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  • Torah and Jewish Thought
  • Repentance

Mitzvah of Reproof?


Rabbi Elchanan Lewis

7 Kislev 5765
How far does our obligation to reproof go? I have a relative who is thoughtless and has insulted me on numerous occasion. I’m not the only object of her aggressively annoying behavior. Once I saw her react to a reproof that seemed to me quite mild and polite (and the truth for some people would not even be considered a reproof at all) yet she went into a tantrum and made a scene. I recall it says I believe in proverbs do not rebuke a fool lest he hate you (or curse you?) I have taken her insults quietly for years up till now but I wonder if I am doing right. I do not want to reprove her because I already know the reaction she would have, but am I still obligated to?
We should stay away from rebuking – it’s something which we don't really know how to do well today. Instead - you should try to explain and help your relative, Tell her you want to help and she shouldn't take it personally. Tell her that for her sake you think she might feel better by doing things a bit different. Tell her that you know that people are hurt by the way she talks or behaves. Do this all out of respect, gently and as a friend not as a preacher. If she sees you care she might listen. If she can't understand – leave her alone, if you can take her insults – just smile gently, Hashem likes those that are insulted and do not repay an insult. If you can't take it any more and she can't change at all just leave her alone till she does.
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