The Price of BULLYING
[17a bottom] Gemarah: There was a bully tormenting a certain young scholar who asked R’ Yosef for advice and he told the student to excommunicate (shamta) the bully. The scholar was afraid (of retaliation) to say anything so R’ Yosef him to write it instead (pesicha). The student was still afraid so the sage told him to use a different method which he did. He took a writ of excommunication, placed it in a jar, put the jar in a cemetery, blew a thousand shofar blasts in the jar over forty days, and the jar burst and the bully died.
Maharsha: This ritual was symbolic: the jar is like a human body, when it breaks (when the body dies) it is forever lost. By putting the excommunication letter in the jar, it was as if the student gave the decree to the bully. The jar in the graveyard alluded to the bully’s death and burial, and the thousand blasts represented the end of the bully [as that is the highest/last number in the hebrew number system (Aleph = Eleph = 1,000)]. The forty days alluded to the amount of days a fetus takes to be formed, which was the potential that was being destroyed by the bully dying.
T’s Lesson#1: This is a powerful lesson against bullying. There are dire consequences and punishments for hurting fellow jews (physically and emotionally), especially from verbal abuse. Even if a response will not be seen by others, Hashem will ensure that retribution will take place. We must always ensure to protect those particularly prone to weakness [ie: orphans, widows, elderly, disabled, and converts (as evidenced by Pasukim in the torah as well)].
T’s Lesson#2: Everything has its purpose in this world (even if we cannot see it or understand it). Just as the ritual in the graveyard had a deeper spiritual explanation, so too all the things that we struggle to understand really do have their purposes. Hopefully, one day soon iy”H, Hashem will open our eyes to reveal to us all that we do not currently understand, especially in light of the horrific state of the world in relation to evil and the treatment of Israel and the Jews by our enemies.