Counting the Omer with Jonathan Zasloff
Day 32 — Loving Rebuke
Oheiv et HaTochachot • אוהב את התוכחות
By Gary Shaffer, Brooklyn, NY
What can be more satisfying than letting others know they are wrong? After all, one learns best from one’s mistakes, so we’re really helping others out when we tell them they’re wrong about what they said, what they eat, how they eat, how they dress, their tone of voice, who they voted for, what the movie was really about. Goodness, there are so many possibilities. And Pirkei Avot tells us that the love of rebuke is one of the 48 qualities through which Torah is acquired! I can hardly wait to get started! Though according to my kids, and maybe even my wife, I got started a long, long time ago. However, since reproof leads to love and love unaccompanied by reproof is not love (Bereishit Rabbah 54), I’ve clearly been a very good parent and spouse.
It took me a long time to understand how rebuke can be both obligatory and loving. As a lawyer, telling others they were wrong was part of my job, and one I often (truth be told) enjoyed. However, doing it as an advocate required some deftness of speech I might have ignored when addressing those with whom I was more familiar. Even now it can be a struggle. But one benefit I have realized in trying to figure out how to lovingly correct another, is that in the extra time it takes to work out my new and improved delivery, I often realize I hadn’t really paid attention to what another may have said, or I was misinformed, or hadn’t fully understood. Or I figure out what might truly be helpful to another person - like saying nothing, or asking, what do you think? Much better than those Pyrrhic verbal victories.
Loving rebuke also means opening ourselves up to being corrected. And if another’s tone seems too harsh, or a comment off the mark, pausing a moment before we respond may create an awareness of something we might have otherwise missed. Ok, now let’s get started.
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