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The Music of Halacha: A Case Study

In an earlier Music of Halacha, Forgiveness II, I invited people to send in descriptions of difficult situations dealing with Bein Adal L’Chaveiro, Interpersonal Relationships, for us to examine from the perspective of Halacha. I offered a case study as an example: “Someone saw me doing something, which he mistakenly believed, violated Shabbat. He ran over to me and publicly yelled at me, questioning my commitment to Shabbat observance. I was embarrassed and insulted.”

I recently learned that the story continued: A friend of the embarrassed person approached the rebuker and explained that, “Although no one questions your good intentions, I feel that you should know that my friend was embarrassed and was quite upset for a few days.”

“That’s ridiculous! Your friend should only be grateful for my stopping them from sinning! Don’t they care about Halacha?”

“This person’s Rav and Rebbi ruled that what they did is permissible on Shabbat.”

“They are wrong! The person should be grateful that I am around to correct their behavior!”

What are the Halachot relevant to this story?

The laws of rebuke. When must we rebuke? When may we rebuke? How should we rebuke?

Were the Shabbat laws supposedly broken by the friend Rabbinic or Biblical?

Was the friend of the embarrassed person permitted to speak to the rebuker? Did the friend properly phrase his rebuke? Should he have continued to argue after the initial reaction? Was he allowed to mention that both the person’s Rav and his Rebbi had ruled that his actions did not violate the Shabbat laws?

Is the embarrassed person obligated to forgive the rebuker? Can the person avoid the rebuker in order to avoid similar situations, or would that be considered bearing a grudge? If the rebuker is raising funds for a charity with which he is associated, can the embarrassed person refuse to contribute because he is unwilling to support a person who behaves in such a terrible manner, or would that be considered revenge?

Is the embarrassed person obligated to forget the entire incident, and in fact obligated to go out of his way to show that he harbors no ill will, as practiced by Rav Yisrael Salanter and Rav Kook? Or, is the person permitted to do all he can to protect himself from this person, not in resentment, but only as self-protection?

Should the embarrassed person restrain himself from doing that which the rebuker considered a violation of Shabbat in order to prevent a similar incident? Would his continued practice, as instructed by both Rav and Rebbi, be considered leading someone else to sin? Does the fact that someone spoke to the rebuker change the situation into one where it is entirely the rebuker’s responsibility and there is no issue of leading someone else into sin?

Is the embarrassed person permitted to inform someone, about to consult with the rebuker about Halacha, of their experience?

I offer this story and the questions as an invitation for your comments and insights.

We can actually fulfill the Mitzvot of Bein Adam L’Chaveiro by participating in applying Halacha to these and other stories. So, please, send in your comments, questions, opinions and your own stories of difficult situations with other people. The real Music of Halacha can only be heard in the conversation and debate.

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