The Jewish Chronicle - - JUDAISM - RABBI JU­LIAN SIN­CLAIR

CRIT­I­CIS­ING oth­ers is easy and, for many en­joy­able. So it may be a pleas­ant sur­prise to learn that there is a mitz­vah to re­buke wrong­do­ers (Leviti­cus 19:17). How­ever, re­buk­ing some­one prop­erly in a way that is help­ful is very hard; the mitz­vah is hedged around with qual­i­fi­ca­tions and lim­i­ta­tions about when and how to do it.

We should not try to re­buke oth­ers when there is no chance of the crit­i­cism be­ing ac­cepted. As the Tal­mud puts it, “Leave the Jews alone. Bet­ter that they should be sin­ners un­know­ingly ( shogegin) than be wil­ful sin­ners ( meizidin)” (Beitzah 30a). If the at­tempted cor­rec­tion is likely to elicit a hos­tile re­ac­tion or to entrench the wrong­doer in his ways, then it is bet­ter not given.

As the Tal­mud puts it, “Just as there is a mitz­vah to say some­thing that will be ac­cepted, so there is a mitz­vah for a per­son not to say some­thing that will not be ac­cepted” (Ye­va­mot 65b). Re­buk­ing should be done, if at all, gen­tly, humbly and not self-righ­teously.

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