"Whoever causes his friends face to whiten (from embarrassment)Ö"
The Gemara considers the embarrassment of another person the same as if he/she was murdered. An explanation is given by the Rabbis: "since the blood left his/her face it is considered as if he was killed."
The following story is an example of what terrible suffering embarrassment can cause:
In his village Reb Yankel was considered the poorest and, perhaps, the happiest of the townspeople. He was satisfied with his simple life. He had tried earning a living in many ways, but it never worked out. The only thing he could do well was learn Torah. Finally, he decided to just concentrate on learning. When he was desperate for food for his family he would sit outside of the Shul and people would know to give him money. This went on for years as Reb Yankelís family continued to grow in numbers and in their needs. Reb Yankel was always happy and satisfied with his life though, no matter how difficult things became.
There was another man who lived in the town and his name was Reb Ephraim. He was a very wealthy man, who was very particular to give Tzedaka. He always gave Reb Yankel a few kopeke (pennies) whenever he would see him sitting outside the Shul. Reb Ephraim had a hobby collecting small (but beautiful) snuff boxes for keeping his sniffing tobacco. These snuff boxes were very valuable and he was proud of them. He always looked for a certain type of snuff box to complete his collection, but he was not able to find it. Finally, one day he came back from a business trip and he let people in the town know that he found the best snuff box of all.
That Shabbos, after Maariv, everyone in town filed past Reb Ephraim (who sat in the front of the Shul (near the Aron HaKodesh) and each man received a sniff of tobacco from his new snuff box. Even Reb Yankel got in line to have a sniff. Reb Yankel was last in line and when it was finally his turn he was very surprised. Reb Ephraim looked right at him and closed the snuff box.
Reb Yankel just stood there amazed at first. Then after he realized what happened he became very pale and looked sick. He was so embarrassed. For the first time in his life he was made to feel different. He felt poor and worthless. The whole town merited to get a little sniff from Reb Ephraimís snuff box except for him. He turned around and walked out of the Shul with his head down. The whole town had seen him get embarrassed and not a single person stood up for him. Nobody felt like speaking to Reb Ephraim either about what he had done.
After taking the long way home Reb Yankel was able to bring himself back to
Within one year the two men seemed to switch roles. Reb Ephraim was forced to move away from the town and he began traveling from town to town collecting Tzedaka for himself and his family. Meanwhile, Reb Yankel moved into the house which used to belong to Reb Ephraim. He had rebuilt the house just like it was before the fire.
Reb Yankel never changed though. He still spent almost all of his time learning Torah. He gave lots of Tzedaka also. Years went by until one day Reb Ephraim decided to visit the Baal Shem Tov HaKodesh to get a Bracha.
The Rebbe said, " I suppose if he were to embarrass you then you would have to get back your wealth - but that would never happen." The Rebbe then excused himself and left.
Reb Ephraim decided that he was going to go back to his old town and somehow force Reb Yankel to embarrass him so that he could get his money back. He traveled a long distance to get back to his old home town. The years of poverty had changed the way Reb Ephraim looked and nobody recognized him. He was starving. It had been many days since he had eaten a real meal. He staggered through the streets like a starving beggar until he noticed a sign posted in front of him. The sign said that Reb Yankel was making a wedding that day for his daughter and that the whole town was invited. What a perfect opportunity! Reb Ephraim thought, "I will go to the wedding and make him embarrass me in front of the whole town just like I did to him!
When Reb Ephraim arrived at the wedding he didnít even realize that it was in his old house because he was so hungry. He was so anxious to get his money back that he didnít even eat any of the food. Reb Yankel was in the huge entertainment room with his guests. He walked right up to Reb Yankel and interrupted his conversation by asking him for some tobacco snuff. Reb Yankel stopped what he was doing and gave him some with a smile. Reb Ephraim wasnít going to let him him get away with that so after a few more minutes he did the same thing again. Once again Reb Yankel gave it to him with a smile. He decided to wait until Reb Yankel was dancing with his daughter, the bride. He walked right up to him, interrupted the dancing and asked for some tobacco snuff and once again Reb Yankel stopped everything and gave it with a smile. At this point it was just too much for poor Reb Ephraim and he fainted right on the spot.
Reb Yankel revived him, fed him and gave him to drink. He asked the man who he was and upon discovering that he was Reb Ephraim he rejoiced. He told him that he had been searching for him for years. He explained, that when he heard about what had happened to him he took over his old house. He rebuilt it like it was before the fire and set aside a large sum of money. He did all these things for Reb Ephraim. Reb Yankel felt an obligation to help Reb Ephraim become wealthy again. That is exactly what Reb Yankel did. Reb Ephraim became best friends with Reb Yankel from then on.
1. On a separate sheet of paper write your name, date, and class at the top of the page. Then answer the following questions in complete sentences: