Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Humiliation Day

Surf the web and you will find that most days on the calendar have been designated as “holidays.” Many of these holidays are intended to be cute. Others seek to acknowledge different groups of people (e.g. step-mothers day). Some of these nouveau-holidays, however, were created to help make the world a nicer, better place. One such holiday is January 3rd, which has been designated as “Humiliation Day.” This holiday, far from how it sounds, is intended to be a day that “should be viewed as a time to recognize the negativity of humiliating someone or a group of people” (http://www.holidayinsights.com).

One might wonder about a society that has to set aside a specific day to highlight that which seems to be such a basic human moral value. Judaism, however, has always emphasized the importance of being aware of how one’s actions affect others.

Humiliating/embarrassing another person is considered a particularly cruel and inconsiderate act. In fact, the act of causing another to go pale (or to blush, since one usually pales as part of the blushing process) is equated with murder: “A Tanna (teacher cited in the Mishna) recited before Rabbi Nahman ben Isaac: He who publicly shames his neighbor is as though he had shed blood. Whereupon he remarked to him: ‘You say well, because I have seen it, the ruddiness departing and paleness supervening’” (Baba Metzia 58b).

The Talmud goes on to quote Rabbi Hanina. “All who descend into Gehenna (purgatory) re-ascend, excepting three, who descend but do not re-ascend: He who commits adultery with a married woman, publicly shames his neighbor, or gives an evil nickname to his neighbor” (ibid).

And so, while having a “humiliation day” provides an interesting life lesson, it is a lesson Judaism espouses every day.

Copyright © 2012 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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