Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Kedoshim, Vayikra 19:17. Our Obligation to Admonish Wrongdoers. הוכח תוכיח את עמיתך

A dear friend of mine told me that he was at a restaurant last night for a Sheva Brachos, and as they walked to the back, he and his wife saw that there were five yarmulkas on shaven heads.  We pasken that we should be machmir according to the shittos that shaving the head is at least an issur derabanan, and most likely an issur deoraysa of Lo Sakifu.  He had mentioned the new style to his wife and bemoaned the spread of the issur, but she thought it was vanishingly rare in the Orthodox community.  They were shocked to see how common it has become.

He and I have discussed this before, and I wrote about it here as well.  My problem is that this friend is a great talmid chacham and yarei shamayim, and it truly bothers him, both because of the chillul hashem and because of the consequences to the people who do it.  In fact, he recently discussed this with Rabbi Leonard Matanky, the principal of the local (coeducational Modern Orthodox) Jewish high school.  Rabbi Matanky said that the strictly enforced rule at the CJA is that if a boy comes in with a shaved head, he is suspended for two weeks, the time it takes to grow his hair back to the proper shiur.  (Rabbi Matanky is also currently the President of the Rabbinical Council of America.)

Every time we discuss it, I ask my friend, if it bothers him so much, why he does not admonish these people?  (The truth is that I know that he is a modest and private person for whom tochacha would be very hard, but I bother him about it because think that if he took a more active role in our community's life he would be one of the einei ho'eido.)  He says that he knows for a fact that they will disregard him.  I'm sure he's right. But I also know that I mentioned this to one person, and he no longer does it.  My friend's son mentioned it to a chasidishe young man in Lakewood with big peiyos who had, since his earliest youth, shaved his head behind the peiyos such that he was also transgressing the deoraysa.  The person reflexively denigrated the criticism, but came back a week later, and shamefully said that he looked into it, and he was horrified to learn that it was true, and he had been doing wrong since he was a child.  So I'm not convinced that people won't listen- IF, and only if, they are approached in the right way.  And that is the problem.  Most often, tochacha is viewed as a personal attack.  As Shlomo HaMelech said in Mishlei, אל תוכח לץ פן ישנאך הוכח לחכם ויאהבך.  How does one effectively admonish another person without making the problem worse, and creating hatred as well?

(I recently saw quoted from the Shelah that says pshat in the passuk in Mishlei that if your tochacha attacks the person as a leitz, he will hate you.  But if you show him derech eretz and kavod, if you tell him that he is a wise and honorable man who might now know about the issur, הוכח לחכם, then he willl love you.  The only Shelah I saw was the one in his Hakdama:
אמר אחר כך "ודרך חיים תוכחת מוסר", מתחילה דבר משלימות עצמו יהיה שלם בנר מצוה ותורה אור, אחר כך ישלים את זולתו גם כן, וזהו דרך לחיים הנצחיים להיות זוכה ומזכה ללמוד וללמד לשמור ולעשות וכו', ותמיד לא ימנע מלהוכיח אחרים וילמדם חכמה ומוסר להבין אמרי בינה, ועל כן אמר לשון ודרך, כמו שאמר יתרו למשה רע"ה "והזהרת אתהם את החקים ואת התורות והודעת להם את הדרך ילכו בה".

ואמר תוכחות מוסר שהוא כפל לשון תוכחה, רוצה למר על העבר הוכח יוכיח אם סרו מן הדרך הטוב והישר, ומוסר הוא יורה דרך שילכו להבא, כמו שאמר "שמעו מוסר וחכמו ואל תפרעו". הוכחה היא מצות עשה כמו שכתוב "הוכח תוכיח את עמיתך", והיא מצוה רבה מאד. ומסכת שבת פרק כל כתבי אמר ר' עמרם לא חרבה ירושלים אלא בשביל שלא הוכיחו זה את זה... משמע שאם היה גלוי להם (שאינם שומעים לתוכחה) לא היו נענשים, וכן משמע בתוספות בפרק חזקת הבתים וכן כתב בספר המצות, דכתב וטוב לו לשתוק, דהנח להן לישראל מוטב שיהיו שוגגים וכו'. ורא"מ כתב דמעונש פטור, אבל מעשה דהוכח תוכיח לא אפטיר... ולי נראה להביא ראיה לדברי רא"מ דמהוכח תוכיח אינו פטור מהא דאיתא פרק יש בערכין עד היכן תוכחה, רב אמר עד הכאה וכו' הרי סבירא להו אף שכבר בא לנזיפה וגם לקללה ואז יודע בודאי שלא יקבל, על כל זאת אינו פטור מעשה דהוכח תוכיח עד הכאה...

