Q. What is the meaning of ona’at devarim? We’ve been learning about it at school and we have a test on it, but I really don’t understand it. Help! [Sammy aged 11]
A. Ona’at devarim refers to the prohibition of hurting other people with words, saying something that will upset them. This is based on a verse in the Torah that says: ‘You shall not wrong one another.’ (Vayikra/Leviticus 25:17) So teasing someone, even a friend, would be included in this or even just saying something as a joke that might embarrass them. As a guide, if you wouldn’t like it said to you, then don’t say it to someone else as it’s probably ona’at devarim.
Hope that helps
Good luck with the test! [Children's Rabbi]