Embarrassment With Good Intentions by Gavriel Epstein


The Mitzvah of Ona’at Devarim, a prohibition against deceiving, humiliating, or antagonizing another, appears in Parashat BeHar: “VeLo Tonu Ish Et Amito,” “and a man shall not wrong his fellow” (VaYikra 25:17). One illustration of the absolute importance of this Mitzvah can be found in Shmuel Aleph, when Chanah was praying for a son. Peninah antagonized her— not out of spite—but simply to stimulate more prayer, “ULeSheim Shamayim Nitkavnah,” “and she had good intentions” (Rashi Shmuel I 1:6). Nonetheless, many of Peninah’s sons died as a punishment. This shows the importance of Ona’at Devarim, and the severity of the consequences, should this Mitzvah be transgressed. On the other hand, there is a concept of “Hochei’ach Tochi’ach Et Amitecha,” “You shall rebuke your fellow” ( VaYikra 19:17). This Pasuk identifies a sin that one may or may not be aware of accomplishing, and it is punishable by the transgressor bearing that fellow’s sin. One who refrains from preventing another from sinning is treated as if he had committed the sin himself. Thus, it is essential to assess every situation with great care to determine whether Hochei’ach Tochi’ach is necessary, or whether it is simply a violation of Ona’at Devarim.

Beneficial Consequences by Rabbi Scott Friedman

Give A Little Tzedakah by Josh Schwartz