Among the many mitzvos we will read about this Shabbos, the obligation to offer rebuke to another for a misdeed is one of the most difficult to fulfill. When we consider that the parents’ role in raising children is filled constantly with giving rebuke, the imperative of `giving Tochacha’ properly is very real and very challenging.
The pasuk says: (Vayikra 19:17) You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall rebuke your fellow and do not bear a sin because of him. It is most difficult to exactly translate the end of the pasuk: “and do not bear a sin because of him.” Indeed, practically every Meforesh (commentator) has a different way to translate and explain the meaning of those words. Literally, the words V’Lo Sisa Alav Cheit, can be translated to mean – “and don’t raise sin above him.”
Rabbi Yissachar Frand, Shlita, paraphrases an interpretation of these words from Rabbi Gedaliah Schorr, zt’l. Taking the literal translation mentioned above of `not raising the sin above him’, he explains it to mean – do not magnify the sin and minimize the person.
If you see someone doing a sin, do not place the emphasis on the magnitude of the sin. Do not say “how could you do such a terrible thing?” You are raising up the sin over him, dwarfing him by the magnitude of what he has done. You are making the person feel about two inches tall. This is not the way to offer rebuke. It is offensive and almost guaranteed to be ineffective. Better to place the emphasis on the person and say, “How could a person such as you do such a thing?” Better to raise him up over the sin, to show him that to do such a thing is beneath him, that he is too great to do such a thing. This is the way to rebuke with genuine kindness and lasting effect. (Rabbi Frand on the Parsha pps. 174-175)
What is true for adults, who are assumed to have their self-image and self-esteem basically intact, is doubly true for children. When children are scolded for a misdeed, they are likely to interpret the rebuke as a condemnation of their entire being; “I must be a bad person if I did such a bad thing.” No child should ever be spoken to in a way that could leave such an impression. Anytime we correct a child and let him know he did something wrong, it must always be accompanied by praise for him as a person.
The Yiddish statement; “Es past nisht far dir” (this is not befitting you) is so effective when redirecting a child. It informs the child that his behavior is unacceptable, primarily because he is such a special person. Furthermore, by elevating the child, you are giving him or her more of a reason to behave properly – your approach and your words will help the child begin to believe he has a higher calling and therefore a greater responsibility to behave in an appropriate fashion.
Helping the child to thrive is our goal, and by dwelling on the inherent goodness we will help them grow and develop in a healthy manner. Just as the farmer, who needs to remove weeds to help his fields grow never forgets his goal is a robust and bountiful crop, and not merely a well-weeded field, so too when parents weed out their children’s unhealthy behavior, they cannot forget the goal of producing an intact, responsible, self-confident mentsch.
Best wishes for a wonderful Shabbos,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann