Nov 242016

The gemara discusses how severe it is to embarrass another.  There are those who stress one should not verbally abuse one’s wife and it is mentioned that having food in the house (financial security) is advisable in order to keep peace in the house.  In the context of the discussion of verbal abuse, it is said that even though many tefillot are not always accepted, one who prays about verbal abuse will always be heard and God will punish those who did it.  This was meant as a scare tactic to prevent abuse.  Then the story of the oven of achnai is brought to show the power of tefillot of those who were verbally absued.  Rabbi Eliezer was abused by the rabbis by being excommunicated for standing up to them and disagreeing with the mainstream position.  Even though he was able to prove through signs and even a heavenly voice that his position was the correct one, Rabbi Yehoshua declared: “lo bashamayim hi – it is not in the heavens.”  This story stands at the basis of the halachic system and the power of the rabbis to create their own truth as they see it even if it doesn’t correspond with the absolute truth of God.  However, bringing up the story in this sugya is to show the power of words and how the abuse against Rabbi Eliezer eventually caused the death of Rabban Gamliel (through his prayers).  Rabbi Eliezer himself also was sinned through speech by using his words to teach against the mainstream position.

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