|The Parsha contains Moses’ parting words said during the last five weeks of his life and begins with giving rebuke to the nation.
The Jews of that generation made a number of poor choices, decisions that affected their future as well as the future of all Jews succeeding them. Moses’ approach was not to reprimand explicitly, rather he hinted to it by revealing each wrongdoing by mentioning the place in which it happened. If the purpose of rebuke is to make someone aware of misconduct, why didn’t he mention their actions explicitly; why did he only mention the place where they did them?
Rashi explains that Moses refers only to places “in which they angered the Almighty; he therefore said these words in an obscure manner and only intimated (that they had sinned in these places) to uphold the honor of Israel.” Moses didn’t need to cite a particular transgression, the simple hint of mentioning the place was enough. It’s human nature to recognize something from a hint when it is important to us. For example, when a woman talks about her grandparents and says “they’re survivors,” everyone realizes that they survived the Holocaust; mentioning “survivor” is all that’s needed. So, too, with pointing out someone else’s poor behavior. A mere hint will cause someone to remember their wrongdoing and think about making sure it will not happen again—and this is a crucial lesson in understanding criticism.
When something about one’s past is embarrassing and we want to help that person, we should not delve into the matter more than necessary. If one is sincere about rebuke a mere hint is enough; anything else is degrading. If you find yourself lingering on the particulars of the past you might want to ask yourself if the topic is brought up for the person’s benefit or for yours. If you are angry, you might find yourself venting, raising your voice, and angrily saying, “well, someone needed to tell you this.” We have an intrinsic sense to know when someone is saying something for our benefit. One of the surefire indications is if the person continues to rant, only focusing on the past—i.e., focusing on the problem not the solution—and giving no indication that they stand with you in helping you deal with whatever the issue is. If we intuit that the person is with us, we stand a chance of admitting our error but if it is merely an angry tirade, we shut down.
Moses was about to die and knew the people would pay close attention to his words. Before entering the land of Israel, he wanted to make sure they had learned lessons from their many mistakes over their forty-year desert sojourn. He mentioned many places but said nothing other than the name of the place. He knew they were sincere; he had them, not him, in mind.
If we allow Moses’ example to serve as a template for us, we will have more peace of mind and serenity in our lives. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before criticizing someone . Will they listen? What is my motivation? Am I simply “unloading” (showing I’m frustrated) or am I thinking about what’s best for this person? What is the best way to say it? The same way people prepare for college and job interviews, we should be prepared every time we want to give someone a piece of our mind. Keep it short; sometimes a few sincere words can shed much light and have the greatest impact.
Moses’ example is a template for the qualities necessary for Jewish leadership or parenting; you have to appreciate and stand behind your flock—even though they appear undeserving and unlovable. You want what’s best for them and will seek to help them to gain clarity if you see them making poor life choices. The more we can remove ourselves emotionally from an incident, the more effective it will be for both the one being rebuked and also the one giving it. It’s easy to allow resentments and negative emotions to control us but when we learn to make emotions indicators rather than dictators, our heads will be less cluttered and our lives much happier.Good Shabbos Tisha B’av begins immediately after Shabbos, here is a thought to take with us. “Why I Like Tisha B’Av” Tisha B’Av is not everyone’s favorite day, but it is one of mine- not because it is enjoyable, but because of what it represents.
I like Tisha B’Av because of what it says to me about Jews- that we are a people that remembers and knows its past leads to a future.
There are so many more Italians in the world than Jews. Yet no one laments for Rome. There are many more Greeks than Jews. The Acropolis and the Parthenon are tourist attractions, but does anyone mourn because of their destruction?Babylonia, Persia, Assyria, the glory of ancient Egypt- who remembers, who sheds a tear, who cares?
I like Tisha B’Av because only a people that can weep will someday learn to laugh. And I like Tisha B’Av because I need it.
In the midst of all the affluence and creature comforts, I need to remove my leather shoes and dim the lights. I need to fast and not to indulge myself. I need to read Lamentations and weep for my people’s martyrdom, for its bloody history. I need to focus outward…
A man once said to me, “Why bother with an event that took place 2,000 years ago? Why mourn, why sigh? We have modern Israel, we should rejoice.”
Is there a country more concerned about daily security than Israel, or one that has more bitter experience of friendly countries growing cold and distant at the slightest provocation?
No other countries have to struggle daily over the sovereignty of their ancient capitals. No other countries are restricted in their right to visit and worship at their ancient holy sites in their own land.
One of the main reasons for the original destruction of the Temple and our exile from our land- baseless hatred among Jews- still exists among us. Tisha B’Av is a good day to ponder unity and tolerance.
I like Tisha B’Av because it contains a message of profound hope and faith. On this day, the Sages tell us, the Messiah was born. How profoundly insightful, how ironic, how just- on the day of destruction, redemption began. The end was also the beginning. “Give us joy in accordance with the days of our suffering”, the Psalmist says.
Excerpts from ‘Shul Without A Clock’ by Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Have an easy fast and a meaningful Tisha B’av.