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Embarrassing others in the past, gehennom, and what to do for teshuva


So a Rabbi wrote in a newspaper about embarrassing others would cause one to never leave Gehinnom. I got scared because I have done so in the past. I wrote him this:

“I suffer from anxiety so the faster you answer the better for me.

I was not raised in a great environment. I was bullied everyday and I feel it is a miracle I never committed suicide with the amount of suffering I got.

One day I was pressured by someone to do a prank on someone else. This is probably one of the few times I have ever failed. I never even pranked the teachers, no matter how much the bullies hated them and hated me.

I did not learn in such a good religious environment. I do not think I heard of embarrassing others in public is like killing them well until I was in high school.

I have no idea when I may have embarrassed that person, if I was 11 or Bat Mitzvah. The point is I do not know the name of the person and will never be able to track down the person to ask for forgiveness.

I am scared I will never get out of Gehennom for an occurrence that I rarely ever do. I have been much more careful with not embarrassing someone in public today but I feel no matter what I do, I am always going to suffer.

I suffered as a child, I now suffer with an anxiety disorder and now I fear I am going to suffer eternally after death. I fear I will never have peace with myself.”

Then he answered me this:

“Have an answer for you that will make it right. It involves promoting this mitzvah.”

I’m scared because I was not sure how many opportunities I will have to do what he answered.

I then found that you answered something like this here on the footnote:

“[1] It is noteworthy that in his Laws of Repentance (3:14), the Rambam writes that the special severity of
losing one’s portion in the World to Come applies specifically to someone whose regular conduct is to
publicly shame others. A one-time or occasional offense does not carry the same severity”

I tried emailing this rabbi about this footnote but he seems to not want to answer me. Am I forced to take his “psak” just because I asked him first about what to do when he does not seem to acknowledge about this footnote?



I understand you concern. There are two different issues here. On one hand there is the severity of the actual sin of embarrassing another person, and the punishment that it carries. For that the Rambam gives us clarity that it only applies to a person, who regular conduct is such that he is regularly embarrassing other people.

Then there is a second issue here, even if the person didn’t embarrass people regularly, even as a onetime occurrence, the person still has to do teshuva. (As a side point the Rambam (ibid) says that even if a person did embarrass people regularly, this punishment is only if he didn’t do teshuva) The halacha is that for mitzvos between people, such has when one person hurts another, besides for doing teshuva for the actual sin, that we are commanded not to do, we also need atonement from the person we hurt. You wrote that you don’t know who the person is and you have no way to track him down. Therefore we have to look for alternative ways to enhance your merits in this area. It isn’t that difficult to enhance this mitzvah; it can be done by being more careful to talk positively to other people, to compliment them, and be extra careful about their feelings.

I would also suggest another idea that will help, which is to daven that the person should forgive you, even though you didn’t actually ask him for forgiveness.

May H-shem help us all and guide us in the correct path.


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