According to a ninth-century midrash, God asks the wicked of the world why they did not come closer to God. Each person responds, “I was so steeped in my wickedness that I was ashamed.” Too ashamed, it seems, to muster sufficient courage to admit failures, change behaviors, and move closer—ritually if not spiritually—to God, and so they wallowed deeper into wickedness. Had these people not been so wicked, their shame might have spurred a return to God. A few centuries later, Moses Maimonides prefaces his introductory remarks to the Mishneh Torah with a quotation from Psalms: “Then I would not be ashamed when I regard all Your commandments.” This verse, coming after and completing the psalmist's prayer, “Would that my ways were firm in keeping your laws,” suggests that between action and complete lawfulness shamefulness exists. It is unclear whether the shamefulness Maimonides speaks of inspires fidelity to the law or impinges it. Either way, shame precedes (seeing) the law both lexicographically and phenomenologically. Before lawfulness, shame facilitates both regard of self as well as regard of notions of uprightness and of wickedness. At least according to these two sources, shame intertwines self-consciousness with self-evaluation; it mixes a sense of dark depths with a notion of ascent toward righteousness. Shame breeds inwardness and otherness, and can debilitate as well as empower. In short, shame simultaneously damns and redeems.