Monday, August 26, 2013

HILKHOT TESHUBA 3:14 Maimonides on Bullying

 In the third chapter of Hilkhot Teshuba, Halakha 5,  Maimonides asserts that the Jews, and the righteous among the gentiles (haside ummot ha'olam), will be granted a share in 'olam habba, the afterlife. 

Then Maimonides writes about the exceptions to the above-mentioned rule. Those individuals who are excluded from the world to come because of the severity of their sins (unless they repair the damage they have caused and repent during their lifetime).  Maimonides enumerates twenty-four categories of sins. These include heretical statements-such as denying the existence of God, and sins with irreparable effects, like committing national treason (moredim, moserim) killing, and slandering (ba'ale leshon hara').

Toward the end of the chapter (3:14) Maimonides refers to eight cases, seemingly of a lesser severity, which were also mentioned by the Rabbis as sins for which one would lose his or her part in the world to come. 

Four of these cases could be translated in modern term as "bullying" (nicknaming, verbal abuse, etc.). Bullying is a verbal offense which can cause as much damage as physical violence. Unlike physical violence, though, bullying is usually not penalized by secular law and could go unseen for a long time. Victims of bullying, especially if they suffer from low self esteem, usually do not denounce the perpetrators (and low self-esteem is an effect of bullying-do you see the vicious cycle here?). Because of this, abusive bullying tends to continue with devastating emotional effects for long periods of time. 

Unfortunately, in our days bullying has become epidemic. In some cases the classroom or bus is divided into three groups: the bullies, the victim/s of bullying and those who watch and do nothing. 

As parents, we need to be alert and detect the symptoms of bullying.  We should educate our children in the following ways: First, to identify and denounce bullying if they are victims of it.  Second, to not be passive bystanders when they witness acts of bullying. Third and most importantly, to respect the dignity of every human being and keep away from this hideous behavior.