Rebuke without offending

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Skip this if you never have to comment on delicate issues to people outside our community.

The rest of us may recall the passage in the Talmud regarding the commandment to rebuke wrongdoers. In a lament that has clear legal consequence, the Talmud tells us that few people know how to properly dish out rebuke, and few know how to accept it. This makes it imperative to develop ways to get our point across without immediately turning off our listeners. (When the famous brother Rabbis Zishe and Elimelech wished to chastise someone, the story goes, the two would sit down within earshot of the intended rebukee, and one of the brothers would gently reproach the other for what the third party had done, and the other would feign melting away in contrition. The third party used to get the message, with no one confronting anyone else.)

Jeff Jacoby, to my knowledge America’s only Orthodox columnist in a major daily, provides a beautiful example of how to make a point (in this case, his rejection of gay marriage), while at the same time proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is not “homophobic,” and indeed could accept and respect another human being with whom he differed. In the process, he manages to make a great case for his own humanity and sensitivity, as well as plug olam habah, and put the Orthodox community in a good light, including separate dancing at chasunas!

Maybe that’s why he is a columnist, and we aren’t!

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4 Responses

  1. BH Moore says:

    What is the great lesson taught in the Torah that our forefathers forgot and for which the Temple was lost? And which we still haven’t learned?

  2. Nachum says:

    The problem is that people can’t *take* tochacha. Let’s say Mr. Jacoby had told his friend (who, not to get to technical, may not have been guilty of an actual issur) that he was going to hell and unless he changed, he would no longer speak to him. That would accomplish what? Moreover, does halakha require us to do these things? Of course not.

  3. manny says:

    I believe it was the Chazon Ish that said in his generation (and I think we can safely extrapolate this 50 years down the chronologic road) no one knows how to give tochacha. Daas Torah may be quite right, again.

  4. yussie says:

    While I enjoy many of his columns, I find it heretic for an orthodox Jew to espouse a pleasant afterlife for one who openly practices and condones a gay life style.