If one sees a fellow Jew transgressing any prohibition, one is obligated to rebuke the individual and bring this to his attention. Nevertheless, one must be sure to say these things to the individual in a manner that will hopefully be accepted by the individual, for if not, one is missing the entire point of rebuking one’s fellow. Indeed, the Torah states, “You shall surely rebuke your fellow and do not bear sin because of him.” This refers to rebuking one’s friend when one knows that he is transgressing any Torah law.
The primary reason behind the Torah commandment of rebuking a friend is in order to give the sinner an opportunity to distance himself from his sins and repent for them. Thus, if one sees a friend treating a given matter lightly, such as if he opens his eyes during the Amida prayer which is forbidden, one need not confront him immediately and chastise him in a hostile manner. Rather, sometime in the future, one should confront the individual sincerely and calmly and tell the individual that he has just seen the words of the Poskim who discuss the severity of opening one’s eyes during the Amida prayer and that maybe he should check into this as well. In such a way, there is hope that the individual will accept his friend’s words, for the friend did not insult him at all and only had his best interests in mind.
The verse in Mishlei (Chapter 9) states: “Do not rebuke a scorner lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man and he shall love you.” This means that when one mocks the words of Torah, there is no reason to ever rebuke him, for this will cause him to become even worse and badmouth the rebuke and his words. On the other hand, when one rebukes a friend who is wise, the wise man will immediately understand that his friend means no harm and only has his best interests in mind; this in turn will allow him to accept the words pleasantly.
Indeed, the Tanna De’Vei Eliyahu sates that the Torah specifically uses the phrase “you shall surely rebuke your fellow” in order to exclude an individual who is not a “fellow”. This refers to those who mock the Torah, foolish, and wicked individuals whom there is no obligation to rebuke whatsoever. Indeed, another verse in Mishlei (Chapter 23) states, “Do not speak into the ears of a fool, for he shall despise the wisdom of your words.” This refers to a fool who is so stubborn about his opinions and will never accept the truth from one who speaks it. Such a person will never open his eyes or ears to contemplate whether or not his friend is perhaps correct. Several great Poskim write that if an individual is truly wicked and follows a wicked path advertently, one should not rebuke such an individual, for he is not considered a “fellow” the Torah obligates one to rebuke. (See Mishnah Berura, beginning of Chapter 608 and Responsa Yabia Omer, Volume 2, OC, Chapter 15.)
Based on the above, there is clearly no reason to scream or shout any kind of insults or otherwise at those who desecrate Shabbat publicly, for shouting “Shabbat! Shabbat!” at them, one does not fulfill the Mitzvah of rebuking one’s fellow either because they do not understand what the individual is screaming about or because these people were brought up and educated in an incorrect manner and therefore do not realize the severity of Shabbat desecration. This is especially true regarding individuals who were once educated in Torah and in spite of their upbringing wickedly drive on Shabbat; there is certainly no obligation to rebuke such individuals. Indeed, Maran zt”l would always point out in his lectures that one should not scream “Shabbos, Shabbos!” at those who drive on Shabbat, for the driver will not understand what those screaming want from him and this will only instill in the driver a hatred for religious Jews. Similarly, Maran zt”l would commonly quote the words of Rabbeinu Shlomo Elgazi in his Sefer Meulefet Sapirim that there is no prohibition to flatter a wicked individual when one is doing so in order to bring him closer to Torah; one should certainly not protest his ways vehemently, for this will only cause him to drift further away from the Torah. This is indeed the way Maran zt”l succeeded bringing back thousands of Jews to Torah observance throughout the years in his unique pleasant and loving manner.
Nevertheless, there are situations where one must protest, as we shall discuss further.