Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


The Eleventh Commandment


There is one commandment that was not written:  Thou Shalt not Embarrass Other Humans!  It is a nevere (sin) to bring shame!  To ruin the Schem / the name of another is one of the most destructive deeds that one can perpetrate.  The Schem Tov follows us all of our lives.  As stated in our writings, a good heart, a good name, is more important than the possession of material and other more concrete attributes.  To besmirch a fellow man can have endless deleterious effects to the one thus tainted.  There are folk who enjoy belittling others.  It seems to make the perpetrator look good.  He or she gains attention in so doing.  It shows him as a flawless person who knows the alleged innermost actions of another.  These allegations are often false but they can damage the one thus tainted.

We are proud of our heritage and when we hear a positive word about out ancestors we feel good about ourselves since we are a part of that individual.  If, however, our roots are damaged by loshon horah (the evil tongue), we are sad and feel minimized.  No one wants to hear that his grandfather made his living by illegal means, that her grandmother had a number of affairs while married, or a host of other negative deeds that are connected with our next of kin or those we love.  We identify with those who have come before us or those with whom we have a close connection.  We enjoy hearing that our ancestor was somehow related to a great scholar, a great healer, a great Rabbi. Perhaps we even have the “Chasam Sofar” among our legacy.

There are the Bilbulim (the false accusations).  The concocters are folk who enjoy making false accusations.  A well known historical case is that of Dreyfus.  We can see these situations in our everyday lives. There are the humans who are accused of crimes they did not commit, and attributions of misdeeds that are committed by others to those who did not commit them.  There is the famous rumor clinic, which can damage a person beyond repair.  There are many reasons why these situations come about.  The spreader of these tales frequently comes from a person who himself has committed the deed that he attributes to others; it may be to cover up his own perpetrations.  It also may come from individuals who want to be heard, to be noticed.  It makes them feel important  to be able to know more than most and to become well known for tales that others do not know.  It makes them feel knowledgeable and superior.  Perhaps they are searched out from the crowd to emanate the latest gossip with an authentic sounding  news item. They may be skilled or clever enough to mix in a bit of truth into the elaborate tales that they have spun.

The individual who follows the commandments not only in word but in deed minimizes deeds that are shaming to others.  It can be seen in the good teacher who does not allow the ridicule of one of her students.  She nicks bullying from the start, stops those who attempt to shame another, and places the  ridiculed one into a situation where he feels good about himself.  It is the “Mensch” who brings out the best in the person who is imperfect and lauds the positives that he sees in the one less endowed.  It is frequently the shy person, the poor child, who grows up as a shining light far superior to those who were his diminshers.

Let us remember to ignore the mistakes of others, to value the good and acceptable traits in all of humanity.  Let us minimize unintentional and unacceptable traits or episodes that we come upon and put aside past unpleasant situations, intervene for those who need our help, and remember never  to ridicule any fellow human with whom we come in contact!  


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-author, with Dr. Gerhard Falk, of  Deviant Nurses & Improper Patient Care (2006).

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