according to our sources, shame is unique to humans (Duties of the Heart 2:5 "reflect on the feeling of shame with which man alone has been endowed").

It does not exist in animals. Is shame a spiritual feeling stemming from the higher soul of humans or is it merely an emotion which is unique to humans. If the former, what exactly is it? What is the spiritual or otherwise mechanism behind it as to why we feel shame.


The Orehot Tsaddikim (Shaar 3) writes that shame is unique to humans since it always accompanies intellect (unique to humans):

אמרו חכמים: השכל הוא הבושה, והבושה הוא השכל...וכן כל בעלי חיים זולתי האדם – אין להם בושה, הואיל ואין להם חכמה.

The sages said: the intellect is shame, and shame is the intellect...And all other creatures besides humans have no shame, for they lack intelligence.

Numerous sources in turn equate the intellect and the soul, e.g. Ohr HaHayyim to Leviticus (18:2)

השכל שהיא הנשמה

And Arvei Nahal (Genesis derush 2):

והנה ידוע שהשכל הוא הנשמה

(Although admittedly, these latter two sources do not discuss the connection between shame and the intellect.)

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  • if the intellect=shame then why arent we always in a state of shame? obviously the O.T. is only saying that intellect is required for feeling shame. not that the two are equal to each other – ray May 3 '17 at 5:18
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    @ray Where did he say otherwise? "Shame...always accompanies intellect" was the phrase he used - not that it is intellect, but that it accompanies it. – DonielF May 3 '17 at 11:40
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    @ray It means intellect causes shame, not that it is shame. Never confuse the cause and the effect as being the same thing. – DonielF May 3 '17 at 17:14
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    @ray You asked where shame came from. He answered that it comes from intellect. That is, the ability of intellect produces the feeling of shame. I honestly didn't think this was that hard of an answer to understand. – DonielF May 3 '17 at 20:49
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    @ray Isn't the root of shame and what makes shame possible the same thing? (Maybe he thinks I'm doing a good job defending his answer?) – DonielF May 3 '17 at 22:15

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