Tending to the ‘invisible’ wound
Parshat Behar, Leviticus 25:1-26:2
There is a new hashtag trending on social media.
The tag is #maybehedoesnthityou, and it offers women a chance to share their experience with domestic violence. Significantly, not all partner and gender violence involves a physical altercation. Specifically, the trending hashtag has surfaced myriad ways in which the men in these women’s lives use emotional, verbal and financial violence to control and manipulate those they purport to love.
Many times does the Torah caution us not to wrong the widow, the stranger and the orphan. In this week’s Torah portion Behar, however, we are specifically enjoined, not once but twice (Leviticus 25: 14,17), to “do no wrong to one another.” Why the same commandment twice?
There are two ways we violate and hurt one another. We may commit acts of injury visible to the outside world, and/or we may commit acts of violence in ways not as readily seen by others. Both are wrong.
Our ancient rabbis teach that we may grievously injure one another not only physically, but also with our words, by blaming or shaming our partner or by withholding emotions or agency from our “loved one.”
What’s more, Jewish tradition instructs, this type of nonphysical control and abuse delivers an “invisible” wound that can be even more pernicious, damaging and long lasting than the types of harm we may normally associate with domestic violence.
Emotional manipulation and insults are two clear signs of an unhealthy relationship. One partner controlling the other’s contact with friends and family or their use of social media (emails and texts) or privacy are sure indications of an abusive dynamic. Intimidation and fear of another’s anger are also forms of violence, and neither has a place in a relationship between equals.
Living in fear of being emotionally, verbally, financially or physically intimidated or abused is neither acceptable nor inevitable. If you or someone you know is in such an untenable situation, help is available.
The Jewish community is in your corner, Jewish tradition is on your side, and your rabbis stand ready to confidentially assist you.
Or contact the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh’s hotline at 412-687-8005, 877-338-8255 or wcspittsburgh.org. There is also the National Domestic Violence hotline at 800-799-7233 or thehotline.org.
Maybe he doesn’t hit you, but still he — and all of us — should know relationships that are volatile or violent fly in the face of everything we value as Jews. After all, Judaism teaches that in every intimate relationship — be it dating or domestic — both parties are intrinsically due the exact same measures of dignity, respect and safety.
Everyone. Every day. No two ways about it.
Rabbi Aaron Bisno is spiritual leader of Rodef Shalom Congregation. This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.