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Shaming another
Wednesday 22nd January 2020 @ 9:57 am

The following true story comes from former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and it truly frightens me. Primarily,  it invites me to ask myself of the many times that I may have inadvertently ostracised, removed, or distanced a human being from the embrace of Divine Life during worship, due to my understanding of correct order, disciple and/or control.

Shame inflicted upon someone else, is actually shame on me.



Sacks recalls going on an early Jewish–Christian dialogue meeting in Switzerland where African Christian Bishops wanted to talk the Tanakh with Rabbis. They had a great time. But one episode in particular stuck with him. [italics are my attempts to aid full understanding]


?“The sponsoring body, a global Jewish organisation, was a secular one, and to keep within their frame of reference the group had to include at least one non–Orthodox Jew, a woman studying for the rabbinate. We, the semikha (ordinands) and yeshiva (Biblical studies) students, were davening the Sha?arit (morning prayer) service in one of the lounges in the chateau when the Reform woman entered, wearing tallit and tefillin, (prayershawl + small box secured onto arm + head) and sat herself down in the middle of the group.


This is something the students had not encountered before. What were they to do? There was no me?itza (boundary). There was no way of separating themselves. How should they react to a woman wearing tallit and tefillin and praying in the midst of a group of men?


They ran up to Rabbi Rabinovitch in a state of great agitation and asked what they should do. Without a moment’s hesitation he quoted to them the saying of the sages: a person should be willing to throw himself into a furnace of fire rather than shame another person in public (Berakhot 43b; Ketubbot 67b).

With that he ordered them back to their seats, and the prayers continued.”



Throw yourself into the fire, rather than shame another person in public.

Now there’s a thought for healthy social community interaction. 


I dare not even begin to contemplate how many times I have kept people distanced through my leading. It happens when a healthy desire for respectful ‘order’ becomes a tool of control. It happens when bad music / technology / PA / lighting becomes a reason to scrap those elements because they are being used tritely or poorly. It happens when a minister feels a need to appear the director of operations / the host / the CEO rather than the conductor of a very, very, average orchestra. 


This is truly a challenge to me – maybe you have this sorted already, well done if you do. But for the rest of us … we are still working on noticing the multitude of ways we shame ourselves, by inadvertently shaming people around us. God help us. 


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