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: Compliment a positive aspect of a person who has made a halachic mistake, while avoiding agreement with the mistake itself.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Taking A Deeper Look - Lesson #45
אסור חנופה - ISSUR CHANUFA FLATTERING A SINNER
PART 3 – Permitted Flattery
There are times when flattery can be used for constructive purposes. In such cases, flattery is not only permissible but is even considered a mitzva.
For example, we may flatter our spouse in order to promote shalom bayis, and flatter our students and colleagues to smooth the way for them to accept our tochacha, and as a result, improve their mitzva observance and Torah study. It is also permitted to flatter a creditor to stop him from exerting pressure on us, and to flatter the rich, even if you want to gain benefit from them.
However, as a general rule it is advisable to stay away from flattery. In fact, even though we may praise a person lavishly when he is not present, we should avoid praising him too much in his presence, even if we mean every world we say, because to others our words may appear to be empty flattery.
A habit related to flattery that should also be avoided is hypocrisy. The hypocrite makes a false show of being a tzaddik or a talmid chacham, when inside he is in fact far from that image. Similarly, a person should not say one thing when he means another.
(Excerpted from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)
Story: (based on a true story)
Somewhere out there, there are people who love being on dinner committees. I am not one of them, but someone needed to do it, and apparently I was good at it. I got roped into the job by my kids’ school after volunteering to help out five years ago, and I get tremendous satisfaction out of helping the school in such an active way. But it is not easy.
With all of the tasks involved, getting honorees may be my most hated one, because I hate having to convince people to be honored. It is necessary and allowed, for the cause, but also difficult. Sometimes, it’s people I know well from the community, everyday people who do wonderful things that the school wants to acknowledge. In explanation of why they’ve been selected, I sit them down and tell them a whole list of wonderful things about themselves, which is awkward. We do it in private so it’s less awkward, but it still feels strange. Especially when the idea of it all is to get these people to step up in front of everyone in a big, full room and have all of these things said again. And, especially, since one of the main purposes is to get all the people who know and love them to support the school on their behalf.
However, that is still easier than when we choose well-known people who walk in wealthy circles largely because they are well-known and walk in wealthy circles. They are good people, of course. Usually, they have done many, many wonderful things for the school and for the community at large, which lends to their being well-known. But we have often chosen them because of the amount of money these wonderful people can bring in. And for that, I feel even stranger, even though it is an accepted practice, even by the honorees themselves.
This year, it was even harder. One of our target honorees was a gentleman who has grandchildren in our school, and who I have had a problem with in the past. He is a well-known educator who many people go to for guidance and advocacy for children with different learning needs and other complicating factors, and countless people in our community and our parent-body have gone to him for help.
We too went to him for help several years ago. Our middle child was having trouble in his yeshiva and needed a different approach based on his learning style, including his need to question and fully understand things and fit it them into his full-life scheme and opposed to just accepting what he is told immediately. We went to this tremendous individual, and he met with us and our son. Unfortunately, instead of getting the help we needed, we were told that our son demonstrated a lot of chutzpa, and that he needed to get that under control before this man could help us.
We were beyond frustrated. People had been looking past our son’s strengths for too long and seeing only weaknesses, and we had hoped that this gentleman would see his inquisitiveness and yearning for truth and help us find an appropriate place. I regret to say that we spoke negatively about him in the house for several months afterward, even after we found our son a place in a wonderful school on our own.
When this very man came up as an honoree, I was prepared to swallow my pride and go speak to him. But as I discussed it with my husband, my seven-year-old overheard and piped up, “But I thought we don’t like him.” I was horrified; clearly we had some damage-control to do, both within our family and ourselves. I also knew instantly that I could not be the one to solicit and work with this honoree. He was held as a wonder by so many, but I didn’t have faith in his work. And without that, I could not be effusive in praise. So, after explaining to my child that while we did not have a good experience, many others did, I turned to a fellow volunteer to approach him and manage him, while I focused on one of the other honorees. The school could honor this community servant, but I couldn’t personally be in charge of that when I would be saying things I did not feel.
Discussion Question Options:
How can flattery positively serve the individual? How can it serve the community?
In what ways can flattery negatively affect us, even when it is regarding positive deeds?
What are some of the dangers of hypocrisy?
Stretch of the Week:
Praise someone for a good deed, and express the compliment with genuine intent.