וההיא דפרק הבא על יבמתו דא"ר אילעא משום רבי אליעזר בן שמוע כשם שמצוה לומר דבר הנשמע כך מצוה על אדם שלא לומר דבר שלא נשמע.... אני אומר שזהו ענין בפני עצמו, ומיירי בדבר שהחוטאים אינם יודעים שזה אסור ומתלוצצים מהמוכיח ועל כל פנים יעברו, על כן מוטב שיהיו שוגגים ואל יהיו מזידים... אבל דבר שנתפרסם אסורו ונודע ומבורר אזי הוכיח תוכיח אפילו מאה פעמים. עוד יש לפרש דברי רבי אליעזר בן שמוע שלא לומר דבר שלא נשמע היינו להוכיח לץ שמתלוצץ על דברי המוכיח וצוחק עליו, כי ישראל אף שהיו חוטאים ולא שומעים לקול נביאיהם זה לא היה בכלל התלוצצות, רק נביאי שקר הטעום וסברו שדבריהם אמת. וכן המוכיח לחבירו והוא משיב לו על הוכחה לא עשיתי כך או אומר עשיתי וכדין עשיתי, אז מחויב להוכיח עד הכאה ולמר כדאית ליה, אמנם אם צוחק לדברי המוכיח ומתלוצץ עליו אז חובה על המוכיח שלא יאמר... (תולדות אדם בהתחלה)  )

I was speaking to Rav Mordechai Tendler, and he reminded me that Reb Moshe used to say a beautiful he'ara, that a tnai in the mitzva of tochacha is the amisecha, that you care for the transgressor and want to help him change and improve.  If you're just yelling, when yelling will only aggravate the problem, you are not doing a mitzva at all.

So here's the halacha question that I hit him with this time: If you don't rebuke people who are transgressing commandments, you're transgressing the commandment of Hochei'ach. What if you walk into a room where five people are doing wrong, and you say nothing.  Are you over one asei, or five?  Just because you need some kind of chiluk for malkos and korbanos does not prove that it is not many issurim.

Proof of the multiplicity of aveiros is the Rambam in Avos that says that given a choice between giving smaller amounts to numerous poor people or larger amounts to fewer, one should choose the former, because every time you put your hand into your pocket and give to the poor, you cultivate the middah of loving your fellow man.  This implies that as far as the technical mitzva, there is no difference between giving one thousand perutos to one man and giving one perutah to one thousand men.  If so, it would appear that there is no difference between failing to admonish five men separately or failing to admonish them all together.  It's five bittul aseis.

Moving back to the practical, I believe that tochacha is a skill, and it can be cultivated and developed.  It's a mitzva, and besides the mitzva there's a very serious issue of Areivus, so it is something that deserves effort.  I also realize that like Tzniyus patrols, if this became a "campaign," it would attract people who do it because they have psychological problems.  But for the normal people out there, I sincerely believe that it is possible to learn how to do tochacha in a loving and private and non-threatening way so that it will be effective.  It's worth thinking about.

