Friday, April 19, 2013

Two-Minute Torah: Rebuke

Again this week we read a double Torah portion. The second portion, Kedoshim, contains Leviticus 19 which is known as the “Holiness Code.” It begins by telling us that we are to be holy as God is holy. It then goes on to tell us some of what that means.

A bit later we read the following: “17 Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart: thou shalt surely rebuke thy neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.
18 Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people; but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am Adonai.”

It is a standard principle of rabbinic interpretation that if two verses appear together they are in some way connected. Here we are told: don’t hate your brother; rebuke him if he does something wrong; don’t take vengeance or bear a grudge; love your neighbor.

Nachmanides, who lived in Spain about 800 years ago, says that the verse means the following: when we think someone has wronged us, we should not stay silent and get angry or bear a grudge. We should lovingly ask the person why they did what they did. Either they will explain why they did it, and we’ll understand and not be angry anymore; or they will realize they did something wrong and apologize. Nachmanides says that often the source of hatred and vengeance is in our failure to communicate.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks sums it up this way:  “by being honest with one another, talking things through, we may be able to achieve reconciliation – not always, to be sure, but often. How much distress and even bloodshed might be spared if humanity heeded this simple command.”

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