Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Loving Rebuke

All those who attained Torah greatness and true piety had a deep love of hearing the truth of their failings—they were “oheiv es ha’tochachos,” they loved to be chastened and brought back to the right path.

Rav Yeruchem Levovitz zt”l returned to Slabodka to visit with his first Rebbi, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l, only to be reprimanded by the Alter about his approach with his students, with which he disagreed. Rav Yechezkel Sarna zt”l was a young student at the time, and was witness to part of this sharp dressing-down, one that lasted many hours. Although Rav Yeruchem listened patiently and did not even try to defend himself, Rav Yechezkel was sure that after being upbraided so forcefully, the distinguished visitor would be out of Slabodka at the soonest opportunity.

Much to his surprise, Rav Yeruchem appeared before the Alter the following day, and again sat through hours of lecturing, but this time the criticism was even sharper! The only observable difference was that Rav Yeruchem asked the Alter questions to elicit further clarification. Once again, Rav Yechezkel was sure that Rav Yeruchem would be out on the next train, but was again surprised to see him the following day. This went on for a full week—Rav Yeruchem was literally moseir nefesh to hear his own shortcomings!

6 comments:

Spiritual Dan said...

Well your example is skewed - to be rebuked by a tzaddik, a gaon, what could be better? Such tzaddikim are truly rebuking for a good purpose - they are pulling weeds from a lawn. On the other hand, a baal teshuvah to receive rebuke from his non-observant family members - is this the same?

Spiritual Dan said...

just re-reading... I didn't mean to insult or disparage your blog when I called the example "skewed"... as always it was a great post. Shkoach!

Micha Golshevsky said...

Ashrecha!
Many people feel most humiliated when rebuked by a great person. For distinguished people this can be especially hard.
Rav Sarna (close talmid of the Alter and later Rosh Yeshivah of Chevron)was truly amazed at Rav Yerucham's fortitude.
As ilustrated in many many ma'asim The Alter could be very piercing and his critique was surely powerful.
He wasn't giving "loving rebuke" he was giving it to Rav Yerucham over the head for hours at a time!
Rav Wolbe also had a very powerful manner of rebuke. He apologized to one student for never rebuking him. He explained, "I stopped rebuking when I saw that my words were too strong. Better to remain silent"
As an aside, the Alter would always be mekarev those who needed kiruv in exactly the correct balance.
He often rebuked with such force that many students felt he had gone overboard, despite his later reconciliations (or lack thereof!)
Eventually every single student realized that his actions were precisely "what the doctor ordered."
The Chofetz Chaim once exclaimed, "I am jealous of him. I write seforim but he makes people!" (or words to that effect.)
Rav Kaminezsky, Rav Aharon Kotler, Rav Ruderman, Rav Shach, and many many others were his talmidim.
Alot of the gedolim started out almost off the derech or on the way to university before they met him. We all know the result of his awesome "handling."
Not surprisingly, his students one ba'al mussar declared that his act could not be followed by people today. People are weaker and we don't have the Alter!
Ya'asher koach for the comment as always. Hashem should help us all uproot the negative through true connection to Hashem!

Long Beach Chasid said...

Spiritual Dan-

This is about being rebuked by someone who holds fast to Torah, Tzaddik or not. Not a non religious Jew criticizing your new commitment to the Torah. It also should be someone that is an elder and truly more learned. So quick is a Baal Teshuvah to judge someone because he just finished reading a chapter of the kitzer Shulchan Aroach. Good advice I've been given, is let the rebuker speak and say nothing except to ask for clarification. Later it is your choice if you chose to exercise their advice.

Humble opinion but who am i?

Long Beach Chasid said...

Oh, and great blog once again. I love reading your posts.

Micha Golshevsky said...

Long Beach Chasid:
Thank you for the chizuk once again.
What excellent advice! Unfortunately it is not only ba'alei teshuvah who often "shoot first and ask questions later." Hashem should protect us all!