Are emotions real? Do they exist simply in order to help us accomplish things, or do they have a value of their own?
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We all say it. But is it true?
Rashi, on this week’s parshah, tells us that the reason the three angels who visited Avraham after his bris milah appeared in human form was in order for Avraham to feel like he was doing hachnassas orchim. He wasn’t, since the angels didn’t eat the food or drink or need the shade, but he felt like he was.
A few pesukim later, Rashi tells us that as a sign of respect, the malachim stood in their tracks without approaching and disturbing Avraham. Yet this actually caused Avraham Avinu to have to get up and greet them.
The Rambam in Hilchos Avel rules that it is greater to accompany guests as they leave than to host them in the first place, and that if one doesn’t accompany a guest, it is as if they shed his blood. The commentaries explain that a guest is naturally shy and ashamed. Accompanying them bolsters their confidence and self-esteem. Again, we see that emotional considerations may trump physical ones.
Then there’s the ruling that “It’s better to jump into a raging fire than to embarrass somebody in public.”
It seems pretty clear that another’s emotions are on par with or may even surpass their physicality. Perhaps this is because emotions are deeper, and more lasting, for the average person. Perhaps there’s a different reason.
One thing is certain: Words might never hurt me—but when we are viewing someone else, sticks and stones might just be the lesser of two evils.
With kindness and respect, we can change our homes, our communities, and eventually the world.
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos,