Shame On Nobody
Vayigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27 )
We may get mad and want to give whoever made us mad a piece of our mind, but before we let it fly, we should think about this week's Torah Portion and how careful we must be not to shame anyone in front of others. The powerful Joseph is about to reveal his true identity to his brothers who had sold him as a slave, but first he makes sure that everyone else leaves the room, so his brothers won't feel any more embarrassment than necessary (45:1). We can learn from him the Torah value of not shaming others.
In our story, a kid has to choose whether to let it fly - or let it ride
Sharon felt steam coming out of her ears as she glared at the tried-on clothes strewn all over the floor, the desk cluttered with not-put-away makeup bottles and tissues. It was bad enough that she had to share a room with her sister, Mindy, but what right in the world did the kid have to leave it looking like the aftermath of an earthquake, just because she was in a rush?
No way was she going to get away with this! Gathering up a few choice pieces of evidence, Sharon flew down the stairs, hoping to still catch Mindy before she left and make her clean up her mess.
She got to the bottom of the stairs just in time to see Mindy opening the front door. Good, I caught her in time! As she stomped across the big living room, Sharon peered through the large window and recognized the group of three girls standing at the entranceway. They were some of the most popular kids in Mindy's grade. It was nice to see that her sister was moving up in the social world, but that still didn't allow her to trash their room in its wake.
"Oh, hi guys!" she heard her sister's voice ring out in that overly friendly tone she used when she was nervous. "I'll just grab my coat and we'll get going."
Not before you clean up your disgusting mess, Sharon thought, rehearsing the indignant line she was going to yell out when she got to the door.
She was picking up speed and about to pounce on the group when a different thought slipped into Sharon's head. Whoa, what am I doing? Mindy must really want to impress these new friends of hers - that's why she rushed out and why she's so nervous. If I barge in, literally waving her dirty laundry in her face in front of them, she's going to be mortified.
Still mad, but fighting hard to stop herself like a truck trying to brake on a downhill slope, Sharon slowed down, tossed her sister's things she'd been holding behind the recliner, and by the time she was standing at the front hall closet next to Mindy and her friends, Sharon had actually managed to paste a calm smile on her face.
As her sister walked over to get her coat, Sharon softly said, "I know you're on your way out, but could I just speak to you for a second ... in the other room?"
Mindy flashed Sharon a searching look and seeing the searing eyes behind her sister's smile, nodded. "I'll be right with you, guys," she waved and followed her into the kitchen.
Though Sharon had to put up with a messy room until her sister, who'd promised to clean it as she got home, returned, she was happy that she'd held herself back from making even a bigger mess by embarrassing her sister in public.
Q. How did Sharon feel at first about yelling at Mindy?
A. She felt it was okay, because Mindy did something wrong.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She was glad she hadn't embarrassed her sister in front of her friends.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Sharon learned that day?
A. She was upset with her sister - and even had good reason to be - but she came to realize that by shaming her sister publicly, she would be doing an even bigger wrong.
Q. Why do you think that rebuking someone in front of others might be wrong?
A. Even if someone gets us mad or makes us feel hurt, although it's fine to let him know, we should still be considerate of his feelings and self-respect by making sure to tell him how we feel in private and in a calm way.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What exactly do we hurt in another person if we shame him?
A. While it might not wound his body, it can deeply wound his soul. A person's sense of self-esteem and desire to be seen as good in others' eyes is one of the deepest and most basic human emotions. Being sensitive to that in others is a sign of a spiritual person, and a lack of it reveals the opposite.
Q. Is there ever a time it would be justified to rebuke someone publicly?
A. If we've tried in private and he haven't listened or changed his ways … or if we can reasonably assume he won't, in some cases public rebuke could be warranted. However, this is the rare exception and should be carefully considered and only used as a last resort.