Across Israel, Meir Panim responds to the growing needs of the country’s 1.75 million impoverished residents through various food and social service programs.
In the aftermath of the Union army’s terrible defeat at the battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, in December 1862, Abraham Lincoln felt compelled to relieve General Ambrose Burnside of command of the Army of the Potomac. In his place he somewhat reluctantly appointed General Joe Hooker to assume command. The following excerpts from a letter which President Lincoln sent to Hooker on the eve of his appointment are a masterful example of a superior cautioning his subordinate about some of his flaws, while simultaneously subsuming the critical message within a broader context of support and encouragement. Lincoln understood that if he were only to criticize Hooker, his words would fall on deaf ears.
“General: I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appears to me to be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and skilled soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable, quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm; but I think that during General Burnside’s command of the army you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have heard, in such a way to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a dictator. Of course, it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes can set up dictators. What I ask of you now is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship….And now beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance go forward and give us victories.”
Delivering constructive criticism and rebuke—tochacha—constitutes a very important mitzvah. However, precisely because effective rebuke requires a delicate balance between encouragement and criticism, it is a mitzvah that can only truly be practiced by a select few. Rav Shlomo Wolbe, in his monograph on education, Zeriah U’Binyan B’chinuch quotes (p.26) Rav Chaim Volozhiner who stated “nowadays harsh words are not heard.” As such, Rav Chaim maintained that: “A person whose disposition prevents him from speaking gently and who gets angry quickly at people who sin, especially when they don’t heed his words, is exempt from the mitzvah of rebuke.”
The importance of carefully crafting criticism in a manner that contains the rebuke within a framework of positive encouragement can be seen at the end of this week’s parsha when Yitzchak enjoins Esav to refrain from marrying a Canaanite. The Torah describes (28:1) how Yitzchak first blessed Esav and only then did he discuss the issue of marriage with him. Rav Chaim Zuckerman, in his anthology Otzar Chaim, quotes a beautiful insight in the name of the Chofetz Chaim. The Chofetz Chaim explains that the point of Yitzchak’s discussion with Esav at the conclusion of the parsha was quite obvious. He wanted to rebuke him regarding his current marital practices and to direct him to repent and pursue a better and holier approach. However, Yitzchak realized that if he got straight to the point, Esav would ignore him. Therefore, Yitzchak first blessed Esav, thus encouraging him and enabling the rebuke to be framed in an overall context of positive growth. Only in this carefully crafted way would Yitzchak stand a chance of influencing Esav’s behavior.
About the Author: Rabbi Dr. David Hertzberg is the principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division. Comments can be emailed to him at email@example.com.
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Sometimes, like the tamei individual who must stay away from the Mikdash, we have our limits and disabilities, and we must remember not to attempt those goals which are beyond our reach.
Such a misunderstanding would render our words worthless, for we would not be declaring that Hashem is truly the Master of the Universe.
Operating the crane is Joe. Joe is overweight and a chain smoker. Another worker approaches Joe and says, “Joe, look at you! 80 pounds overweight, smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. You must do something about your health. Go the gym, work out, and get in shape.”
A Grafted Esrog
‘Passul When Missing Even a Tiny Bit’
The day after Purim, Mordechai Freilich received the mishloach manos package with a note: “This mishloach manos was meant to be delivered on Purim, but delayed due to the storm. Please accept our apologies.”
Esther’s name, which means “hidden,” reminds us that at the outset she hides her Jewish identity.
Nasi is the generic word for a leader: a ruler, king, judge, elder, or prince. Usually it refers to the holder of political power.
He exhorted all of us to continue to reach out to one another each and every day because that is what our tafkid (life’s goal) should be. And because that is what Hashem requires of us.
My ex despises me and is bent on destroying me. He has done everything to torture me.
Rav Akiva Eiger questions why semicha is considered a mitzvas assei she’hazman gramma. While it is true that it must be performed during the daytime, this is not because the semicha per se cannot be performed by night.
Question: When performing a mitzvah, what is more important: doing it right away – “zerizim” – or doing it with a large crowd – “berov am”?
Although the Torah only commands us to pick up the arba minim, the rabbis require that we wave them in all four directions of the compass as well as upward and downward.
Besides the lack of appreciation and understanding on the part of knesset Yisrael, Sefer Vayikra has been derided and held in contempt by the nations of the world and other religions.
Like Dempsey and Gates, leaders must always be cognizant of the costs involved in their decisions – even when the costs are less than human life
Moshe’s name would forever remind him of the kindness that Pharaoh’s daughter did for him by taking him out of the Nile, and serve as a lodestar to him as he interacts with his people.
Having come to the conclusion that nobody was more qualified than Yosef to lead Egypt in anticipation of and during the approaching famine, Pharaoh appointed him prime minister. This appointment made Yosef the second most powerful man in Egypt.
Esav truly thought he was getting the better part of the deal. He considered that as a hunter, whose life is constantly at risk, it was likely he would die before his father anyway. Therefore, when an opportunity to sell the birthright presented itself he jumped at it and immediately profited from the sale.
Though history offers no hard and fast laws like we find in physics, it does provide us with some guidelines. One of the most important is that when it comes to making plans, “the enemy gets a vote” or as Winston Churchill put it: “However absorbed a commander may be in the elaboration of his own thoughts, it is necessary sometimes to take the enemy into consideration.”
Peter Drucker famously said, “Long range planning does not deal with future decisions, but with the future of present decisions.” Sadly, history is replete with examples of leaders who have not only ignored this principle, but who have lost focus of their immediate goals. By doing so, they not only fail to think about the second and third layers of effects, but they fail to consider the possibility of unintended consequences.
Our rabbis teach that the first step of repentance is ackowledging our sins and errors. If we feel that our behavior is on the right track then by definition we will fail to identify our shortcomings. Sadly, then our repentance will never leave the start gate.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/parshat-toldot/2011/11/24/
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