1.  Harav HaRofei Stone sought to be melamed zechus because the Rambam associates taglachas with antiquated minhagim of Avodah Zara/Chukos HaGoyim.  Inasmuch as it is no longer practiced among sane gentiles, it might no longer be an issur deoraysa.  Here is an example of the "reyd" in the Rambam:
 ביו״ד (סי׳ קפ״א) בפת״ש (סק״א) עט״ז (םק״א) שכתב דלהרמב״ם מותר לגלח פאות הראש מפני שלום מלכות כמו (בטי׳ קע״ח ם״ב) ועי בתשו׳ אא״ז פנים מאירות ח״א (בחי׳ רעק׳׳א כתוב ח״ב) (סימן ע״ט) שהשיג עליו ע״ש עכ״ל, ותשז׳ פמ״א אינו תח׳׳י, אבל ראיתי במנחת חינוך (מצוה רנ״א) שהביא בשם המשנ׳׳ח שהשיג על הטו״ז לפמ״ש הב״י (סי׳ קע״ח) דהאיך יכולי׳ חכמים להתיר לספר קומי מפני שלום מלכות אף שהוא חק העכו״ם, ותי׳ כיון שאינו מפורש בתורה חקות העכו״ם מסרו הכתוב לחכמים והם התירו לקרובי מלכות ע״ש, וא״כ בפאות הראש דמפורש בתורה דאםור להקיף פייר א״כ גם הר״מ מודה דאסור משום שלום מלכות ע״כ. והנה ודאי השגה גדולה היא על הטו״ז ובפרט דהטו״ז עצמו (בסי׳ קע״ח םק״ד.) העתיק דברי הב״י הנ״ל. אמנם מלבד זה קשה לי על הטו״ז שהחליט כאן דלא מצינו היתר משום שלום מלכות אלא באיסור משום חקות עכו״ם והיאך העלים
 עין מגמ׳ ערוכה גיטין (נ״ו אי) סבור רבנן לקרובי׳ לבעל מום משום שלום מלכות ע״ש (ועיין במג״א סי׳ תרנ״ו םק״ח ובמחה״ש לשם גם עיין בבכור שור לע״ז דף ל״ו ע״ש) בשלמא על הב׳׳י ל״ק דבאמת כתב (בסי׳ קע״ח) בתי׳ א׳ דמשום הצלת ישראל יש כח ביד חכמים להתיר איסור
 תורה, וי״ל שלמד כן מגמ׳ דגיטין הנ״ל, אבל על הטו״ז שכתב פה דלא מצעיו היתר משוס שלום מלכות אלא באיסור משום חקות עכו״ם שפיר קשה, היאך יפרנס הגמ׳ הנ״ל דרצו רבנן להקריב בע״מ משום שלום מלכות וצע״ג״.
FWIW, I think it's pashut even in the Rambam that the issur deoraysa still applies.

2.  Rebbitzen Jungreis famously does tell people when they're doing wrong, but it might be that she gets away with it because she's female and around four six.  Also, she is really sincere and loving.  Even so, they usually tell her "You're crazy, leave me alone," but some have sought her out years later to thank her and invite her to a daughter's wedding to a yungerman in Bnei Brak.

3.  In the comments, Reb Chaim Brown said that he believes that the bittul asei of tochacha is on the gavra, and it doesn't matter how many people he is "not-mochi'ach."  I hear the he'ara, and it's definitely something to think about, but if he's right, it would be a big chiddush.  I would say that it shtams from either from the din of Arvus or lifnei iveir or lo saamod, so every one you are not mochi'ach is another bittul asei.


  1. I'm uncomfortable with the way you are counting kiyum/bitul mitzvos here but I can't pin down exactly why. Maybe I can make myself intelligible by using an analogy to the mitzvah of v'ahavta l're'acha kamocha. Let's say I meet five colleagues in a room and befriend three of them but hate two of them. Do you could that as three kiyumim in the plus column and two bitul aseh's in the minus column? Something strikes me as wrong about that. I would say the mitzvah is to be an oheiv yisrael, and if I love everyone, it's one kiyum mitzvah; if I hate even one person, I have been mevateil that mitzvah of being an oheiv. I would say the same thing by tochacha. The mitzvah is to be a person who is mochi'ach, a person who does not turn away and ignore wrongdoing. If I stand up for what's right, it's a proper kiyum; if I ignore wrongdoing, whether by one person or a hundred people, it's a failure of being a gavra who is a mochiach and it's one bitul.

