Damages (Jewish Law) - Miscellaneous Torts and Damages - Slander and Insult: Elder "Put To Shame"

Slander and Insult: Elder "Put To Shame"

In ordinary Assault and Battery, an incidental insult or humiliation needs to be paid for separately. However, when there is only an insult and no physical assault, such as one spits at another person without reaching the body (even if it reaches the garment), there is no ground for recovery (BḲ 91a). Along these lines, a Palestinian amora recounts the tradition that "He who shames another by words is free from everything." But the Jerusalem Talmud (BḲ 6c) makes an exception in favor of the "elder," meaning a rabbi. Thus: "He who puts an elder to shame pays him the price of his shame. One Meshullam affronted R. Judah ben Ḥanina: the matter came before R. Simeon ben Laḳish; and he fined Meshullam a litra of gold." This precedent was carried into the Halakah; and all the Geonim followed it. They applied it to every scholar, and thus the rule appears in the code of Maimonides ("Yad," Ḥobel, iii. 5), where the penalty is put at 35 denarii of gold (the weight of 8 8/4 shekels of gold); but he adds that in Spain many of the scholars waive their privilege. While others than scholars have no civil remedy for insult or slander, the act of "blanching a man's face in public" or that of "attaching a nickname to one's neighbor" is, as has been seen in Ona'ah, among the unpardonable sins punished in the future world. It is also found (Ket. 46a) that the sin of "bringing out an evil report" (slander) is fully recognized, on the strength of the text "Thou shalt not go up and down as a tale-bearer among the people" (Lev. xix. 16); but there is no civil remedy for the wrong done.

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