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"Have You No Shame?"

01/23/2019 04:03:03 PM


Rabbi Reuben Israel Abraham, CDR, CHC, USN (ret)

During the most important event in the history of Am Yisrael (the People Israel) --- the giving of the Aseret HaDibrot [the Ten Commandments] --- the Torah tells us the following: "And they [B'nei Yisrael] said to Moshe: 'You speak with us and we will listen, but do not let G'd speak with us lest we die.'  And Moshe said to the people: 'You shall not be afraid, for in order to elevate you did G'd come, so that the fear/awe of H'm shall be upon your faces so that you will not sin.'" [Shemot 20:16-17]   A midrash [Rabbinic legend] states that after hearing the first two commandments, all of B'nei Yisrael immediately died and had to be revived.  It is then that they spoke to Moshe the words I cited above as found in this week's parashah [Torah portion], Parashat Yitro.  The Mechilta explains that the words "the fear/awe of H'm shall be upon your faces" refers to busha [shame].  Rabbeinu Bechai reasoned that this passage which refers to fear/awe is actually referring to shame, because it speaks about a trait that relates to a person's face that can be seen by others.  What happens to a person's face when s/he feels shame?  The person's face turns red.  The Mechilta states that because of this phenomenon, a person with a strong sense of shame will be afraid of committing a sin.

In this day and age, especially when we view actions taken by people against other people that fly in the face of ethical and moral behavior, the question must be asked "Have you no shame?"  As we old folks often say to the younger generation, "back in the good old days," people had a sense of shame.  There was a pervading, overall knowledge that there were certain things that one never spoke about let alone did in public.  People's inhibitions provided a "natural" moral and ethical restraint on almost all members of society.  Not so with today's society!  In the last mishnah in Masekhet [tractate] Sotah of the Talmud Bavli [Babylonian Talmud] we see the prediction that in the painful period leading up to the arrival of the Mashiach [Messiah], chutzpah yasgei --- there will be an overabundance of brazenness.  We are witness to this each day in social media where everything and everybody is considered "fair game."  We are all witness to the continuing erosion of any sense of decency, ethics, and morals.  What no one would have dreamed of talking about in the public arena 20 years ago is now found in common, everyday conversation.  Millions upon millions of people share the details of their lives that no one could have imagined revealing even as few as 10 years ago.

While we cannot "turn the clock back" to "the good old days," we can once again hearken to the words of the story of the creation of human beings as found in Sefer Breysheet [the Book of Genesis].  We are told there that G'd created human beings B'tzelem Elokhim [in the Image of G'd].  Knowing this, I ask: Would you treat G'd in the same way you treat your fellow human beings?  Have you no shame?  Think about it!



Wed, August 21 2019 20 Av 5779