Loving Rebuke

Friday, 24 July, 2020 - 12:31 pm

There are two general approaches to offering rebuke. One is where the person offering the rebuke is looking to hear his own voice or satisfy a need to “do something about a situation” regardless of the outcome. The second is where the person offering the rebuke cares so deeply about his fellow that he seeks to help him better himself. In terms of impact, there is not even a doubt that the efficacy of the second approach is far superior to the first, and that its results are significantly more enduring.  

In Chassidic lore it explains, that to rebuke, one must first “pare his fingernails” so as to ensure that there is no wound to the other in the process. This is also to remove any self-serving interest from the process, making it entirely about the welfare of the other. This comes along with making sure that the dignity of the other person is maintained throughout and that the words are delivered in a loving manner.

The model for this approach is Moshe in this week’s Torah portion. He begins his final message to the Jewish people by gently reminding them of the instances when they rebelled against Hashem during their 40 year desert sojourn. Rashi is quick to point out that Moshe rebukes them in a subtle manner by merely alluding to their transgressions, by means of location or a nuanced detail of the occurrence. The Rebbe takes it a step further and points out, that the manner in which Moshe chastises, serves to actually minimize the extent of the transgression rather than play it up for dramatic emphasis. In short, there is no fire and brimstone in his delivery.

Why? Rashi explains, “Mipnei Kvodan Shel Yisrael – so as to maintain the dignity and honor of the people of Israel.” In other words, Moshe’s choice of words convey his love and respect for the people to whom he speaks.

The Rebbe concludes by highlighting the connection to the time of year that we read this parsha – the Shabbat before Tisha B’av. We have often discussed, that love and unity is the means by which we reverse the cause of exile and destruction – namely, baseless hatred for one another. The antidote is love and respect. Even as we rebuke a person for a transgression it is done with love and care to maintain the dignity of the other.

Please join us for our virtual farbrengen Saturday night for an expanded discussion on this topic. May Hashem take note of our love for each other and reverse the exile – bringing us to redemption very soon.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin  

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