Mitzvah Against Oppressing a Jew with words

Sefer HaChinuch
Parsha Behar Bechukosai
35th Day of the Omer 5764
Rabbi Yonah Bookstein

The Torah prohibits us from verbal oppression of another Jew.

Rashi: And if a person will say “who will know if I meant this for harm?”
The Torah follows this by saying “V’yorayso may’elohecho” and you shall fear G-d, G-d who knows all thoughts.

You cannot remind people of their embarrassing past, or ancestry, or give advice you know to be bad.

It is worse to hurt someone personally than financially, b/c money can be replaced…

–On fools: book of Proverbs (26:4,5): “Do not answer the fool according to his foolishness, lest you become equal to him. Answer the fool according to his foolishness, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” This seems like a contradiction: Should we answer the fool or not?

The answer is that there are two types of fools. One type of fool already ‘knows’ everything. For him, discussion is merely an opportunity to show off his ‘superior’ knowledge. There is no point in answering him, because he will never admit a fault. On the contrary, our attempts to educate him will meet with ridicule. As he rejects our insights one after another, the fruitlessness of our efforts makes us appear foolish.

But there is another type of fool: One aware of his limitations. His views are wrong and foolish, but he’s not completely closed to instruction. If we open the lines of communication we can have an impact on him. If we don’t reach out to him, he’ll eventually start to think: “I’ve held these views for so long, and no one has ever contradicted me – so, I must be right!”

There is a profound message here for our times. We are all confronted with people who scoff at the Torah. We often have to decide if and how to respond. The book of Proverbs teaches us that our primary responsibility is to improve the critic by our response. If that is impossible, then responding is a waste of time. But if it is possible, then we must not wait for his initiation. We must reach out to him and start the dialogs.

— On the last Pasuk:

Alshich : may the wicked be punished on this world, and the good be rewarded on this world (where the sun rises) fir this will reinforce belief in Divine judgment.

Chasam Sofer: This does not say that the wicked should perish, and those that love him should ARISE like the sun. Rather when the wicked perish, His beloved will remain, clear and mighty, no longer clouded and obscured.

Das Sofrim:  may Israel enlighten the world (as the sun) in the way of life.

Rabbainu Bechaye writes: Why did the torah write this after the discussion on shmitah?  If one does not observe the smhittah, G-d will send poverty upon him, and he will be forced to sell his utensils, and clothing. If he repents, good. But if not, He will have to sell his fields.

  If still no teshuva, he will be forced to beg for bread.

Tzena Urena tells us: We cant drive another to tears.  From the time the bais ha mikdash was destroyed, the Gates of Prayer were shut, but the gates of Tears remained open.  G-d accepted prayers offered with tears.  If a person breaks someones heart and drives them to tears, G-d will punish them and listen to the tears of the victim.

Rabbi Simcho Bunim of Pszysucha used to say: The Torah forbids us to fool another.  Now a chasid has to do more that the law requires. He must not fool himself either, by deluding himself into considering his virtues greater than they actually are.

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