Rebuke Your Fellow Man If You See Him Doing Wrong

Copyright (C) 1975 by the Members of the House of Love and Prayer
Reprinted with the permission of all the Holy Beggars….

Not for commercial redistribution without
written consent of the Estate of Reb Shlomo Carlebach

San Francisco. Kislev 5735

Transcribed and edited by (Rabbi) Elana Rappaport (Shechter)
Rabbeinu speaking

  Shlomo’s teachings on Mitzva 239,


If you see someone doing wrong, you have to tell him. You have
to tell him. You have no right to remain silent. If someone sees his
friend walking in the wrong path, it is a mitzva to talk to him, tell him
he is doing wrong, but it has to be done in private. Don’t tell someone
in public that he did wrong, because if you do, you are transgressing
about fifteen laws.

  The G’mora says it’s very easy to keep Shabbos, very easy to put
on t’fillin, but Rabbi Akiva says the hardest thing is to tell someone
when he is doing wrong. Rabbi Akiva was very holy, and he said, “I don’t
know if there is anyone in my generation who would know how to
rebuke.” You have to do it in a way that he listens to. Rabbi Tarphon
said there is no one who knows how to receive rebuke either.

    Both are really hard things to do. Before you tell him what he did
wrong you have to tell him, “I am saying it to you because I am really
your friend, I am concerned. It is not that I can’t stand sin, like a
missionary, that I want to abolish sin in the world. I really care for
you, and it hurts me that you did wrong.” Say to the person, “I don’t
want to change you. I’m not putting you down on a couch and
analyzing you. I care for you, and it seems to me that you did wrong,
so can you tell me why?” Then he can tell you, “I know I did wrong. I’m
sorry, and I probably won’t do it again.” Or he can tell you, “I didn’t do
wrong. You are wrong, because you don’t know the whole story.”

    In any case, there has to be communication. What is communication
for? Why did G-d give us the power of speech? The Torah is very strong
on communication. I have the right to hate someone who did wrong, but
if I didn’t tell him, I’m transgressing. If the person accepts what you
tell him, it is good; if not, tell him a few times. If he says, “I don’t
want to hear you; I don’t want you to talk about it to me anymore,”
then you don’t have to grab him, tie him to a chair; you don’t have to be
drastic. Talk to him like a human being.

    The Torah wasn’t given to the angels. G-d gave the Torah to human
beings. There is such a thing as hating; what can we do? Moishe Rabbenu
came up to Sinai, and the angels were complaining to G-d, “Why are You
giving the Torah to Moishe? Why aren’t You giving it to us?” G-d said to
them, “There is no hatred between you, so you don’t need the Torah. They
need the Torah below, because there is hatred in the world.” So the Torah
says if you hate someone, you have to talk to him. Imagine, if every
anti-Semite took the time to talk to one Jew there would be less killing
in the world. If everyone followed this one thing: if you hate somebody,
talk with him, make contact with him, it would be a different world. If
you want it to work, it will work.

    The G’mora and Maimonides both say that if I see someone doing
wrong and I don’t tell him, then I become a partner in the sin. The G’mora
says if I see the people of my house are doing wrong, and I don’t tell them,
I become a partner. If I see the people of my city doing wrong and I’m not
raising my voice, I’m becoming a partner in what the city is doing. If the
whole world is doing wrong, and I’m not speaking up, then I’m becoming a
partner in the sin of the whole world.

    This is one of my favorite stories. Once I was visiting my cousins in
Belgium, and when they invited me for dinner, they said because of me
they would eat kosher. So I come to see what is going on there, what they
are going to be feeding me. “Because of you it will be really strictly
kosher. We know you don’t eat ham, so we bought horsemeat.” What if I
take out a bible, because you have to tell people when they do wrong. “Sit
down you dirty sinners. You know horsemeat isn’t. . .” Naturally this does
not go. It says to rebuke, and that is not the level of rebuking. They don’t
know anything, so you can’t rebuke them. It says you have to tell them in
such a way that they know you care for them. If I say, “I am here for
Shabbos, and it makes me uncomfortable that you don’t keep Shabbos,”
that means I don’t give a damn about their Shabbos, just about my own. It
is a very delicate thing.

    The truth is, most of the time people know when they do wrong, they
just don’t have the strength not to do it. When you tell people they are
doing wrong in a good way, it gives them strength not to do it again. The
Mittler Rebbe says it suddenly becomes like two souls against one evil. If
I’m too weak to overcome my evil, the minute someone tells me it is like
two fires against one darkness. But it is hard to know how to tell people
in a good way.

by  Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach
Posted in: Personal Growth