Proposal for Change

stop bullying
stop bullying (Photo credit: Design Demon/Diablo)

As the Breakfast Club displays, in order to stop people from bullying, it is important to break down social barriers between children at school and enforce group and team building exercises. Additionally, it is important to set up support groups for the victims of bullying to ensure that they do feel a sense of community from their other peers. The stories of Sodom and Pilegesh Ba’givah display how bad a situation can get when people don’t take responsibility for their actions and when bullies get away with their abuse so it is important to set up a structure that ensures that bullies are punished for their actions.  Setting up such a program may not be able to address the damage already caused to victims of bullying, but it will hopefully prevent future cases of bullying.

Connection to Texts

English: English translation of hebrew version...
English: English translation of hebrew version. Map of the twelve tribes of Israel, before the move of Dan to the North (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The differentiation between communal and individual morals is alluded to in the more chaotic stories in Tanach.  In Sodom, a city known for sin and corruption, angles are sent by G-d go to Lot to foretell the city’s nearing destruction (Genesis 18:20). The townspeople go after the angels to rape them (Genesis 19:4), so Lot -raised with good morals by his uncle Abraham- meets the angels at the city gate, warns them of the dangers of sleeping in the town square, and offers them welcoming hospitality (Genesis 19:1-3). He later stands up to the townspeople and defends the angels (Genesis 19:7). Although his ethics have been marred by Sodomite society, which can be seen from the way he offers his daughters in the angles place (Genesis 19:8), he clearly is trying to be a good host and person by standing up to the bully-like behavior of the townspeople.

In Judges we find another tumultuous story referred to as Pilegesh Ba’givah. This narrative tells the story of a Levite who is on a journey with his concubine when he enters the town of Givah in the land of Benjamin (Judges 19:14). No one offers them hospitality until an old man from Ephraim offers them lodging because it was not safe to stay in the town square (Judges 19:15-17). The townspeople come to the old man’s house to rape the Levite and the old man tries to dissuade them in order to protect the man(Judges 19:22-23). He offers them his own virgin daughter and the concubine of the Levite, but the townspeople get angry, so the Levite pushes his concubine out to them (Judges 19:24-25). The men rape and abuse her all night, so when the man sees her in the morning, he cuts her up into twelve pieces and sends them all over Israel (Judges 19:29). This incident causes a civil war between Benjamin and the rest of Israel which results in many other senseless problems (Judges 20:20).  In essence, the same type of violence and harassment takes place in the story of Sodom and Pilegesh Ba’givah, but G-d’s reaction changes. He destroys Sodom for their sins, but realizes that this solution does not have a lasting effect.  Instead he decides to implement structure for the Israelites through a leader, Samuel.

Português: Símbolo da tribo de Benjamin[]
Português: Símbolo da tribo de Benjamin[] (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
                The story of Judges is a subversive sequel to Sodom, because they both deal with similar themes of sin, hospitality, community, and lawlessness.  In both stories, there are visitors who stay at a man’s house because the square is not safe, the townspeople come to rape the visiting man or men, women are offered in their stead, and the townspeople are punished.   In both stories the text uses a variation of the words “ברחוב אל תלין” (Genesis 19:2, Judges 19:20) and “אנשי העיר” (Genesis 19:4, Judges 19:22) to emphasize that the people of the city are so threatening to visitors and outsiders that it is unsafe for them to sleep in public camping grounds. As up-standers, Lot and the Ephramite feel it is their duty to protect visitors and to make sure they are not terrorized by the townspeople.  Despite these similarities, Pilegesh Ba’givah is a negative subversive sequel to Sodom because where the angels “stretched out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them,” (Genesis 19:10) the Levite “seized his concubine and pushed her out to them” (Judges 19:25). When Lot stands up to protect the angels, they reciprocate and save him, but the Levite ends up hurting someone else to save himself.  This goes to show how bad the situation in Judges was that not all bullies were punished for their actions.

The Breakfast Club, while focusing on the way stereotypes break down and dictate

The Breakfast Club
The Breakfast Club (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

social status, remarks on bullying and possible causes for it. The movie claims that bullying is often caused by peer pressure to be mean or cool by picking on weaker kids and asserts that a possible solution for bullying is forced interaction between kids of different social groups. When Brian, Clair, Andy, Allison, and John are forced to get to know each other during detention, they begin to realize that although they have different strengths and focuses, they suffer from the same kinds of peer pressure, stress, family problems, and insecurities as each other. When Andy explains that he got detention for bullying, he shares that he just wanted to impress his dad, who is just as condescending as John’s abusive father.

As the above sources show, xenophobia and bullying is often caused by ignorance, lack of community, and the absence of structure. The ethics of Sodom were clearly terrible, but the society in Israel was worse because the people were so abusive and uncontrollable that the chaos caused a civil war.  While the Sodomites felt a sense of community from which they excluded Lot (Genesis 19:9), the Israelites are quick to turn on their kin and fight the tribe of Benjamin (Judges 20:20).

Modern Problem

English: this is my own version of what bullyi...
English: this is my own version of what bullying looks like (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bullying is a horrible, yet common problem in schools nowadays. There are many forms of bullying such as physical bullying, verbal bullying, social alienation, and cyber bullying.  Physical bullying includes bodily contact which hurts or injures someone.  Verbal bullying consists of name-calling, offensive comments, or threats of violence.  Social alienation is when a bully specifically excludes someone from the group.  Lastly, cyber bullying, a relatively new form of harassment, is generally verbal bullying committed through electronic devices and the internet.  Each form manifests in different ways but can be harmful to the victim both physically and mentally. A child who is bullied may be deprived of the positive social interaction necessary for healthy psychological development, and often lacks the self-confidence needed to succeed and stand up to his bully.  Although bullying can begin small and seemingly insignificant, it may progress and become so severe that the victim becomes depressed, or in extreme cases commits suicide.  Bullying is generally caused by a two-fold problem: firstly, people who lack self-confidence often feel that by putting others down they can make themselves feel better. Secondly, schools perpetuate a breeding ground for cliques, stereotypes, and exclusion.  Children struggle with the concept of self-identity versus community and often don’t know how to individualize themselves while inheriting the ideas of others. They believe that they must be like their friends and go along with all of their ideas in order to belong so the people who stand out are picked on and ostracized.