The Music of Halacha: Rebuke-Part One – The Messy Essence of Friendships
Wow! Many people were upset by the introduction to the Laws of Rebuke. In other words, I received a great deal of rebuke. Thank God. The list of laws was to prove how important are the laws of friendship and rebuke, and to lay the groundwork to establish the different forms of rebuke. We can be upset with someone over something he did to me, or, his general behavior, or his level of observance can bother us. We may want to criticize someone for his or her vote for president. Each situation raises numerous issues and laws. I intend to use this series of essays to view friendship through the lens of Halacha.
The main law of rebuke develops from the prohibition: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart.” (Leviticus 19:17) If I saw my friend do something that I consider hateful, I must tell him. I may not keep it in my heart. The Mitzvah/Concept of rebuke develops from the idea that we should inform someone when we are upset with him. (See The Violence of Silence on The Foundation Stone Blog™.)
The issue does not begin with him, but with me! I may not keep silent. We often confuse silence or maintaining distance as a form of rebuke: “He will realize that I am upset and he will either figure it out or ask me.” Halacha prohibits such silence. I may not keep the hatred of that action in my heart. The verse follows with our Mitzvah/Concept: “You shall reprove your fellow”. Do not keep it in your heart; tell him.
The Torah wants us to understand that, although we may tell ourselves that we are concerned for the other, actually, we are the ones who are upset. We communicate “our issue” when we rebuke, even if we carefully present the rebuke as concern for the other.
A former student recently spoke to me, emailed actually, in an insulting manner. I immediately recalled how this person, when first becoming observant, spoke to my father zt”l with a horrible lack of respect. I clumsily rebuked the person for how he treated my father. He immediately understood that the real issue at hand was the way he communicated with me. As they say: “I blew it.”
I should have first acknowledged: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart”, and admit that I was reacting for me; not my father and certainly not for the student. Had I done so, I would have been able to consider how best to express my feelings.
Rebuke is all too often a way to express our own frustration. The primary verse of rebuke demands that we acknowledge our feelings and consider how best to express them.
We must learn to differentiate between the issues at hand, whether they are our own
feelings, or an honest concern for the other.
To be continued…