Parshat Devarim: The Art of Rebuke

From the days of the prophets through modern Israeli society, rebuke and criticism have been the bread and butter of Jewish discourse. Many will be surprised to learn that in the Torah giving rebuke is considered to be the way to overcome hatred and alienation. In the book of Vayekra we are told, "Don't hate your brother in your heart, give rebuke...." The following verse in the Torah is "love your neighbor as yourself." In the book of Proverbs we are told, "God rebukes those whom He loves," "Rebuke the wise and they will love you." However, as we all know, the bitter truth is that generally rebuke and criticism have the opposite effect, increasing hate and alienation between the parties. Parshat Devorim begins with Moshe's harsh rebuke of the Jewish people. It is told about Rabbi Yakov Yitchak of Peshicha (a.k.a. the Yid Hakodesh) that every day he read several verses from this parsha as he believed that these words of Moshe have the power to enter the heart as lead one to repent. From Moshe we can learn the six principles of the art of rebuke.