Halacha Date: 5 Kislev 5779 November 13 2018
The Rambam (Chapter 6 of Hilchot De’ot) writes: “The first time one rebukes an individual, one should not speak harshly such that the individual is ashamed, as the verse states, ‘And you shall not bear sin because of him.’ Our Sages expounded this to mean that I may have thought that one should rebuke him until he blushes with shame; that is why the Torah states explicitly ‘And you shall not bear sin because of him’ which means that it is forbidden to shame any Jew. This is especially true in public and this is a very grave sin as our Sages teach us, ‘One who shames one’s friend in public has no share in the World to Come.’ Thus, one must be careful not to shame one’s friend in public, whether the individual is young or old, one should not another a name that he will be ashamed of, and one should not say anything before him that will cause him shame.”
Hagaon Harav Shneur Zalman of Liadi (author of the “Tanya”) writes: “Regarding many, even if they transgress prohibitions advertently, one should not rebuke them more than once if one knowns one’s words will not be heeded. Regarding this have our Sages taught, ‘Just as it is a Mitzvah to say something that will be accepted, it is likewise a Mitzvah not to say something that will not be accepted.’ If they are transgressing prohibitions inadvertently, one should not rebuke them at all, for it is better for them to do so inadvertently rather than advertently.”
Hagaon Harav Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam zt”l, the saintly Klausenberg Rebbe, recounted that several generations ago in the times of the great Rav Meir, Rebbe of Premishlan, a zealot from the town of Lvov turned to him requesting that he join him in protesting against Jews who had begun opening their stores on Shabbat in the city. This individual would go and vociferously chastise them and physically be a nuisance for those trying to open their stores on Shabbat. He wondered why the Rebbe did not join his efforts.
The Rebbe explained: “Now that the spirit of impurity in the world is getting stronger and stronger, one may not agitate those transgressing the Torah by declaring war on them, for the actions of the Satan may yet to succeed and this may cause a desecration of Hashem’s name to ensue. Rather, when you go to rebuke them for their sins, do so pleasantly and speak nicely to them. Before you do so, pray to Hashem and say, ‘I am now going to perform an action for Your honor. Please help me do something beneficial and lasting.’”
Let us now recount another amazing incident regarding Hagaon Harav Avraham Yitzchak Ha’Kohen Kook zt”l. Once, on a Shabbat night, a group of young men from a prominent Jerusalem Yeshiva congregated in the front of Rav Kook’s home in the center of the city. When the Rav concluded the Arvit prayer, he sent his helper to find out what the young men wanted. The lads began to carry on that Shabbat desecration was going on at that very moment as a Jew had opened his Café and began serving customers on King George Street! They therefore requested that the Chief Rabbi accompany them to the Café in order to protest the Shabbat desecration. The helper then relayed the message to the Rav. The Rav heard this and was silent; he then insisted that his family gather around the table and begin the Shabbat meal while the eager young men outside began yelling that they now understood that Rav Kook did not really care about the spiritual situation in the holy city of Jerusalem.
Once the young men had dispersed, the Rav told his helper to come with him to the Café. The helper then inquired, “Why does the Rav wish to go there?” The Rav replied, “What does that mean? A Jew is desecrating the Shabbat in the heart of the holy city of Jerusalem, the King’s palace, and I should not go and rebuke him and try to convince him to stop?!”
The bewildered helper then asked the Rav, “If the Rav felt that it was necessary to rebuke this individual, why did the Rav not accompany the group of Yeshiva boys that was here earlier? Why did the Rav give them an opportunity to tell everyone that Rav Kook does not care about religious life in Jerusalem?” The wise Rav answered, “Indeed, I did wish to go along with them. However, I then thought that if we all go together, this would transform the Cafe owner from being merely a ‘Shabbat desecrator’ to a ‘public Shabbat desecrator’ since we would have been more than ten Jews together. It is for this reason that I did not wish to go until now!” The Rav then went and rebuked the Café owner pleasantly, in the true manner of the Torah.