    1. I like your he'ara. Yasher Koach.
      I suppose it would depend on whether the Torah is interested in the process or the result. I think you would agree that in the case of פריקה וטעינה, each event would be independent.
      I wonder what you would say about another mitzva with a similar concept, and a matching grammatical construction-
      פתוח תפתח את ידך לו והעבט תעביטנו די מחסורו אשר יחסר לו

  2. What a chutzpa to quote Mordechai Tendler in this context. The Gateshead rov, who all of England is shoeil eitzah from, has (among many others), condemned this menuval, yet you seek or promote him.

  3. I don't know who you are, of course. I also don't know who the Gateshead Rov is. I do know my cousin, Rav Mordechai. I also know that people who have first hand knowledge of the case have either never suspected Rav Tendler of any wrongdoing, or, in many cases, asked mechilla upon realizing they had been wrong. He wasn't mochel, of course. You can't lynch an innocent man without giving him a chance to defend himself and then say "I was wrong, I was mislead, I'm sorry." Or, "I was only following orders."
    If you like, I can get you in touch with Rabbi Fuerst from Chicago, Rabbi Faskowitz from New York, Rabbi Kaplan from Mir, and numerous others that agree that Rabbi Tendler was the victim of an unforgivable crime. But I understand that you really have no choice in the matter, since you know absolutely nothing about the facts of the case, and have abandoned your capacity for rational thought and handed over your decision-making-facility to someone else. I've seen this many times, and I know that kol bo'ei'ha lo yeshuvun, like the Neturei Karta traitors. So don't bother responding, because I know nobody's going to change their minds. It's all "My rabbi says," "My rabbi says," ad nauseum.

  4. Another thing you should think about, if thinking is still an option-
    Rav Mordechai spent all day and much of the night with his grandfather, Reb Moshe, for many, many years. He learned with him, and wrote all his oral psakim, and served as intermediary for all the questions and requests that came in. Additionally, Rav Tendler is known as a dedicated talmid of his wife's mesora, that of the Novardikers, and every Shabbos would learn a chapter of Madreigas Ha'adam with his family at the table. If the accusations are true, then this man took sexual advantage of a confused woman, niddah and tehorah, for many years, in his own home. If such a close talmid of Reb Moshe can be such a disgusting menuval, for year after year, then the mesora of Torah is worthless. If Torah has such little effect on a person, then the Torah is worthless.
    That's what you're saying. Considering what you are doing, do you think it is a good idea to stick your empty head into something that you know nothing about?

  5. Nu nu. Just like the Satmar rebbe thinks a tremendous avlah was done to Nechemiah Weberman. The Gateshead rov is R. Shraga Feivel Zimmerman.

  6. Someone is wrong here. Why are you so sure that Rabbi Zimmerman knows what he's talking about? As I told you, there are many very choshuveh rabbonim and poskim and roshei yeshiva that say he is totally innocent and was falsely accused. Are all of Rabbi Tendler's supporters are also menuvalim? And why are you taking sides? Do you believe that limud hatorah has no hashpa'ah? Are you a bar hochi to talk?

  7. The answer is as follows. Rabbonim never come out against their colleagues for these sorts of issues unless they absolutely have to. And every single rav who has been found guilty of immorality (Motti Elon, Chaim Halpern, Dovid Weinberger) still has very prominent rabbinic supporters. Rabbonim are predisposed not to believe such things about other rabbonim, kal vachomer to come out publicly against them. Did the RCA need this? Did all the rabbonim in Monsey need this? Regarding limmud hatorah, there are many great people who have fallen. Chaim Halpern would have been the most prominent rav in NW London now were in not for the courage of those who exposed him. He was already “the” posek everyone went to for the most serious shailos – and yet that coexisted with a horrifically abusive personality. The belief that talmidei chachomim simply “cannot” be guilty of such things is what got us into this mess in the first place.

