The Redemptive Power of Shame: A Path to Mashiach Era

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Published: August 02, 2023   |   Last Updated: August 04, 2023

Jews, could the key to hastening the Mashiach era be hidden within our reaction to public embarrassment?

In the endeavor to understand the intricate depths of the Jewish tradition, one finds a paradoxical concept that seems to hold a powerful key to understanding the path towards redemption: the transformative power of public embarrassment. This idea, explored in numerous Jewish texts including the Torah, Talmud, Mishneh Torah, Zohar, and Tikkunei Zohar are not merely guides to personal spiritual growth, but may potentially illuminate our understanding of the coming of the Mashiach and the final redemption.

To embark on this exploration, we first turn to the pivotal teaching from the Talmud (Bava Met- zia 58b) that asserts a person who embarrasses another in public is as though they have shed blood. Simultaneously, it is taught that one who is publicly embarrassed and does not react, their sins are forgiven.

We continue with the Mishneh Torah, where Rambam, also known as Maimonides, discusses the importance of maintaining the dignity of our fellow humans. In Hilchot Teshuva (2:6), he delineates various categories of sins. For the sins between a person and God, Yom Kippur atones. However, for the sins between a person and another, Yom Kippur cannot atone until the wronged party has been appeased. The public embarrassment falls into this category, high- lighting its severe gravity.

Turning to the mystical texts, the Zohar (Vayikra 10a) delves into this topic, offering profound insights. It explains the spiritual mechanism of how enduring public embarrassment can lead to atonement, likening the soul to a flame. When the wick is humbled, the flame grows brighter. In the same vein, a person humbled through embarrassment has the potential for their soul to shine more brightly, symbolizing spiritual elevation and purification.

From the Tikkunei Zohar (Tikkun 21), we glean further wisdom. Here, we find an analogy where public embarrassment is likened to a red heifer used for purification in the Torah. Just as the red heifer’s burning purifies the impure, so does the fire of embarrassment burn away a person’s sins. In the realm of Hashkafa, or Jewish outlook, this principle is deeply connected with the path to the final redemption and the arrival of Mashiach. The profound link between embarrassment and atonement can be understood as a process of breaking down the ego and the false sense of self, paving the way for a deeper connection with God and with one’s true, Divine self.

One of the central themes associated with the final redemption and the coming of the Mashiach in Jewish thought is the idea of Tikkun Olam, the rectification of the world. The act of enduring embarrassment without retaliation can be seen as a form of Tikkun Olam on a personal level. By accepting the shame, the individual rectifies their past misdeeds and contributes to the over- all rectification of the world. The famous Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, also known as the Ramchal, in his seminal work “Mesillat Yesharim” (Path of the Just), emphasizes this point. He describes the ideal trait of “anavah” (humility), as knowing one’s place and not considering oneself superior to others. Thus, a humble person, when embarrassed, would not react negatively, aligning with the teaching of our sages that such an individual gains atonement for their sins.

Similarly, the Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, in Likutey Moharan II, 48, discusses how shame can serve as a spiritual catharsis, cleansing the soul and preparing it for attaining higher levels of Divine consciousness. By not reacting negatively to the embarrassment and accepting it as a form of divine providence, one can use it as a powerful tool for personal transformation. The Midrash (Bereishit Rabba 67:7) further fortifies this idea. It illustrates a story about Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who taught that those who endure embarrassment in silence are akin to the sun at noon, the strongest time of the day. This analogy indicates the immense spiritual strength gained from enduring public shame, and how it can serve as a powerful catalyst for spiritual growth and elevation.

In exploring the writings of Rabbi Abraham Abulafia, an influential figure in prophetic Kabbalah, the idea of embarrassment as a transformative experience takes on new depth. Rabbi Abulafia taught that in order to achieve prophetic insight, one must remove all barriers that pre- vent the divine influx from illuminating the soul. Embarrassment, seen in this light, acts as a purifier that removes these barriers, making room for divine insight to take hold.

By embodying humility and enduring embarrassment, we emulate Moses, the most humble of all men (Numbers 12:3), who was chosen as the redeemer of the Jewish people from Egypt. This sparks a fascinating proposition:

Could the transformative power of embarrassment be a collective key to expedite the final redemption and the revelation of the Mashiach?

