, but she surprised me when she began to turn down her families much needed food.
“Oh…no,” she chuckled, speaking in a very loud voice that could be heard in the next room. “Please don’t worry. It’s okay to give it to someone else!” I should have taken that as a clue, instead I blundered on.
“Don’t be silly Chaya!” I chided, my own voice rising. “The other day you told me yourself how hard things are – take the food for goodness sake!” I encouraged her.
Finally she gave in. She walked into the kitchen, looked around the room hesitantly, and said, “Thank you all very much…it will help.” She then scurried off to go back and finish cleaning the living room and dining room up.
Later when I helped Chaya carry the food home, she was unusually quiet. I asked her if she was upset and she simply said she had heard what I said in the kitchen and had been embarrassed, but didn’t want to speak to me about it.
Since then, I have done a lot of thinking about my behavior. I’ve spoken at length to my husband and Rabbi and realized the large error I’d made. Unfortunately, my lesson cost me the trust of a friend.
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"Rabi Elazar HaModa’i omer: … ha’malbin p'nai chavairo borabim… af al pi she’yaysh b’yado torah u’ma'asim tovim, ain lo chailek lo’olam haba. "
Rabbi Elazar HaModa’i says, “One… who humiliates his fellow in public… though he may have Torah and good deeds, he has no share in the World to come. "(Perek Gimmul, Tes Vav).
Our mishna states that a person who shames another is punished even more severely than a murderer, since, unlike a murderer, he loses his share in the World to Come. Why is shaming someone worse than murder? One reason is that a person who humiliates someone else does not realize the gravity of his offense. He thinks, “What have I done? I did not hit him or steal from him. I merely used words that he did not appreciate. Such a person has little incentive to change his behavior. The Rambam points out that there are sins that may seem to be relatively trivial, but that can have the most serious consequences.
Our sages teach that with three exceptions, “all Israel have a portion in the World to Come”. These exceptions are: 1) a person who denies the resurrection of the dead, 2) a person who denies the Torah, and 3) an apikores (Sanhedrin 90a). There are five types of people in this mishna, including one who humiliates his fellow in public. All of these people, state the commentators, correspond to the category of apikores.
One who shames his fellow in public denies that man was created in the image of HaShem, and that HaShem breathed life into his nostrils. As he sees it, a person is no better than an animal. This point of view leads him to disrespect others, and he thus has no compunctions about shaming his fellow in public.
The Rashbatz explains that the mishna’s primary intent is to caution us not to rebuke others in a way that would inadvertently shame them. The dividing line between proper and improper rebuke is exceedingly fine.
Chasid Ya'avetz states that the common denominator of all the instances cited in this mishna is that the transgressor is not a conscious or intentional nonbeliever. Rather, he evinces a dismissive attitude toward the Torah’s concept of holiness. The Maharal echoes this view, and adds a new element: that in each case, the malefactor’s intent was actually positive and spiritual.
(Reproduced from Rav Lau on Pirkei Avos, with permission of the copyright holders, ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.)
Discussion Question Options
In what ways was shame used in the story?
What could the speaker in the story have done differently to avoid shaming Chaya and still received the same results of helping her out?
Discuss situations in your lives where you accidentally or inadvertently shamed someone. Then discuss how it can be avoided and/or improved.
Stretch of the Week:
Go out of your way to approach a situation more modestly, so as not to inadvertently shame someone.