TOCHAHAH

The Jewish Chronicle - - JUDAISM -

Rabbi Ju­lian Sin­clair dips into the dic­tionary

TO “give tochahah to some­one” means to re­proach them for their be­hav­iour, usu­ally of a moral or re­li­gious na­ture. The word means, lit­er­ally, to prove or com­pel. It is a com­mand­ment, from Leviti­cus 19:17, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall surely re­prove your neigh­bour and not bear sin on his ac­count.”

The ex­is­tence of this mitz­vah re­flects all Jews’ fun­da­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity for one an­other. The bad be­hav­iour of an­other Jew im­pacts on us di­rectly.

How­ever, the rab­bis are well aware of how at­trac­tive it is to crit­i­cise oth­ers and how alien­at­ing that crit­i­cism can some­times be. So they con­di­tion the cir­cum­stances when tochahah is ap­pro­pri­ate. “Just as we are com­manded to chas­tise those who would lis­ten, so are we com­manded not to chas­tise those who would not lis­ten” (Talmud, Ye­va­mot, 65b).

The Vilna Gaon (1720-97) writes that one should not re­prove some­one on their re­li­gious prac­tice or lack of it if they pro­fess not to be an ob­ser­vant Jew (Aruch Orach Chaim 608).

Also the way you give re­proach is vi­tally im­por­tant. The Talmud (Erachin 16b) un­der­stands the end of the verse, “don’t bear sin on his ac­count” to be warn­ing us not to sin in giv­ing tochahah by hu­mil­i­at­ing your friend with your crit­i­cisms. Tochachah must be given out of love and af­ter search­ing one’s con­science to make sure that you aren’t also guilty of the same thing you are about to re­proach some­one else for.

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