Looking into the teachings of Rabbi Shimon Kessin, a prominent Talmid Chakham “Torah Scholar”, we uncover further insights. Rabbi Kessin proposes that in the end of days, the Jewish people will experience a collective realization of their purpose and role, leading to the ultimate redemption. This realization, however, might necessitate a profound sense of embarrassment over past failures to live up to this role. This collective embarrassment, then, could serve as a catalyst propelling us towards the rectification needed for the Mashiach to arrive.

The concept of public shame serving as a catalyst for redemption can be likened to the Jewish people’s experience in Egypt. The Midrash (Shemot Rabba 1:12) describes how the Jewish people, despite their lowly status, did not change their names, language, or dress. They held onto their identity, enduring the embarrassment of being different. This behavior was one of the several merits that led to their redemption.

As we delve deeper into the Zohar, we discover a profound link between the idea of humiliation and the world of Atzilut, the realm of unity and oneness. In the Zohar (III, 178b), we learn that it is through the breaking down of the ego and the shedding of false self-identities (an experience that public shame can catalyze) that one can ascend to the level of Atzilut, where the illusion of separation dissipates, and a person can perceive the true unity of all existence. In this state of awareness, an individual becomes a conduit for divine light in the world, contributing to the global Tikkun Olam, the repair of the world. This act of personal transformation and self-improvement can hasten the final redemption and the coming of the Mashiach.

Furthermore, a pattern emerged from among the African American’s, New Testament believers, potential and existing converts to Judaism, and the Jewish communities. The Jewish and African American communities have experienced a cycle of misunderstandings and suspicions has contributed to a perceived schism, fueled by diverging foreign policy interests, political events, and some unfortunate public incidents. Regarding New Testament believers, those who see Yeshu as Mashiach “not as God in the flesh”, may also suffer a great public humiliation for their baseless hatred towards the Jewish people, as the Torah of Moshe given by God himself at Mount Sinai is unchanging, forever. Many New Testament believers suggest a perception of rudeness, unfriendliness, and hatefulness by members of our Jewish community, particularly within the Orthodox communities. It’s worth noting, the distress felt by many individuals seeking to convert to Judaism, yet experiencing rejection or indifference, is significant. This discomfort often manifests from a deep desire to connect with a faith that resonates with their spiritual yearnings, only to be met with barriers that seemingly question their sincerity.

These perceptions, while not a direct reflection of everyone’s sentiments, can deepen the chasm between African American’s, New Testament believers, potential and existing converts, and the Jewish communities, all of whom bear a shared responsibility to address these issues. Such perceptions risk causing a chillul HaShem “a desecration of God’s name”. Unaddressed, these misunderstandings may further perpetuate stereotypes, divisions, baseless hatred, and all they do is delay the rectification of the world and the era of the Mashiach.

The Torah’s command to “Love your fellow as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) applies to everyone, and to all their interactions.

Public humiliation, can serve as a means of atonement and personal growth rather than a curse, propelling spiritual transformation and closeness to the Divine. This principle, deeply embedded in the teachings of the Torah, Talmud, Kabbalists, and esteemed Rabbis, underscores the significance of humility and acceptance of Divine judgement in the Jewish spiritual journey towards redemption. Viewed this way, public embarrassment becomes a catalyst for invoking God’s mercy and a pivotal step towards the era of the Mashiach. This shift in perception transforms humiliation from a distressing event to a path for growth and ultimate redemption, potentially aiding the Jewish people and Esau in their Tikkun Olam “rectification of the world”, fostering the emergence of a new Noachide nation, and enabling worldwide peace and unity.

Granted, this is all theoretical, but it is an interesting concept one can’t help but to ponder. May HaShem make His Mashiach known, reveal truth within the world to bring about peace, and divine unity, speedily soon. Amen.

Sources cited within this lesson:

1. Talmud, (Bava Metzia 58b)
2. Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Teshuva (2:6)
3. Zohar, (Vayikra 10a)
4. Tikkunei Zohar (Tikkun 21)
5. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, Mesillat Yesharim (Path of the Just)
6. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, (Likutey Moharan II, 48)
7. Midrash, (Bereishit Rabba 67:7)
8. The writings of Rabbi Abraham Abulafia
9. Torah, (Numbers 12:3)
10. Rabbi Shimon Kessin, a prominent Talmid Chakham
11. Midrash, (Shemot Rabba 1:12)
12. Zohar, (III, 178b)


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