Is it Ona’at Devarim (Hurting People With Words)?

A father and son are hunting together. The son accidentally left his safety off and the dad accidentally shot his own finger. Another time, the father and son are hunting again, and the boy says, “Oh, I need to put my safety on.”

The dad replies, “Yeah, we don’t want a remake of last time.”

Is it ona’at devarim (hurting people with words)?

A quick round of thumbs up or down (or middle, for “I’m not sure”) showed us we weren’t in agreement.

“The mishnah (early rabbinic books) said not to bring it up again, and the dad really did bring it up again.”

“He brought it up not like, Oh, you made such a mistake! He just wanted his son to be safe.”

“Yeah, he said: We don’t want what happened last time. He didn’t say, ‘We don’t want what you did last time.'”

“It was a necessary kind of bringing it up again. It was for his safety.”


Next, two boys are playing video games, and one of them is much better than the other and brags when he wins. The other boy says, “Hey, I thought you were going to go easy on me!” The first boy says, “My bad. Sorry. I forgot to go easy on you.”

Later, the boys are getting ready to play again, and the other boy says, “Hey, are you gonna go easy on me this time? ‘Cause you sure didn’t last time.”

Is it ona’at devarim (hurting people with words)?

“I know he brought it up again but it didn’t really seem like the first boy was sorry. He only cared about winning.”

“He cared more about winning than his friend’s feelings. That happens all the time.”

“It was necessary [to bring it up again]. He needed a reminder [to go easy]. Even if it hurt his feelings a little, it’s necessary to say it.”

“If it hurts a little, you’ll think about it. You’ll remember it.”


Wow, middle school. You have such nuanced considerations of what ona’at devarim (hurting people with words) sounds like in our lives today!


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