Shame on ... Nobody!
Vayetzei (Genesis 28:10-32:3 )
Not embarrassing people is a major Torah value. In this week's Torah portion, Rachel gives up something very important to her to save her sister, Leah, from embarrassment. We, too, should try our best not to embarrass others.
In our story, a kid gets a chance to put another into an embarrassing situation.
THE BIG WHEEL
Debby and her cousin, Jan, were walking home from the library, when they saw a little kid sitting and crying on the sidewalk.
"What's the matter?" they asked the distressed girl.
The kid let out a couple of sniffles and pointed to a shiny, red training bike lying on its side like a beached whale, its chain having come out of its gear.
"Don't worry, I'm sure we'll get that fixed for you in a jiffy," Debby assured her. She lifted the bike and sat down to work on it when she heard a loud laugh that could only come from one source.
"Just look at who's trying to fix a bike!" Debby's older brother, Kyle, who, with a few of his friends had just come back from soccer practice.
She tried to ignore him, hoping he'd be kind enough to do her the same favor - but that wasn't happening.
"What a joke!" Kyle went on, turning to his friends and then back to his sister. "If we leave it up to you, by the time you fix the kid's bike she's gonna be old enough for a driver's license!" He burst out in raucous laughter along with his buddies.
"Get outta the way and let a pro do the job," Kyle said, tugging Debby on the arm.
Miffed, but not ready to make a scene over it, she stood up and stepped aside.
"Here, you can all watch and learn something," Kyle said to his pals, bending over and moving the chain and bike pedals this way and that. But each time the chain seemed about to go back on, it would slip right off again.
Debby glared at him. She was about to say something, and then stopped.
"Wow, this bike is pretty badly broken," Kyle said, now pushing harder, still without success, his friends nodding in agreement.
After a few more futile tries, the boy stood up and shrugged his shoulders. "Nope. This bike is totally busted. The gear's all bent and the chain's all stretched out. No way to fix it. You're just gonna have to get a new one, kid," Kyle declared. He turned to his buddies and they began laughing and talking together.
Debby smirked and walked back over to the bike. Then she stopped herself, bit her lip and silently waited for her brother and his friends to walk away. When they were out of sight down the block, she crouched down next to the broken trainer-bike. Seconds later the chain was firmly back in place and the bike was running perfectly.
"Thank you!!!" little kid said, clapping with glee and happily wobble-wheeled down the sidewalk.
"Hey, you did that so fast!" Jan said. "You knew how to fix it all the time, didn't you?"
"I suppose I did," Debby said.
"So why didn't you step right up and show that boasting brother of yours who was the real pro? Then he'd have been good and embarrassed when his friends had themselves a nice big laugh - this time at him!"
Debby shrugged, gave a little smile and thought to herself... But that's exactly why I didn't.
Q. How did Debby feel at first when her brother couldn't fix the bike?
A. She wanted to show him that she could.
Q. How did she feel afterwards?
A. She didn't want to embarrass him in front of his friends, so she waited until he left, to fix the bike.
Q. What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from this story?
A. When something we can say or do will embarrass another person, we may be tempted to do so, or at least not to give it a second thought. However, embarrassing people really hurts and we should avoid it whenever and however we can.
Q. Since Kyle was so obnoxious to her, wouldn't Debby have been justified in showing him up?
A. It would be natural to feel that way; however, another's insensitivity doesn't justify our hurting him with embarrassment.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Is 'wounding someone's pride' really wounding him?
A. Since it's not an apparent, physical wound, we can easily feel that it's nothing so serious. However, embarrassment and wounded pride are in a way even deeper, crueler and less healable than physical wounds.
Q. If someone embarrasses us, how should we respond?
A. Certainly, taking revenge and embarrassing him back won't make things better. A healthy response would be to remain silent and to remind ourselves of the inherent dignity we each possess - despite others' denial of it - as human beings and creations of God.