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Halacha For - Wednesday ,  - July 1, 2015

The Mitzvah to Rebuke One’s Fellow and the Procedure Regarding One Who Speaks During Prayers

In the previous Halacha, we have explained the basic laws of the Mitzvah of rebuking one’s friend, as the Torah states, “You shall surely rebuke your fellow and you shall not bear sin because of him.” This means that one who sees a friend not acting appropriately must bring this to his attention.

Not only when one sees an individual transgressing a prohibition between man and Hashem must one rebuke him; rather, the same applies when one sees a friend not acting properly toward another individual and one must rebuke him so that he continue his erroneous ways. (As we have explained in the previous Halacha, this only applies when one is certain the rebuke will produce positive results; however, if this will only cause strife and resentment, one should abstain.) Additionally, even if one sees that an individual is not acting properly toward himself, one should not keep this bottled up inside and hate the individual; rather, one should confront the friend and talk to him about one’s feelings. Indeed, the Rambam writes (in his Hilchot De’ot): “When an individual sins toward another, one should not hate the individual and keep silent as the verse states regarding the wicked, ‘And Avshalom did not speak to Amnon from evil to good, for Avshalom hated Amnon.’ Rather, it is a Mitzvah to notify the individual and tell him, ‘Why have you done this to me and why did you sin toward me?’ as the verse states, ‘You shall surely rebuke your fellow.’ If the individual then requests one’s forgiveness, one must forgive him and should not be cruel in this regard, as the verse states ‘And Avraham prayed to Hashem.’”

Regarding what we have said that one may not hate another in one’s heart and must confront him and ask him “Why have you done such-and-such to me?”, clearly this only applies when there is a possibility that the friend will regret his actions and the rebuke will cause friendship once again. However, if the individual is not so intelligent and one therefore does not want to confront him and create an issue, one need not rebuke him and just as a pious act, one should forgive him in one’s heart so that there is no hatred between them.

Regarding what we have said that there is no difference between transgressions between man and Hashem or between man and his fellow and one must rebuke an individual for both, there is, in fact, one distinction between them: If one sees a friend treating him unjustly and has rebuked the individual twice or three times while speaking pleasantly and politely but the friend does not accept this rebuke and continues acting inappropriately, one is no longer obligated to rebuke the individual, for one is exempt from this Mitzvah when one does not wish to listen to those who bring things to his attention. On the other hand, when one sees an individual transgressing a prohibition between man and Hashem, one must rebuke the individual several times and if the person still has not mended his ways, he should be shamed in public and his actions publicized so that he stop doing them for good.

Nevertheless, this is clearly not in the hands of just any individual, for there are situations where publicizing the sinners actions will bring about no benefit in addition to the fact that there are many conditions regarding publicizing one’s wrongdoings. Thus, whatever the case is, one should always consult a competent Torah scholar and halachic authority in order to decide whether or not it is a good idea to publicize an individual’s wrongdoings.

If an individual constantly speaks idle chat in the synagogue during prayers and the reading of the Torah and this disturbs the rest of the congregants and causes a desecration of the sanctity of the synagogue, this should first be brought to the individual’s attention quietly and privately that he must stop talking in the synagogue. If this does not help, one may then bring this to his attention in front of the congregation (by exclaiming loudly, “Nu!” or “Shhh!” and the like) time and time again until the individual stops.

If members of the synagogue see an individual telling another congregant several times not to speak in the synagogue, they should come to the aid of the one rebuking and point something out to the individual as well about his talking in the synagogue so that the original individual rebuking is not the only one doing so which will cause the rebuked party to hate him for badgering him all the time. Instead, the first time, one congregant should point something out to him and the second time, another congregant should point something out, and so on and so forth until the glory of the synagogue is restored. Indeed, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 124) writes: “One may not speak idle chat during the Chazzan’s repetition of the Amida. If one speaks, he is a sinner, his sin is too great to bear, and he is admonished.” The Eliyah Rabba writes in the name of the Kol Bo: “Woe unto those who speak idle chat during prayer services, for we have seen several synagogues destroyed as a result of this sin.” The great Baba Sali, Hagaon Rabbeinu Yisrael Abuchatzera zt”l, would often say that several Middle Eastern communities were saved from the claws of the Nazis in the merit of how they would guard the honor of the synagogue.

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