8 - Hochay'ach Tocheach part 2

You have pointed out someone's mistake once...twice...three times and yet the person continues to transgress.

We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chusim for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.


Last week’s stretch of the week was: When rebuking someone this week, try to do so with humor instead of anger.

Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.

 Taking A Deeper Look - Lesson #8

 Hochay’ach Tocheach

PART 1 - Parameters of the Mitzva


You have pointed out someone’s mistake once….twice…three times and yet, the person continues to transgress. How much tochacha is enough to fulfill your obligation? Chazal derive the answer to this question from the passuk “Hochay’ach tochee’ach es amisecha,” which we have cited earlier: From the word “hochayach” they infer that you should rebuke him even a hundred times or more if necessary: from the word “tocheach” they learn that you should rebuke even someone who is greater than you. This includes a student’s rebuking his Rav (even for transgressing a Rabbinical prohibition) and a child’s rebuking his parent.

Giving tochacha to your superior is a delicate matter and demands tact to ensure that one does not violate the requirements of respect. Therefore, in such situations one should certainly not say outright, “You violated a mitzva of the Torah!” Instead, one may ask gently, “Father, doesn’t it say such and such in the Torah?” or, “Rebbe, didn’t you teach us such and such?” In this way the parent or teacher will get the message on his own but will not have to be embarrassed.

When Chazal told us to rebuke even a hundred times, they meant that there is no maximum limit. However, if the recipient of tochacha becomes upset, then one should stop earlier. Some say you must continue to rebuke until the offender strikes you. Others say to go on only until he curses you. A third opinion maintains that you should stop when the sinner gets angry and reprimands you. Beyond this point, “just as there is a mitzva to say something that will be accepted, so there is a mitzva to refrain from saying something that will be ignored,” and therefore, at that point you should abandon your efforts. (However, bear in mind that each time a person commits a different aveira, there is a new obligation to give tochacha.) (Mishpetei Hashalom 9:11-12)

When we see someone in the midst of doing an aveira, we have a mitzva to stop them, and, at times, even to restrain them forcibly. For example, if you see your friend wearing a jacket that you know has shatnez, and he ignores your verbal protest, you are required to tear the garment off of him. If the shatnez is a type that is a Torah prohibition, then you should do so even on a public street.

Of course, when time will not be lost, it is best to do so in as private a place as possible to avoid embarrassing the person. If the sin is clearly being done unintentionally, then you can wait until the sinner is out of the public eye and then inform him discreetly of his mistake.

Even though ordinarily we do not even think about devarim shebikdusha (sacred things) in an unclean place, we are permitted to speak of such matters and even to discuss it using Lashon Hakodesh and rabbinical terminology in the bathroom, in order to stop someone from doing an aveira.

Similarly, one should do anything possible to remove potential stumbling blocks in order to prevent people from sinning. For example, if you notice a flyer on the floor with an immodest picture, don’t just turn away and leave it there for someone else to see as well. Take the trouble to bend down, crumple it up and throw it into the nearest trash can. (Mishpetei Hashalom 9:13)

(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)

Story:  (based on a true story) 

Although I don’t normally involve myself in judging others, personal history has shown me that my aunt is the biggest yenta I’ve ever met -- and I’m not exaggerating. Whenever I see her there is always some piece of juicy news just waiting to be divulged. She has a constant preoccupation with other people’s business and doesn’t seem to be embarrassed by it at all. She is not malicious and doesn’t have an evil bone in her body, however, she clearly has an obsession for information, both giving and taking. She happens to be an extremely funny woman so I have always been attracted to her personality. As an adult I find myself often craving her company because she is very personable and easy to talk to. My relationship with her is difficult because I know that her influence is not always a positive one. Although we have spent hours laughing and schmoozing together, I frequently leave her presence with more information than I should know or want to know. During the last Israeli war, there was a suggestion made by a Rebbetzin in Eretz Yisrael to learn two halachos of sh’miras halashon a day as a z’chus for K’lal Yisrael. As a busy woman who davened daily but wanted to do more, I felt this was a beautiful way for me to respond to the crisis; I could provide spiritual ammunition to wage the war. I avidly read my sh’miras halashon sefer daily and grew in my appreciation for this mitzva. At the same time, I realized interactions with my aunt were my greatest battle. As I read along in the book, I reached to a deeper realization. It wasn’t enough for me to distance myself from her. I needed to make a grand effort to help her overcome her bad habit; HaShem was giving me this chance.

At first I spoke in vague terms. I explained to my aunt that I loved her and enjoyed spending time with her and then joked that I had a newspaper and other modes of receiving the news I needed. This approach was not strong enough. I attempted to hint but she didn’t understand what I was getting at and I was too nervous to be more direct. I was also trying not to be viewed as “holier than thou.” A couple of weeks later, as she was divulging the intricacies of her neighbor’s financial woes, I said “Oy, I have enough problems myself, I don’t need to hear about theirs as well.” She laughed and continued. Had I not been reading the sh’miras halashon book, I don’t know if I would have had the courage to continue trying to help her, but I was convinced I was doing the right thing.

One day, while my aunt was talking with an acquaintance of hers, a man passed by in the distance. My aunt commented, “Now that’s a look! Is he expecting a flood? His pants look like they could fit someone a foot shorter than him!” She said this as a humorous observation (in her mind) but didn’t realize that this man was the husband of the woman she was speaking with. The woman made a slight embarrassing giggle and excused herself. My aunt felt TERRIBLE! How could she have made such a comment? Would this affect their shalom bayis? Did she just make this woman feel horrible? My aunt called me out of sheer desperation. She didn’t mean to be cruel, she was only trying to be funny but, in the interim, she was convinced she hurt this woman terribly. At last, I saw this as a grand opportunity to convey my message; an opening that HaShem had provided for me to say something brilliant but all I could do was empathize with her pain.

A day later we spoke and she was feeling better and decided not to call the other woman to apologize presuming it would make matters worse. I took the time now to reiterate that I loved her and invited her to join me for 2 minutes in the morning to learn the two halachos a day. She declined my offer but gave me permission to remind her about the incident so that she wouldn’t do it again. Many weeks have passed. I can’t say that she is a totally changed person, but I have noticed a willingness in her to refrain from speaking whatever she wants. As per her request, I give her friendly reminders from time to time and I notice that she often will change the course of her conversations. I don’t know if I would be so bold as to take credit for her improvement but I do feel I was a part of it.

Even though it took tremendous strength not to back down from conveying my message after so many attempts, I feel it was an expression of ahavas Yisrael. It’s sometimes easier to dismiss important conversations out of fear, embarrassment, or laziness but I know that in the end of the day I would prefer my friends to do the same for me; even though it may be uncomfortable.

Discussion Question Options: 

Do you feel you should give tochacha only to close acquaintances or even to someone you barely know but can be helpful to?

If someone was persistent in giving you tochacha about a particular issue, would you view it as annoying or caring?

Can you offer creative solutions to helping others see their mistakes?

Stretch of the Week: 

Pick one person to gently help guide in improving their spiritual growth. Remind yourself that this should be a selfless act and is a chessed.


Stretch Of The Week