שׁפך דם האדם באדם דמו ישׁפך כי בצלם אלהים עשׂה את־האדם׃
I will certainly demand an accounting for the blood of your lives: I will demand it from every animal and from every human being. I will demand from every human being an accounting for the life of his fellow human being. Whoever sheds human blood, by a human being will his own blood be shed; for God made human beings in his image. (Gen 9:5-6 CJB)
Biology shows that our blood flow changes when we become embarrassed. That's why we blush or, in certain instances, become pale. While provoking blushing or paling is a far cry from spilling someone's blood, by way of a fence against the commandment of not spilling someone's blood, sixteenth century Rabbi Moshe Alshich applies the prohibition in Genesis 1:6 to embarrassing people and/or shaming them publicly.
This idea fits well with a part of this week's parasha, the part where Noah’s children discover their father in a compromising situation. Ham’s first reaction was to publicize his father's situation while his brothers, Shem and Japheth, did not even deign to look at him and made sure to cover his shame.
Here is something from Rabbi Zelig Pliskin on the subject. “When you embarrass someone you cause him much pain. This suffering can be even much worse than that felt from a physical wound. ... When you humiliate someone you lower his self-esteem...The ramifications of this are awesome!”
The modern phenomenon of cyber bullying is a testament to that. Embarrassing and shaming others can, in some cases, lead to suicide which can be construed as “Murder by victim.” It doesn't only happen in schools. Our present mean, proud, and arrogant modern society is rife those who think it is their right, if not their duty to elevate themselves by putting down those around them. But do they really get elevated?
We all have a certain element of self-depreciation, an innate inferiority complex, a subconscious feeling of inadequacy. As a result, much of what we do, say, and try to portray about ourselves to the outside world through the way we dress and present ourselves has to do with giving us an air of self-assurance. A wise person will recognize these mechanisms in himself and therefore in others. A wise leader, teacher, spouse, father, will tread softly and make sure to respect others, and yes, even children. He will be keenly aware that people go to great lengths to preserve their image, or to recover from the hurt caused by the breaking of their self-esteem. The violent and bloody history of mankind is a testament and testimony to that fact. After all, being made of glass ourselves, we shouldn't play at throwing stones!
Rabbi Moshe Alshich lived in the 16th century. He didn’t know about cyber-bullying but he knew about people. As we have shown before, the idea of embarrassing and shaming others publicly is as old as Ham, the son of Noah.
He was not the first one. King Solomon spoke much about the power of the tongue. At the beginning of his reign, he desperately prayed and asked HaShem,
So now, give me wisdom and knowledge; so that I will be able to lead this people. For who is equal to judging this great people of yours?" (2Ch 1:10 CJB)
As a result, HaShem gave Solomon a wisdom of speech that brought, for a time, the Kingdom of Israel to its zenith, a foretaste of the Messianic age. The following King was not so wise. He refused the wise counsel of his advisers,
They said to him, "If you will treat these people kindly, pleasing them and giving them favorable consideration, they will be your servants forever." But he didn't take the advice the older men gave him; instead he consulted the young men he had grown up with, who were now his attendants. (2Ch 10:7-8 CJB)
Here is a little more from Solomon on the benefit of wise speech,
The speech of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the speech of the wicked is a cover for violence.
(Pro 10:11 CJB)
Idle talk can pierce like a sword,
but the tongue of the wise can heal.
(Pro 12:18 CJB)
The wise man's heart teaches his mouth,
and to his lips it adds learning.
Pleasant words are like a honeycomb,
sweet to the taste and healing for the body.
(Pro 16:23-24 CJB)
Yeshua also taught of the power of the tongue. He says,
There is nothing outside a person which, by going into him, can make him unclean. Rather, it is the things that come out of a person [through his mouth] which make a person unclean!"
(Mar 7:15 CJB)
James who became the leader of the Messianic congregations in first-century Israel also thought that,
... all stumble in many ways; if someone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man who can bridle his whole body. If we put a bit into a horse's mouth to make it obey us, we control its whole body as well. And think of a ship -- although it is huge and is driven by strong winds, yet the pilot can steer it wherever he wants with just a small rudder. So too the tongue is a tiny part of the body, yet it boasts great things. See how a little fire sets a whole forest ablaze! Yes, the tongue is a fire, a world of wickedness. The tongue is so placed in our body that it defiles every part of it, setting ablaze the whole of our life; and it is set on fire by Gei-Hinnom itself. For people have tamed and continue to tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures; but the tongue no one can tame -- it is an unstable and evil thing, full of death-dealing poison! With it we bless Adonai, the Father; and with it we curse people, who were made in the image of God. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing! Brothers, it isn't right for things to be this way. A spring doesn't send both fresh and bitter water from the same opening, does it? Can a fig tree yield olives, my brothers? or a grapevine, figs? Neither does salt water produce fresh.
(Jas 3:2-12 CJB)
“Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble.” Unknown.
May we use our words
and to build.
R' Gavriel Lumbroso
with the inspiration of R' Zelig Pliskin and others.
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