Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Devarim

The Recognition of Shame

The nine days of mourning for Jerusalem’s fall and the destruction of the Temples are upon us. This Shabat, which always precedes Tisha B’Av itself, takes its name from the haftorah of the prophet Yeshayahu read in the synagogue. The words of the prophet condemn the social ills of his times and society – governmental corruption, economic unfairness and a lack of legal and social justice. But these are the problems that have plagued all human societies from time immemorial. And they are omnipresent in our current world and national society today as well.

So, at first glance, one could conclude that the prophet is making impossible demands, since human behavior and social interactions can never eliminate these issues fully. And we are all well aware that the Torah never demands the impossible from its human subjects. So what is the point of the prophet’s criticism and harsh judgments? What is it that he really demands from us fallible mortal creatures?

I feel that he demands of us that we at least realize and recognize the shortcomings in our society. We may not be able to correct them all completely, but we should know that they exist. We should never allow apathy the ability to overwhelm our better instincts and arrest our never-ending quest for an improved social structure.

The prophet demands that we remain relentless in trying to improve the social conditions of the world we live in even if we know at the outset that complete success is beyond our human capabilities. By accepting our societal deficiencies without a murmur of regret or complaint we become complicit in our own eventual destruction.

The Chafetz Chaim is reputed to have said that what motivated him to write his monumental work about the evils of slander and evil speech was that he noticed that people who had engaged in such speech no longer exuded a sigh of regret over their words. Evil speech had become societally acceptable and there was no sense of shame or embarrassment present about engaging in that type of behavior.

Shame is a great weapon for good and when it disappears from society, when brazen self-interest and greed is somehow legitimized, then the prophet warns us of impending doom. Politicians disgraced by their previous behavior openly vie again for public office as though having served one’s time in jail or being forced to resign from public office wipes their slate clean permanently.

A society that knows no shame, whose leaders never recognize the moral turpitude of their past behavior, dooms itself to the ills of favoritism, corruption and unfairness that will plague its existence. The prophet demands of us that even if we are unable to correct all ills and right all wrongs we should at least be ashamed that such ills and wrongs exist within our society.

That recognition and sense of shame that accompanies it serves as the basis for possible necessary improvement in social attitudes and societal behavior. Then the prophet’s optimistic prediction “Zion shall be redeemed through justice and those who return to it will also find redemption through righteousness“ will yet be fully fulfilled.

Shabat shalom

Rabbi Berel Wein


Crash course in Jewish history

Rabbi Berel Wein- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com


 






ARTICLES ON NOACH:

View Complete List

Intellectual Beliefs
Shlomo Katz - 5758

Dissections and Connections
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5773

What Was Noach's Greatest Legacy?
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5772

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Can You Enjoy While Others Lack?
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5759

Hide the Shame
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5758

Understanding the Faith of Noach
Rabbi Yosef Kalatsky - 5763

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Join the Voices in the Ark
Rabbi Label Lam - 5774

The Flood
Shlomo Katz - 5769

Flooded With Real Ecstasy
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5774

ArtScroll

The Best Policy
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5765

People In Stone Houses Should not Cast Bricks
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5774

Parshas Noach
Shlomo Katz - 5772

> Investing in the Land
Shlomo Katz - 5767

The Hidden Blessing
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5766

Noah's Spiritual Leadership
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5771

Priorities Define A Person
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5766



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information