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A Point of Honor

A Point of Honor

Ethics 3:11


Rabbi Elazar of Modin said; “A person may know much Torah, and have many good deeds, but if he embarrasses someone else in public, he has no share in the World to Come.” (Avot 3:11)

“Rabbi Yehuda was distracted by the terrible smell of garlic on someone’s breath....”
“Rabbi Yehuda was distracted by the terrible smell of garlic on someone’s breath....”
Once Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi was teaching his best students. Suddenly, he was distracted by the terrible smell of garlic on someone’s breath. He could hardly concentrate. Looking up, he said, “If anyone here ate garlic, would they kindly leave, so that we can get on with the learning.”

To everyone’s surprise, Rabbi Chiya stood up and walked out. Rabbi Chiya was the best of all of Rabbi Yehudah’s students. Surely he did not eat the garlic! So why then had he left?

The students thought, “If Rabbi Chiya left, we better leave too.” First one student got up, and then another. Soon there was no one left in the Yeshiva except Rabbi Yehudah and his son, Rabbi Shimon.

The next day, Rabbi Shimon went over to Rabbi Chiya, and scolded him, “Why were you so thoughtless to eat garlic yesterday? Because of you, the whole lesson was interrupted!”

“Heaven forbid!” said Rabbi Chiya. “I know Rabbi Yehudah can’t stand the smell of garlic. But I didn’t want anyone to be embarrassed. I knew that once I left, everyone else would also leave. Then whoever really did eat the garlic could sneak out without anyone knowing. I thought, it’s better that everyone should suspect me, and even waste good time that they could have been learning, rather than embarrass someone in public.”

Courtesy of Tzivos Hashem.
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Ethics of the Fathers is a tractate of the Mishna that details the Torah's views on ethics and interpersonal relationships. Enjoy insights, audio classes and stories on these fascinating topics.