web analytics
April 18, 2015 / 29 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Home » Judaism » Parsha »

Parshat Toldot


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.

Leaders often find themselves having to criticize and rebuke their followers. But to be truly effective, leaders must carefully craft their words. The point of the rebuke is ultimately to inspire followers to believe that they have the ability to achieve great things. Delivering rebuke without properly planning the delivery and fine-tuning the message might convince a leader that he has done what he needs to do, but it will not get his followers to do what needs to get done.

About the Author: Rabbi Dr. David Hertzberg is the principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division and is an adjunct assistant professor of History at Touro College.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Parshat Toldot”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Daniel Lubetzky  president of V15 and CEO of Kind "healthy" bars
No Victory for V15 and Not Healthy ‘Healthy’ Snack Bars
Latest Judaism Stories
Hertzberg-041715

Lincoln was not a perfect man. But he rose above his imperfections to do what he thought was right not matter the obstacles.

Arch of Titus

Adon Olam: An Erev Shabbat Musical Interlude Courtesy of David Herman

Daf-Yomi-logo

Oh My, It’s Copper!
‘…And One Who Is A Coppersmith’
(Kethubboth 77a)

Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

The omer sacrifice of loose barley flour was more fitting for animal consumption than human consumption and symbolizes the depths to which the Jewish slaves had sunk.

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

When Chazal call not eating treif food a chok, that refers to how it functions.

His mother called “Yoni, Yoni!” Her eyes, a moment earlier dark with pain, shone with joy and hope

Kashrut reminds us that in the end, God is the arbiter of right and wrong.

In a cab with Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach & Rav Elayshiv discussing if/when to say tefillas haderech

The successful student listens more than speaks out; wants his ideas critiqued, not just appreciated

Why would it not be sufficient to simply state lehoros from which we derive that in such a state one may not issue any psak?

What do we learn about overcoming loss from the argument between Moses and Aaron’s remaining 2 sons?

Each of the unique roles attributed to Moshe share the common theme that they require of and grant higher sanctity to the individual filling the role.

Because of the way the piece of my finger had been severed, the doctors at the hospital were not able to reattach it. They told me I’d have to see a specialist.

“The problem is that the sum total is listed is $17,000. However, when you add the sums mentioned, it is clear that the total of $17,000 is an error. Thus, Mr. Broyer owes me $18,000, not $17,000.”

More Articles from Rabbi David Hertzberg
Hertzberg-041715

Lincoln was not a perfect man. But he rose above his imperfections to do what he thought was right not matter the obstacles.

Hertzberg-031315

Before we embark on a major project or make a fateful decision we must get a wide-range of views and perspectives.

The Torah presents us with a model of how to effect change in a sustainable way.

Three years of war and the loss of one-tenth of Britain’s men is not too great a price to pay.

This ability to remain calm under pressure and continue to see the situation clearly is a hallmark of Yehuda’s leadership.

Leaders must always pay attention to the importance of timing.

Realizing that his death was immanent and he had only a few more moments, Moshe focuses on doing the most important thing: he runs to Bnei Yisrael and blesses them.

Perhaps the most important leadership lesson Elkana taught us is to never underestimate the difference a single person can make.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/parshat-toldot/2011/11/24/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: