Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman, LMHC
I do not take sides in arguments between husbands and wives. But when there was a shidduchim concern, I did.
I told my wife she had no business calling the menaheles to complain. I remember, when I was in yeshiva, the menahel came into our classroom one day and said we should not be telling our parents things that the rebbe said or what he did to get boys to behave. I remember his words, "What happens in yeshiva, stays in yeshiva!" We send our daughters to school and if the school wants us to know something they'll call us. My wife has no business telling the menaheles what's acceptable and what isn't.
And I told my husband that our 8 year old daughter was sobbing uncontrollably over what the teacher said to her in front of the whole class, and when I called the menaheles she defended the teacher and said that if our Devoiry had behaved, the teacher wouldn't have called her a 2 year old in front of anybody. I told the menaheles that Devoiry's twirling her pencil and dropping it 3 times is not okay, but it doesn't justify the teacher embarrassing her in front of the class. I don't think the menaheles should condone something that is wrong, and when it hurts my child, it is my business.
I remember my first conversation with a teacher whom I will call Miss Horowitz. She began by telling me she had noticed that during her 7th grade Chumash class, one of the girls appeared to be daydreaming. Miss Horowitz said she wanted every girl to stay on track. I asked her what she did to get this child back on track.
Miss Horowitz: I said, "Rivkie, are you paying attention?"
Me: And what happened then?
Miss Horowitz: She looked at me and then she quickly looked down into her Chumash.
Me: What do you think that was like for Rivkie?
I said that very softly. Miss Horowitz began, very softly, to cry.
Miss Horowitz: I didn't mean to hurt her; I certainly never meant to embarrass her.
But now I realize that that's what I did. I feel terrible that I did that to her.
Me: I see that, and I admire you for caring so deeply about a child's feelings.
Miss Horowitz and I worked together for awhile. She learned discreet ways of helping a child who was daydreaming to get back on track. The girls in her class came to admire and respect her as deeply as she cared for them. And by the end of the school year, Miss Horowitz had become a kallah, B"H.
A shidduch. Marriage. Children. In the merit of learning how to guide children without embarrassing them.
Here are the words of the Menoras haMaor:
A person who is able to prevent himself from the sin of shaming another, Hashem will save them from all distress, and from them will come worthy children. This was the case with Tamar [Yehuda's daughter in-law]. Because she was willing to be burned rather than cause shame to Yehuda, she merited that kings and prophets would descend from her. (Ner 2, klal 5, section 2; quoted in Mesivta edition of Avos 3:11, yalkut biurim, page 74)
The Rambam wrote:
It is forbidden to cause someone shame, especially in front of others. Even though one is not given malkos for shaming someone, and he is exempt from paying [for the damage], it is a very serious sin. Our sages have said that one who shames another in public has no place in Olam Haba. Therefore, one must be careful not to cause public shame to anyone, young or old. (Mishna Torah Hilchos Daos 6:8; Chovail u'Mazik 3:7)
Be careful not to. It is not enough to say afterwards, "I didn't mean to."
Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt'zl, according to his family, worked on making sure he was able to prevent himself from reacting harshly to a child. They tell the following story:
I once went into [Rav Shlomo Zalman's] room before he gave shiur in the Yeshiva. I saw him sitting and studying the sefer Shaarei Teshuva. He explained, "Sometimes the students say something silly, and I'm afraid that I might react to them in a way that would hurt them. That's why I need to study musar."
Rav Shlomo Zalman's talmidim recall:
Even when he was "kashe k'barzel" the issue was never the child himself. In his words of correction, there was never a trace of personal [debasement] or belittling.
(Kuntres Nisivos Shlomo, page 71)
Rav Pam, zt'zl wrote the following (my translation of Atara LaMelech, pg. 90):
There is no more permission for parents or teachers [to cause a child to feel shame] than for anyone else, unless it is for the purpose of chinuch or musar for the good of the child. But it is far more common that the damage caused by this is greater than the benefit. [emphasis mine]
Rav Pam added that because of the magnitude of the issue, careful deliberation and tranquility must precede a parent or teacher's words to a child.
What does the magnitude of the issue of shaming a child have to do with shidduchim? Here are the words of Rav Shteinman, Shlita, as recorded by his talmidim: (Mizekainim Etbonan, page 39)
We are anguished by the difficulties so many have in shidduchim. Many young women serve as teachers. A teacher of young children finds it extremely difficult not to sometimes err in hurting or insulting a student. [The laws of conduct] bain adam l'chaveiro are very stringent. Who knows if this isn't the reason that she hasn't found her zivug?¦ Hashem yishmarenu.
Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with specialties in marriage, relationships, and parenting. He works with parents and educators, and conducts parenting seminars for shuls and organizations. He can be reached at 718-344-6575.