top of page

Love and Reproof


Torah Portion: Parashat Acharei Mot - Kedoshim

Shabbat: April 29, 2023 / Iyyar 8, 5783

Torah: Acharei Mot Lev. 16:1-18:30 Kedoshim Lev. 19:1-20:27

Prophets: Amos 9:7-15


Jesus’ Prayer For All Believers

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me”. John 17:20-23


As a matter of psychological fact, we all make various judgments every day. Most of these judgments concern matters of empirical fact: Is this water safe to drink? Will that old ladder support my weight? Does that paint color match the color of the walls in the house? And so on. Other inferences have to do with logical deduction: did I subtract the proper amounts to accurately balance my bank statement? If we know that Mr. Fuddledum was in Chicago on a business trip at the time of the murder in Detroit, then he cannot be the murderer...

Many judgments or inferences are "preconscious" features of human experience. We don't usually ask if we are currently dreaming right now rather than experiencing something "real." We unreflectingly assume that our perceptions of space and time are reasonably accurate so that we can navigate in the world. We further assume that the future will resemble the past, that the sun will rise tomorrow, and that real patterns of existence are discernible to human reason. We likewise assume that the basic laws of logic apply: that x=x, that something cannot both be entirely red and entirely green at the same time and place, that 1+1=2, that if A is larger than B, and B is larger than C, then A is larger than C, and so on.

Beyond such matters of fact and logical deduction, it's also psychologically necessary to make value judgments. I am not referring to subjective preferences regarding the taste of certain foods, the appreciation of a particular piece of art, and so on, but rather value that is ascribed to the knowing process itself. Why should we care to know something rather than nothing? What makes "truth" valuable and "error" something to be avoided? After all, the empirical science can only be engaged using metaphysical assumptions that 1) there is an external world; 2) the scientific method is useful to understand that world; 3) the laws of logic are applicable to the world; 4) it is good to know rather than not to know, and so on.

I say all this as backdrop to the quandary of making judgments about the moral behavior of persons... Of course in today's political climate we are regularly propagandized by the mass media, the entertainment industry, and the secular educational system to unthinkingly accept all moral choices as equally valid. According to the "political correctness" dogma of today, values are relative and therefore no one is in a position to judge the moral choices of others. "Tolerance" is therefore the only real virtue in a pluralistic society. Of course this viewpoint is utter nonsense, since it is obvious that the word "tolerance" is used as a veiled demand for the acceptance of promiscuous moral choices rather than as part of a genuine argument for relativism per se. After all, an absolute relativist could not (logically) deny the values of a violent fanatic, a rapist, or a mass murderer as being any less significant than those of others. An absolute relativist is therefore committed to making the absurd claim that there is no essential difference between the actions of Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler, for example, since there is no transcendent basis, no objective standard, no court of appeal beyond the realm of subjective human preference by which a real moral judgment can be ascertained. It should be obvious that absolute relativism is a self-stultifying and therefore irrational position, and that whenever the word "tolerance" is used a means of squelching appeals to moral reality, you can be sure that this linguistic trick is employed to further an evil agenda...

At any rate, the followers of the Messiah have a responsibility to exhort and help one another, and this often involves offering "reproof" or correction (Heb. 3:12-13, Rom. 15:4; Eph. 5:11, 2 Tim. 4:2). But how can we do this in a loving way? Isn't it easier to heed the statement of Yeshua: "Don't judge, so that you won't be judged" (Matt. 7:1) and overlook the faults of our brothers and sisters?

The sages advise that when you feel compelled to reprove your brother or sister, you must reprove yourself at the same time. Know that you have a share in his or her sin.... Reproaches must be spoken from love, not ill-will, and three conditions must be present for reproof to be acceptable: 1) the one who reproves must do so in genuine humility; 2) the person being reproved must be ready to receive correction; and 3) it is categorically forbidden to shame the person in public. If you cannot offer correction with such mildness, you are better off letting the matter go....

Obviously offering godly reproof requires a great deal of wisdom, and often the indirect approach is the best method. The Baal Shem Tov interpreted, "You shall reprove your neighbor" (Lev. 19:17) as follows. When you wish to correct a friend who has transgressed, do not do so to his face, for you will then cause him grief and embarrassment. You cannot fulfill a mitzvah by way of sin... Instead, speak words of reproof to an acquaintance who clings to Torah and mitzvot and is not guilty of the transgression in question. When the transgressor then hears this reproof, he will understand that it is he who must listen to this admonition and correct his ways... In this way you will avoid shaming the person -- and at the same time, he may repent.

The underlying principle here is love, and this leads to the quintessential commandment given in the Torah: "you shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am the LORD" (Lev. 19:18). If you love your fellow man as yourself, you will refrain from taking vengeance or bearing a grudge (i.e., taking offense). Just as you intuitively care for yourself -- despite the fact that you know you are frail and full of faults -- so must you love your neighbor in spite of his or her faults...

31 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page