The mitzvos that Hashem has given us to fulfill, form the center of our universe, the focus of our lives and the purpose for which we exist. How unfortunate is it, therefore, when we come across a mitzvah that we feel unable to pursue with the importance that it deserves because it seems beyond our ability to perform or comprehend.
One example is Mitzvah #239 – the command to reprove and rebuke a fellow Jew who is not acting properly, as found in this week’s Parsha (Vayikra 19:17). Some of our great Rabbis have expressed how it is far beyond the ability of anyone in our (recent) generations to either give or accept proper rebuke. There are numerous requirements that go into rebuking properly that are seemingly unattainable to most of us. Nevertheless, the Torah command remains. How do we fulfill it?
Rav Dovid Feinstein, Shlita (quoted in Peninim Al HaTorah, Vol. 8, p. 203) explains homiletically the double verbiage of “Hochai’ach Tochi’ach” – you shall surely (or repeatedly) rebuke, as not exclusively referring to the tochacha (rebuke). It not only refers to the act of rebuke, but the second reference to rebuke alludes to (it describes) the one giving rebuke.
This means to say that prior to rebuking another person, rebuke yourself. One must work on himself, chastise himself to ensure that his own behavior is above reproach. When another person is approached by an individual whose behavior and comportment is refined and elevated, he will accept correction and redirection much more willingly. For example, a tzadik’s words will penetrate more easily, because the recipient of the corrective words knows the words are coming from the heart, with sincerity and no ulterior motives, without ego. They will then likely strike a chord in the heart of the one being rebuked.
Rav Feinstein holds up Aharon HaKohein as the exemplar of one who gave effective rebuke. Aharon’s total personality was one of virtue and concern for others. His very being impacted on others to the extent he did not have to `give mussar’, but rather he embodied mussar which alone brought about positive change in others. His personal example was an inspiration and guide to others, and they corrected their ways without an `official rebuke‘ from Aharon. Therefore, when he actually gave rebuke, it was so very effective.
The model of Aharon HaKohein should inspire and encourage parents. Giving tochacha, correcting behavior of our children constitutes so much of our interactions with our children. How do we get them to continue to listen? How can we get them to take our rebuke seriously and to heart? The answer is “Hochai’ach Tochi’ach” – be engaged in constant self-reflection and redirection of yourself. The extent to which your tochacha is given purely out of concern for your child’s benefit, so will be its impact. The more your own behavior is consistently in line with the Torah’s expectations, the fewer words you will need to properly guide your children. Your very essence will be constantly redirecting your children’s behavior.On this foundation of being a proper role model, a few good parenting skills will bring your children to great accomplishments in personal growth, mentschlichkeit, love of Torah and observance of all the Mitzvos.
Have a great Shabbos and much nachas,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann