Which crime is worse, financial exploitation or verbal abuse? "Money can be reimbursed," the Talmud notes, "but the hurt from words is irreparable; money is a person's property, but words hurt the person himself."

Whether it's due to circumstance or nature, some people are more emotionally vulnerable than others. The Torah repeatedly tells us to watch our words with the widow, the orphan and the immigrant. Men are enjoined to speak sensitively to their wives. "The gates of prayer are sometimes closed," we are warned, "but never the gates of tears."

Whether due to circumstance or nature, some people are more emotionally vulnerable than othersHere are a few prototypes of verbal exploitation:

  • Name Calling: "Hey Traintracks! Can you pick up Radio China with that mouth gear?"
  • Chiding: "Cheer up, buddy! It's all for the good. Must be that you did some sins that this suffering is now expunging!"
  • Past Digging: "Look, Mary, a picture of you before the acne treatment!"
  • Wasting My Time: Joe asks Bill for help in his business, and Bill sends him on a wild goose chase, purposely providing useless internet links, defunct phone numbers and connections that won't get him anywhere. Bill says he meant well, but he knows the truth.
  • A more subtle example: Wayne walks into a store with great customer service and juices the salesperson for all the information he needs while trying all the samples. Then, once he's determined the best deal, he buys it at half-price online.
  • Public Embarrassment: "It's your fault, Johnny, if you didn't prepare. You're going to stand up there and make the presentation anyways."

"Better for a man to cast himself into a fiery furnace," the Talmud says, "than to shame his fellow in public." Publicly embarrassing someone, we are told, is not just breaking his bones–it's cold-blooded murder. If you have an issue with someone, deal with it privately. Be open and try to work out a resolution. Whenever possible, just forgive and forget and get on with life.