AY - Lesson 8 - The Obligation to Give Rebuke / Hochayach Tocheyach es Amisecha, Part 1

When a person has a number of friends, some of whom flatter and others who rebuke when necessary, one should favor the latter as those are the friends who really care.


We are here to improve our relationships with others

in order to transform the Jewish people in these urgent times.


Last week’s Stretch of the week was:  Find someone whom you are not so fond of and do something for them (with or without them knowing).

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


Lesson #8

The Obligation To Give Rebuke -- HoChay'ach ToChiy'ach Es A'mi'se'cha

Part 1



The Torah teaches us to “Reprove your fellow Jew” (Vayikra 19:17).  If we see a Jew transgressing a mitzva toward HaShem (G-d) or toward another person, we have a responsibility to inform him of his error so that he will correct his actions.

Many people mistakenly perceive rebuke (tochacha) negatively when actually we should be grateful to receive constructive criticism.  In fact, when a person has a number of friends, some of whom flatter and others who rebuke when necessary, one should favor the latter as those are the friends who really care.  When possible, a person should try to live near one’s mentor, in order to benefit from his/her constructive criticism, but only if one is truly open to hearing it.

The attitude we adopt toward constructive criticism may affect the obligation of those around us to provide it.  According to some opinions, the mitzva to reprove is relevant only toward someone who will be pleased to accept the rebuke.  If the recipient will respond with hatred and possibly revenge, then the other person is not obligated to rebuke.  A person who despises rebuke is actually harming himself as he blocks off options for repentance (teshuva).

We should always judge people favorably but, when in doubt, one should question the possible transgressor diplomatically.  If it is discovered that a person has indeed transgressed, it is a mitzva to offer him the necessary constructive criticism that is imperative to his spiritual growth. (Mishp'tai HaShalom 9:2-3) 

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

Story(based on a true story)

I am the type of person that people enjoy sharing good news with because I react with great emotion.  That’s the positive side of this particular character trait.  The negative side is that I’m short tempered and often react quickly and impulsively.  My friend Sarah is the opposite.  She is introspective, calm, and contemplative.

A few weeks ago, Sarah asked if we could get together on Shabbos afternoon to discuss something.  I was delighted as always.  That Shabbos I walked to Sarah’s house and was warmly greeted with a glass of iced coffee.  Sarah then told me that she really wanted to work on herself, her growth and her character traits and asked if I had any rebuke (tochacha) to give her in any area of her life.  I thought about it but honestly couldn’t think of anything.  After Sarah prodded a little, I managed to think of one small area she possibly needed to work on.  She heard what I had to say and thanked me profusely.  Afterwards we continued talking about our other interests; children, work schedules, cooking and carpools.  All the while I kept thinking about the fact that Sarah always seemed to be in a positive growth mode and how this continually inspires me.

I was about to head home when I had the urge to ask Sarah if she felt there was anything I should work on.  After all, it only seemed fair.  She sat and thought for a couple of minutes and said there actually was something and proceeded to explain it to me.  She didn’t give me a long critical speech with condescending words.  She simply shared a few examples that illustrated how I displayed this particular character trait, but she did so with love, compassion and respect.  I acknowledged that she was correct, vowed to work on it, and thanked her wholeheartedly.

It was not until I was almost home that I realized what truly happened.  Sarah didn’t really want rebuke or advice from me; she wanted to give me some constructive criticism and engineered the most sensitive way to do it.  Not only did I not feel embarrassed, she actually found a way to get me to ask for it!  I honestly feel that most people would be willing to see their mistakes and improve when rebuke is given in a sincere, loving, and gentle way.

Discussion Questions:

Why do many people get offended when given rebuke (tochacha)?

What is the difference between “giving advice when you’re not being asked” and performing the mitzva of giving rebuke?

If you felt certain that you could help someone by giving her advice but she would probably feel annoyed at you for providing it, would you still offer?

Stretch of the Week:

This week when you give someone constructive criticism, do it with compassion and understanding rather than with anger and accusations.


Stretch Of The Week