  8. As Rav Mordechai's cousin, let me tell you what the family knows:
    One of the primary accusers recanted.
    Several of those at the RCA that had joined in the destruction tearfully came to him and asked mechilla. None were willing to publicly state that they recognize they were wrong, because it would ruin their careers. He was not mochel.
    As I said, great men, poskim and askanim, have taken his side and absolutely defended RM. On what basis do you not believe them? Why do you think an accuser is more trustworthy?
    You say that the RCA hurt itself by supporting the accusation. That is not the case. The RCA benefited from showing their willingness to destroy one of their own. Good for the bureaucratic structure, and the ruin of one man's life was a price they were willing to pay.
    Additionally, there were many that davka wanted to ruin not only RM but to destroy the reputation of all the Tendlers, which is why the accusations against RM were followed by endless and disgusting accusations against two more of his brothers, both Reb Aharon and Reb Hillel. Reb Aharon had to leave his life work, Reb Hillel, baruch hashem, is so respected and loved in his community that the accusations were laughed at. Why would anyone want to ruin the Tendlers? I don't want to go into it, but there were serious arguments about bittul kiddushin and other matters behind the scenes.
    Reb Chaim Halpern- that is an example? He, too, has many advocates. Why are you so confident that he is guilty? Because "my rabbi says so?" The accusations against him and his credence as a posek have deteriorated into comedy, especially the psak he was attacked for about bedika on yom zayin after bathing. Pashut a comedy. It reminded me of a certain Rosh Yeshiva that tried to prove the Lubavitcher Rebbe was an am haaretz.
    I know that great men have fallen into sins of arayos and gezel. Kol hagodol means what it says. But I do not believe it means that kol hagodol has a yetzer hara for meanness and abuse. RMT is accused of physical and emotional abuse that is alleged to have continued for years. I do not believe that a talmid muvhak of the derech of Novarodok, and the talmid muvhak of a gadol hador, could ever become personally abusive.
    Another thing I know is that Moshe Rabbeinu and Yechezkel HaNavi were also accused of the worst issurei arayos. That's because only unprincipled people have limits on what they're capable of doing. When you're doing terrible things "lesheim shamayim," there are no limits.

  9. The fact that you are willing to defend Chaim Halpern, who is backed only by the types who support every Charedi paedophile and pervert, shows just where your mentality takes you. As it happens, Chaim Halpern had a history of abuse, which his rabbinic superiors knew about but hushed up. He admitted touching married women "through a towel" during marriage counseling sessions around 15 years ago - nobody remotely ehrlich would do that. There were also 13 separate women who testified against him - and he did everything in his power to destroy the life of a teenage victim of his. None of this will convince you - I imagine you suspect R. Aharon Lichtenstein of having negiyos in coming out against Motti Elon too.

    1. By "paedophiles and perverts" I mean the likes of Todros Grynhaus, who is currently on trial for raping seminary girls, and is being bankrolled by the same groups who support Chaim Halpern:

  10. I shouldn't have mentioned the case involving R Halpern. I don't know him personally. I just saw someone that called him an am hooretz for allowing bedika after rechitza, and every experienced posek should know that this is a hetter that is resorted to in extreme cases, and calling him names is just a cynical way of to exploit the unlearned. All that doesn't matter. I know Mordechai. He is a gentle and refined individual, about whom such accusations are as incredible as accusing a fish of riding a bicycle. Perhaps these others had a history, as you say. Reb Mordechai did not. And neither did the Navi Yechezkel.
    I'm a nogei'ah, of course, but Rabbi Shmuel Fuerst is not, and Rabbi Faskowitz of Queens is not, and they did and continue to vigorously defend him.
    The bottom line is that Reb Mordechai is innocent. My only safeik is whether his accusers are deranged or malicious, a type that unfortunately is a work hazard of counselors.
    You're obviously an intelligent person. You didn't respond immediately. I simply do not understand on what basis you choose to believe one rov over another. The allegations are out there for everyone, accuser and defender alike. Why would you take a side, especially where the risks are so terrible? Reasonable and experienced judges have differing opinions. Yet you, by making your public assertions, have taken part in a mortal assault, no less terrible than capital punishment, on this individual. Maybe you're fulfilling uviarta haraah. Maybe you're a shofeich dom noki. I just don't understand it. Why????