GOOD MORNING!  There is a commandment in the Torah to give reproof. Maimonides, one of the great codifiers of Jewish law, writes (Hilchos Dayos 6:7), "It is a mitzvah for a person who sees that his fellow Jew has sinned, or is following an improper path, to return him to proper behavior and to inform him that he is causing himself harm by his evil deeds as the Torah states, 'You shall surely admonish your fellow human being' " (Leviticus 19:17).

There are two aspects of performing this mitzvah: 1) Your intent 2) How you go about it. The intent must come from love for the other person and the desire to help him/her -- not to vent your anger over how the person's actions are bothering you or exert your "moral superiority." Rebuke must be administered with love and as painlessly as possible. Only when the recipient of rebuke feels that the rebuker loves him, will he readily accept admonition.

Often we see or are most bothered by someone's errant behavior when we too behave in that manner. Most of us have heard the old adage, "When you point a finger at someone, remember ... three fingers are pointing back at you!"

Here are some insights from Love Your Neighbor on the topic of admonishment:

1) We are commanded to correct someone who behaves improperly, whether in matters pertaining to one's relationship with God or his relationship with his fellow human being (Chinuch 239).

2) A person should correct his own faults before he corrects others (Bava Basra 60b). This does not free us from rebuking others; rather, it obligates us to correct ourselves first.

3)One must not only admonish the wrong, we must teach proper behavior (Shaloh, Toldos Adam, p. 2).

4) Rebuke privately so you won't embarrass the person (Maimonides, Hilchos Dayos 6:7).

5) Be very careful not to shame the person. (Maimonides, Hilchos Dayos 6:8)

6) Speak pleasantly and softly. Convey that you only have the person's benefit in mind.

7) If someone transgresses in public, one should rebuke him immediately so as not to cause a chilul HaShem (desecration of God's name) (Mishnah Brurah 608:10). For example, if someone is in the middle of speaking loshon hora, (gossip/slander) in front of a group of people, it is correct to point out the transgression immediately, even though other people are present. Of course, this should be done in the most tactful manner possible (Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliyashuv).

Perhaps interrupt in a soft voice and take the person aside to speak. Using a question instead of a statement often works best, "Excuse me, but isn't what you're saying gossip/slander?" If the person has an allegiance to following the Torah commandments, "Doesn't the Torah forbid it?" If the person, is not a Torah observant Jew, "Excuse me, would you want others to speak about you in this manner?"

8) Be very careful not to grow angry (Marganiso Tava, no. 10). Rebuke delivered in anger will not be heeded. Even when admonishing children or members of one's family, do so in a pleasant tone of voice (Pele Yoatz, sections Gaavoh and Zilzul). Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin said that if one is unable to admonish in a pleasant tone of voice, he is exempt from the obligations to deliver reproof (Keser Rosh #143, Minchas Shmuel).

9) If someone wrongs you, you should not silently hate him; try to correct him. Pleasantly ask him, "Why did you do such and such to me?" If the person asks you to forgive him, you should not act cruelly toward him and should accept his apology (Maimonides, Hilchos Dayos 7:4,5). Remaining silent when you have been wronged breeds hatred. However, if you admonish the person who wronged you, you will have an outlet for your resentment. Moreover, you might find that you were mistaken or the other person might apologize.

In essence, reproof is done out of love for the other person's benefit and growth. Sometimes, one should wait a day or two before reproving. Remember: Reproof is often a dish best served cold!

 

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Torah Portion of the week

Aikev, Deuteronomy 7:12 -11:25

Moshe continues his discourse guaranteeing the Jewish people prosperity and good health if they follow the mitzvot, the commandments. He reminds us to look at our history and to know that we can and should trust in God. However, we should be careful so that we are not distracted by our material success, lest we forget and ignore God.

Moshe warns us against idolatry (the definition of idolatry is the belief that anything other than God has power) and against self-righteousness -- "Do not say because of my virtue that God brought me to possess this land ... but because of the wickedness of these nations that God is driving them out before you." (Deut. 9:5). He then details our rebellions against God during the 40 years in the desert and the giving of the Second Tablets (Moshe broke the first Tablets containing the Ten Commandments during the sin of the Golden Calf.)

This week's portion dispels a common misconception. People think that "Man does not live by bread alone" means that a person needs additional foods beyond bread to survive. The quotation in its entirety is, "Man does not live by bread alone ... but by all that comes out of God's mouth" (Deut. 8:3).

The Torah then answers a question which every human being has asked of himself: What does God want of you? "Only that you remain in awe of God your Lord, so that you will follow all His paths and love Him, serving God your Lord with all your heart and with all your soul. You must keep God's commandments and decrees ... so that all good will be yours" (Deut. 10:12).

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"For if you shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you to do them, to love the Lord, your God, to walk in all His ways and to cleave to Him..." (Deuteronomy 11:22).

How does one "cleave to the Almighty?"

The Torah tells us that even someone who observes all of the commandments and has attained the attribute of loving God, must emulate God ("to walk in all His ways") in order to cleave to Him. Emulating God means being compassionate and bestowing kindness on others. ("He is merciful so we should be merciful, He bestows kindness, so we should bestow kindness." -- Rashi)

One might think that a person who loves God need only devote himself to prayer and Torah study and by this means he will cleave to God. We see from this verse, however, that an essential ingredient in cleaving to God is caring about our fellow human being. (And if we care about our fellow human being, we wouldn't gratuitously speak negatively about him, would we?)

 

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August 26
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Quote of the Week

People won't care what you say --
unless they know that you care

 

 

In Memory of
Albert Bell Finer
(Hirsh Berel ben
Avraham Leib)


His Loving Family
 
With Very Special Thanks to
Dr. and Mrs.
Lawrence J. Kanter


Jacksonville, Florida

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Rabbi Kalman Packouz

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