Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Shame and Chinuch

It is well known that the Chazon Ish, zt”l, was very careful to avoid causing even the slightest embarrassment to any person. As the Ramak, zt”l, writes, “One must respect all of Hashem’s creatures since they are formed with great understanding. Every creature should be very honored in his eyes, since if he embarrasses a creature this is disrespectful to their Creator.”[1]

Yet there were some exceptions. Sadly, there are times when someone acts in such a despicable manner that one is obligated to publicly shame him. One important example of this is chinuch. It is sometimes impossible for a mechanech to educate a child without shaming him.

At other times, one may not actively shame him but one may set a trap so that the person humiliates himself. This is similar to the halachah that one need not mark orla and the like for a thief since he may, “give it to the wicked one and let him die.”

Since embarrassing another is compared to killing him in the opinion of the poskim,[2] one must be very vigilant to never embarrass another without first asking a posek; this issur is a matter of life and death.

One time, the Chazon Ish, zt”l, noticed that someone was pilfering money from his wallet which was not kept on his person. It could only be one of those who were very close to him, but who? He certainly could not accuse anyone of this crime.

He ordered someone to smear his wallet with a very pervasive ink so that whoever touched his wallet would be easily discerned. This was done and the young man who had done the deed suddenly had very black hands.

He was exceedingly shamed when he saw those from the Rav’s household who knew of the theft staring at his hands, which where very obviously black.... But he never stole again![3]

No comments: