- "He Did Not Embarrass Her": Motherhood and Shame in Talmudic Literature
- Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues
- Indiana University Press
- Number 33, Spring 5779/2018
- pp. 20-37
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Shame, in all its behavioral manifestations, is an anthropological structure that is common to all of humanity. As such, we might view it as a language in which the signifier is universal, while that which is signified is culture-dependent.
The Sages of the Talmud teach: "A person who shames another in public [literally, 'blanches his face'] is considered as though he had spilled blood," and they compare the severity of shaming to that of adultery. Such bold statements form part of the basis for identifying the culture of the Sages as one of shame and honor.
Various studies published in recent years have addressed the subject of shame in the world of the Sages, mostly with a focus on legal aspects. The unique aspects of shame in the context of a son's relationship with his mother have yet to receive attention. A study of the sources dealing with the honor due to mothers shows that the Sages' overt textual treatment of the commandment hints at the mirror image of honor: shame. Both concepts help shape a particular system of values and morals, and they also express the complex emotions underlying the relationship between mothers and sons.