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Confessions: Chamasnu

“The earth was corrupt before the Lord and the earth was filled with violent crime – Chamas. (Genesis 5:11) Rashi defines Chamas as robbery. “The earth is filled with violent crime – Chamas – because of them, and so, I will destroy them with the earth.” (Genesis 5:13) Rashi repeats his definition of Chamas as robbery.

Nachmanides expands Rashi’s definition to include oppression. We can understand his addition in light of the following: Rabbi Adda the son of Rbbi Iya said to Rabbi Ashi: What is the practical difference between ‘gazlan’ and Chamsan?  He replied: A Chamsan expropriates forcibly by offering payment whereas a gazlan does not offer payment. The Chamsan forces the seller with threats, and then offers to pay. (Bava Kammah 63a)

Forcing someone to agree to something to which he did not want to agree is called Chamas. Pressuring somebody into accepting something they do not want to accept is Chamas.

When two people argue and one overpowers the other with arguments is Chamas. Terrifying someone with anger in order to have them give in, is Chamas. If someone has created an environment in his home in which people are constantly terrified of his anger and will therefore automatically give in to him is also included in Chamasnu.

And this is what the people of the age of the Flood used to do: When a man brought out a basket full of fruit for sale, one person would come and seize less than a penny’s worth and then everyone would come and seize less than a penny’s worth, so that he would have no redress at law. (Bereishit Rabbah)  How can the Midrash use that case as an example of violent crime? Because the victim had no defense, the Sages considered it an act of violence.

This would certainly apply to dealing with our children. It is easy to fall into a trap in which we make them feel powerless.

“Do not deliver me up to the will of my foes.” (Psalms 27:12) Do not let me become the person they wish me to be. Let me not be that which they slanderously claim that I am. There is one man, in particular, who, while he does not openly accuse me of wrongdoing, hypocritically and sanctimoniously insinuates it. Such veiled slander is even more Chamas than openly voiced accusations, because it robs me of my good repute. (Rabbi Samson R. Hirsch Commentary to Psalms. See too, Psalm 10:5)

Rolling our eyes about something or someone is veiled. I did not actually say anything negative. I insinuated it. There is no defense. That is Chamas.

“Isn’t she a great person?” “I can’t respond. I don’t speak Lishon Harah.” I got my message across by not speaking. There is no defense. That is Chamas.
Tikkun/Achieving Greatness

We must be careful to never use anger, shouting, or arguments to insist that we are right.

We must be careful to never make someone feel defenseless.

We should never force our will on someone else.

We should always remember to consider the effect of our words on the person with whom we are speaking.

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