Only he who is capable of standing courageously and rebuking leaders is worthy of leadership. In the words of Rabbi Yonatan (Sanhedrin 101b): “Why did Jeroboam merit the crown? Because he rebuked Solomon.” But it is important to take note of the continuation of this account: “And why was he (Jeroboam) punished? Because he rebuked him in public.” (Rashi comments that he rebuked him in public in order to embarrass him.)

Rebuke must be aimed at improvement alone. Therefore, we must make sure that our criticism is founded upon truth, and that it is voiced with the sole intention of bringing about that improvement. This, after all, is the definition of the Torah commandment to admonish, as it is written, “Do not hate your brother in your heart; you must admonish your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him,” and in the next verse, “You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. I am God” (Leviticus 19:17-18).

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There is evil in the world. Some of it stems from direct intention and some from laziness. Without criticism, there will be no room for change.

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Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, a leader of Israel’s religious-Zionist community, is dean of Yeshiva Har Bracha and a prolific author on Jewish Law. His books “The Laws of Prayer,” “The Laws of Passover” and “Nation, Land, Army” are being translated into English. He can be contacted at yonaton@yhb.org.il.
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