Thursday, January 1, 2009

Psychological Abuse - Identity & expectations/ Maharal

The Maharal explains that ona'as devarim (verbal abuse) is devastating because it directly impacts the person's soul. The abuser treats the person as if he was nonexistent and thus it is a belittling of his spiritual and psychological essence. Secondly - especially in the case of a wife - it undermines her expectation and perception of her importance. This denial of her self vision and expectations of her dignity - are devastating as seen by how readily they bring about her tears.

Maharal (Nesiv Ahavas Re’ah 2): Bava Metzia (59a): All the heavenly gates are locked except the gate for those who have been verbally abused (ona’ah)…R’ Eliezar said that every transgression is punished by means of an intermediary except for that of ona’ah which is punished directly by G d. R’ Abahu said that there are three things for which access to heaven is not blocked – ona’ah, theft and idolatry… These are the words of the gemora. It is important to understand these words because the Sages are alluding to a very deep understanding of the nature of ona’ah. First of all it is important to know that there is a major difference between verbal ona’ah and hurting somebody through a physical beating. That is because verbal ona’ah specifically affects the soul of man when he is insulted. On the other hand there is no such thing as ona’ah in reference to the physical body. There is nothing that ona’ah can do to the body. We see this idea in Shemos (22:9): Don’t wrong the ger or oppress him but you know the soul of the ger. The Torah connects ona’ah with the soul which receives the ona’ah. Also all embarrassment is to the soul, as we will explain. Furthermore since ona’ah is to the soul and the soul is in G d’s hand as is stated in Vayikra Rabba (4:1)…the soul and justice are in G d’s left hand… Because of this the soul which suffers wrong is in fact in G d’s hand…Furthermore someone who insults and abuses another person shows that he does not consider that his victim has any importance or existence at all. He treats the victim as a non-entity… There are other matters for which the ona’ah is ever more severe. Bava Metzia (59a): A person should always be careful not to distress his wife because since she readily cries she is more readily distressed. The explanation of this that a person should be particularly careful with his wife because the woman is controlled by her husband and therefore her tears are much more common. Distressing another person is not so devastating. But concerning his wife since she is under his domain and if he should distress her verbally – she readily cries. In contrast the Jewish slave is not so affected by nature. Even a Jewish woman slave does not readily cry because she has accepted the state of servitude to her master on her own. However the wife who is under the control of her husband, nevertheless she views her self as being a significant being. Therefore if there were any distress or insult against her from her husband she is strongly devastated – consequently she readily cries.

1 comment :

  1. When speaking about expectations should you define what are healthy or improper ones? And isn't there some "blaming the victim" involved here? what is forbidden: the act, the intentions, or the result?

    dr. baruch shulem


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