What is nicer to hear” “You are so great!” or “You need to change”?
In this week’s parshah, Moshe Rabbeinu says goodbye to Am Yisrael. Usually, at farewell parties people do not start talking about negative past occurrences, but in his goodbye speech, Moshe Rabbeinu does not beautify matters or sweep them under the rug. After 40 years, he speaks honestly and directly, reminding the people of all their failures, downfalls, and sins in order for them to glean lessons for the future
It is the easiest to only praise, to be “all smiles and hearts,” but if you truly care about someone, you do not flatter him. You help him become better.
Moshe Rabbeinu never did what the multitudes wanted; he did what was needed to be done. Even when he said goodbye, he spoke from a hurting heart and cautioned the people.
In a few days from now, it will be Tish’a B’Av. Our Sages say that “Jerusalem was destroyed only because people didn’t reproach one another.” They warn us of a society in which everyone flatters everyone else, a society in which no one knows how to give criticism in a respectful way or how to receive criticism in a respectful way.
In another place, our Sages ask what proper path a person should choose, and the answer is: love reproach. This is a very high level, which sometimes seems unattainable – to love criticism, to look for opportunities to improve ourselves rather than to look for applause.