Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Parshat Kedoshim

Rebuking One's Neighbor

This week's parsha teaches that when one sees fault in or fellow man "You shall surely rebuke" him (VaYikra 19:17).

This is not an easy task, as people do not like being told what their faults are. Furthermore, this course of action can often lead to further disintegration of one's relationship. This issue is further complicated in the modern age, when general society allows one to do as they please, as long as the action does not infringe on the rights of others.

Nevertheless, many religious people use this rule as justification for openly and publicly harassing less observant neighbors, even though the halacha is quite cautious as to when one is permitted to rebuke one's fellow.

So the question remains, how do we know when it is correct to intervene and point out the errors in someone else's life choices.

I think that the Torah itself provides the answer.

The rules stated in this parsha are all dedicated to the task of encouraging Israel to attain holiness. A number of lists of rules are stated – each list ends with the statement "I am the Lord".

The law of rebuking one's neighbor is not followed by the words "I am the Lord" until the following passuk has been completed. The following passuk states: "Love your fellow like yourself" (ibid 18).

The Torah clearly links rebuking one's fellow with loving him as much as one loves oneself.

This means that the rebuke can only come from a person whose love for the person he is rebuking, is pure and untainted. This ensures that the rebuke is made in a loving manner and is carefully and intelligently stated, with any scorn or malice.

The Torah teaches that while one should try to help one's neighbors to overcome the mistakes, one can only rebuke them if one's motives are solely out of love and for the benefit of one's neighbor.

If one is unsure of one's true motives and cannot guarantee that one tuly loves one's neighbor, then it is best to remain silent.

A pevious Sedra Short on Parshat Acharei-Kedoshim entitled: "The Gathering" appears at

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