Monday, August 9, 2010

Untainted Rebuke

Rav Shalom Schwadron, zt”l, once explained how to properly offer rebuke. “Our sages teach that Yeravam become king because he rebuked Shlomo HaMelech. But he was also punished because he rebuked Shlomo in public. The obvious question is that the verse tells us that Yeravam was punished because he caused his subjects to worship idolatry, presumably not on account of how he rebuked Shlomo HaMelech.
“The Maharsha asks this question and explains that the character defect of arrogance which caused Yeravam to publicly rebuke Shlomo HaMelech also brought about his downfall. It was this selfsame pride that caused him to prohibit the Jews from ascending to the temple and erect a calf for them to worship instead.
“We can better understand this when we consider what my rebbe taught about the mitzvah of rebuke. He says that rebuke is very close to lashon hara, since the one who rebukes his friend attempts to deal with his friend’s errors. The essential difference is that rebuke is a result of one’s desire to save the sinner while lashon hara is when such an interest is absent.
“Clearly, rebuke is not lashon hara only when the one giving the rebuke is careful to honor the person who erred since he rebukes solely for the benefit of the person who stumbled. But if one rebukes publicly, he has not considered the honor of the person rebuked and has violated the prohibition of lashon hara. Although Yeravam was rewarded for rebuking Shlomo HaMelech, he was given as a test to see how well he would withstand temptation in the same situation. Because he failed to rebuke with the proper care, he was severely tested and failed.
Rav Shalom concluded, “He only failed so abysmally because the kingdom was handed over to him as a test, not a gift!”

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