However, I believe that all too often “salt” is “rubbed in” because of brutal mean-spiritness or abject callousness, as when bullies gang up on a classmate who they perceive as being weaker physically or socially. Even teachers are guilty of bullying behavior, humiliating kids who have fallen behind, or who are socially awkward or not academically inclined. Clueless parents belittle their offspring who do not live up to their expectations, comparing a child with a prettier or more accomplished sibling. The child already is crushed by his/her awareness of not “measuring up.”
Pointing out the sibling’s, cousin’s, or classmate’s superior achievements enhances the pain and sense of worthlessness the child is submerged in already. Ditto for the husband or wife who finds fault with just about everything his/her spouse does or does not do.
And then there are those who are neither good intentioned nor evil. They are just so thoughtless and insensitive that they nebach must be chronically stupid. How often has someone come up to a childless couple, wanting to know when they are going to give their parents nachas, as in “My son got married a few months after you did and his wife is expecting their third child…”
Older singles constantly endure insensitive and demeaning remarks about their status. “Oy, my cousin was a beauty like you, and smart too; she had aleh mayles (had everything going for her) and she’s 55 and never married. Such a bitter mazal.”
Or the patient who is struggling to overcome a vicious illness who is told several times by different people how so and so had the same thing and was told she/he was cured, and then a year or two later, had a recurrence and subsequently died. How helpful is it for the sick person’s hope to be deflated?
It seems at times that people have a compulsive need to give the vulnerable a “shtoch” – a verbal jab that undermines a person’s equilibrium or peace of mind.
The trick to getting your foot in the door in terms of Gan Eden is to think before talking. People might be enduring major traumas or disappointments or heartache in their lives – and a careless word can add excruciating hurt to a very vulnerable wound.
If you feel the need to say something, try being positive or uplifting, Especially if the recipient is obviously are on what I call the “C list”- as opposed to the “beautiful, successful “A listers” who are on everyone’s invite and/or shidduch list.
Encourage play dates with your child’s not so popular classmate – being left out will only increase his/her loneliness; give a compliment to the single who is a not considered pretty or handsome – everyone has something about them that is special. – and most importantly, speak quietly and calmly to whoever you have dealings with – no matter how angry, exasperated or disgusted you are by someone’s behavior or actions. I have seen spouses yell, insult and denigrate each other in shul, even as guests at someone’s Shabbat table.
Yelling at another adult or screaming at a child and making them feel worthless is a huge chillul Hashem, because that individual is His creation and by lashing into them, you are saying G-d created a flawed entity – that The Master of the Universe made a mistake.
Make it a habit to be aware that on your personal Yom Ha’din, you may be asked if you “added salt to a wound.” Whether you meant well or indulged in a pathetic need to push someone down in order to feel better about yourself, the Heavenly Court will judge you by the amount of pain you inflicted on someone already saturated with it.
With this possibility as a guiding light, the tikkun you so fervently vowed to work on will likely come to fruition.
May all our prayers be accepted and may we experience a year of contentment and peace of mind.