A Rabbi, a Guide for Life?
Taste of Talmud
“From where do we learn that if you see your friend do something improper that you are obligated to rebuke him? In Leviticus 19:17, it is written ‘you shall rebuke your friend.’ If you rebuked him and he did not listen, should you rebuke him again? The verse repeats itself “Hochayach Tocheeach” to teach us that you should even repeat your rebuke if necessary. Does this mean I should even rebuke him to the point where he becomes embarrassed? For this reason the Torah follows this command with another command “Do not carry a sin upon him” (i.e. do not embarrass him). Rabbi Tarfon said, “I would be surprised if there is anyone who could take rebuke in our generation…” Rabbi Elazar Ben Azaria said “I would be surprised if there is anyone who could give rebuke (in our generation).” Tractate Arachin 16b.
Taste of Halacha
There is a Biblical command to extend the Holiday of Yom Kippur by refraining from eating a few minutes before sunset. In the Halachos of Yom Kippur there is a discussion whether or not one should rebuke people who are unaware of this mitzvah, if you see them eating all the way up to sunset. The Shulchan Aruch says you should not tell them about this mitzvah for if they hear about it and continue eating until sunset, they will now be transgressing the prohibition willfully as opposed to unknowingly, which is a more severe transgression. The Rema points out that this holds true only regarding a mitzvah such as this, where people are not aware of it because it is not written explicitly in the Torah. However regarding a mitzvah which is explicitly stated in the Torah, one should rebuke those who transgress the prohibition. The Chofetz Chayim in his commentary “Biur Halacha” notes the following: The obligation to rebuke a fellow Jew is with someone who is like a brother to you and with whom you are comfortable. If, however, a person will hate you for rebuking him or take revenge against you, you should not rebuke him. In conclusion, the Chofetz Chaim quotes the dictum that one should live near his teacher only as long as he is willing to listen to him; otherwise, it would be better for him to live elsewhere so that he will only be transgressing laws unknowingly and not intentionally.
Taste of Parasha
In the beginning of this week’s Parasha, Yisro comes to the Jewish camp in the desert. He had hardly been there one day when he began to rebuke Moshe Rabbeinu for the way he was judging and teaching the Jewish people. He asserted that it was not befitting the dignified stature of the Jewish people for them to stand on line from morning until evening to speak to Moshe. He suggested that Moshe should appoint more judges and teachers. What were Yisro’s credentials that he was able to come to the Jewish camp and immediately begin rebuking them? Rabbi Yeruchom Levovits answers that the Medrash in the Mechilta points out that Yisro loved the Jewish nation so much that he was the first one to say in Exodus 18:10, “Boruch Hashem,” blessed is Hashem, who saved you from the hand of Pharaoh… One who loves, is one who can rebuke, for then it is seen not as rebuke, but as constructive criticism coming from someone who wants only the best for me. So unless we really love someone and can offer guidance in a way that he or she will feel that we are looking out for his or her best interests, it would be better to remain silent. Rabbi Levovits says this also explains why this story with Yisro is used as a prelude to the giving of the Torah. The Mishna in Tractate Avos lists 48 attributes one needs in order to acquire Torah. One of the 48 is “shoemea tochachos” (accepting rebuke). Only by accepting on yourself a teacher to guide you along the path of these 48 good qualities, will you be able to acquire the Torah. May we be so fortunate, and merit the accolade of King Solomon in Proverbs 15:32, “Shomea Tochachos Koneh Lev”, one who can accept rebuke, acquires a heart.