The plaintive cry of exasperation, “Don’t roll your eyes at me!” that parents often address to their children is one that each person should consider saying to him/herself, omitting, of course, the concluding words “at me.”
Rolling one’s eyes is often meant to demean others, to hold them in contempt for their inability to understand and to embarrass them. Jewish law, however, considers embarrassing another person as a form of murder! Rather extreme, wouldn’t you say? Actually, no. The sages of the Talmud teach that there is a physiological comparison to murder since when a person is embarrassed, blood rushes to his cheeks in a blush and then drains away, leaving a pale white face, not unlike the appearance of a murder victim.
More important, however, is the fact that one’s self-esteem is integral to one’s emotional welfare. Let’s face it, we all want to feel that others like us, respect us and want to be our friends. That’s human nature.
Rolling one’s eyes when someone else is speaking, or when speaking about someone else, can often say more than words. Body language is a unique and highly effective means of communication. Nodding or shaking one's head head during a speech reveals as much, if not more, than a person’s direct comments.
Such actions are included in what is known in Jewish legal literature as “avak lashon ha’rah,” the dust of evil speech. Even if one is not gossiping directly about someone or slandering them, one's body language, or other form of innuendo, can lead to lashon ha’rah and result in demeaning or embarrassing that person.
This Treat was originally posted on November 17, 2008.
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