Rebuke thy Neighbor
Moshe Ben-Chaim
The Torah teaches, "hokayach tokiyach es amisecha", "certainly rebuke your neighbor". The verse concludes with, "v'lo sisa alav chate", "but don't carry upon him sin".
I heard an explanation for this juxtaposition: One must rebuke another if he sees him sinning, but he must be aware of his motivation. Perhaps some might rebuke out of a desire for supremacy over others. If this is the motive, then one does not fulfill the command. One who functions on such a base level might also rebuke in an obstinate or egotistical fashion, thereby doing more harm by engendering feelings of resentment, and not feelings of appreciation. Rebuke, but don't cause sin in the process.
The Minchas Chinuch teaches that one must do so delicately, privately, and with a pleasant demeanor.
I thought about what the fulfillment of this obligation is to rebuke another. I thought, it cannot be to actually change someone else, because this is not in our hands. If it ends up that one is inflexible, I must have still fulfilled my obligation by approaching him, regardless of his response. The obligation also cannot be defined as imparting knowledge to the sinner, as if this were the case, why would the law be to constantly rebuke if the sinner continues sinning? If I must continue to rebuke (unless the sinner threatens me) how do I define my obligation?
There must be a definition which would define my act as a fulfillment in light of these issues.
I believe the command is not directed at generating effects in the sinner, but the command has to do with our performance per se. I believe "Hokayach Tokiyach" teaches that we must show intolerance at the sight of another Jew breaking the law. This explains why we must continue to rebuke if the sinner continues sinning. Intolerance that God's word is not obeyed, by definition means it is always intolerable - not only one time. We therefore must continue our rebuke. Rebuke is not for the edification of the sinner, as this would only require one rebuke. It is also not to change the sinner, because we still fulfill the command if we are ultimately threatened and must cease, leaving the sinner to sin again.
The sinner's threats on us suspend the obligation, but they do not cancel our fulfillment heretofore.
Reader's Comments:
I think it would be helpful to explain rebuke on a practical level adding to the Minchas Chinuch. That in any situation rebuke may be necessary. And everyone is obligated to rebuke, not only Rabbis as many people think. People tend to ignore this obligation more because of their strong need for approval from others. And the desire to be popular. Often rebuke is not done because there may be political or financial losses at stake. All of this is dangerous because this breaks down our system of law and waters down our philosophical outlook. When it comes to rebuke Judaism doesn't hold from being "politically correct."
The word of God must be obeyed and fulfilled. Not keeping God's system intact is intolerable.

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