Avoiding Embarrassment by Darrin Peller


         This week's Parsha teaches us many details about different offerings.  One of them is the Korban Chatas, the sin offering, described beginning in פרק ו' פסוק י"ח.  A sin offering can be brought only to atone for sins committed unintentionally.  The usual si ffering would be an animal, such as a sheep, or a goat, but a poor person, who was not able to afford such animals, was permitted to offer a pigeon instead.

            There was no particular place specifically mentioned in the Torah for bringing the sin offering in the Mishkan, as pointed out by the Yerushalmi in Yevamos.  This was an important factor, because the sin offering would be brought by one who had sinned and now wished to repent.  If there were a specific location for only this sacrifice, the identity of the person and his reason for bringing the sacrifice would become publicly known.  This would possibly embarrass him because of the sins he committed. Therefore, this offering was brought in the same place as the Korban Olah, the burnt offering, was brought, and no one would know the reason why this individual was bringing an offering.  This way, the matter would stay between man and Hashem and the sinner would be spared any public embarrassment.

            From here we should learn that if the Torah itself deliberately teaches us to avoid the shaming of others, certainly we should avoid the shaming of our fellow human beings.  In fact, the Midrash states that one can kill a person only once, but when one shames someone, he can kill him many times over.

            The story is told that when Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel was once leading the congregation in davening, he kept stumbling on his words.  All of the congregation was amazed, because their Rabbi always pronounced each word exactly and precisely.  Only later did they understand the reason for the Rabbi's strange difficulty.  That day, there was a mourner in the shul who had difficulty reading Hebrew, and when he recited his Mourner's Kaddish, people would laugh and smile because of his awkward mispronunciations.  In order to lessen the mourner's embarrassment, Rabbi Finkel acted as if he could not read any better.

            The story is also related that any time a maid would drop and break something in his home, Rabbi Yitzchok Elchonon Spector would tell the members of his household that he actually broke it.  As a result of this, he would spare the maid any embarrassment or verbal abuse.  Rabbi Finkel and Rabbi Spector both represent examples of how to avoid embarrassing others.  It is now up to us to follow their ways and likewise avoid causing the embarrassment of others.  This can result in more than just a good feeling in one's heart; it may in fact come to unify our nation and generate trust and friendship between people.

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