Positive Criticism[Editor’s note: As a memory of my beloved brother Shaya, I would like to continue sending out his pearls of wisdom that he has shared with all of you in the past. For some of you this may ring a bell and for others it may appear to be totally new. May the learning of Shaya’s Divrei Torah inspire us to change our ways and thereby give an Aliya to the neshama of our dear beloved Shaya whom we miss so much. A special thank you to Aaron Friedman for always looking over the divrei torah.]
Parshas Acharei Mos:
The Medrash says that when Iyov heard that the two sons of Aharon died, he became very frightened. Why?
Chazal explain that Iyov was afflicted with suffering because when he was an advisor to Pharoh, Iyov did not protest to Pharoh’s decision to throw the Jewish babies into the river.
Chazal also say that Nadav and Aveehoo were punished because of the following incident: when Moshe & Aharon were walking, followed by Nadav and Aveehoo, Nadav turned to Aveehoo & asked ‘when will these two elders [Moshe & Aharon] die, and we will finally be able to take over as leaders of Klal Yisroel?’
Of course there is a deep understanding for why Nadav said what he said, and it wasn’t a petty lust for power, but either way, why was AVEEHOO punished? He didn’t say anything, he remained completely silent!?
We can learn from Aveehoo a very important lesson, which is that if someone sees his friend doing something wrong, being quiet isn’t good enough; he is obligated to protest. Since Aveehoo didn’t protest, he was killed.
So when Iyov heard that the two sons of Aharon died [not just Nadav but Aveehoo also], he understood this concept; silence is admission, and remaining quiet does not suffice. Therefore, he feared that he, too, would be punished because he also had just been quiet and hadn’t protested to Pharoh’s decision. And that is what ultimately happened to Iyov.
I am not citing this Dvar Torah to say that we should jump at every opportunity to protest and attend every rally under the sun! We should all follow our Daas Torah when to attend rallies and protests and when not to. But, if we are in a situation where we know protesting a friend or colleague’s improper actions will be under the guidelines set forth by the Torah for when one should protest or give rebuke, let us gather the strength not to be quiet [and certainly not to laugh or encourage], but to speak out firmly for the sake of the glory of Hashem.
The Pasuk in this week’s Parsha tells us that when one rebukes his fellow Jew ‘ולא תשא עליו חטא.’ The simple explanation is that one should be careful to give rebuke in a way where you will not sin, like by embarrassing him.
The Chavas Ya’eer & other commentators explain in a homiletic twist that ולא תשא עליו’ חטא’ means, don’t raise the sin over him. Don’t say ‘how could you do such a terrible thing, you are such a wicked person.’ Rather, lift him up over the sin. Say ‘you are such a special person; it’s not befitting for someone of your stature to do something like that.’
Perhaps we can take this theme one step further. Not only in regards to rebuking others do we have to be very careful to refrain from derogatory comments and only give positive reinforcement, but also in how we view ourselves. If a person views himself as being a bad person who has sinned in the past, then when more tests come his way, the person might say ‘I’m such a bad person already so what difference does it make if I sin once more?’Or, ‘I’m a not a holy person so my learning, davening, & Mitzvos aren’t valuable’.
That is a terrible mistake!
The correct outlook is to say ‘I am a sincere and good person. Although I am not perfect and have my shortcomings, I am seeking to grow and change for the better’. With that outlook, when one is tested with challenges one will be able to say ‘no I am not going to give in to the Yetzer Hara because the act that he wants me to do is not befitting someone of my caliber!’
Let us all take this lesson from the Parsha to heart. To always give positive, constructive criticism and for ourselves to always have a healthy self-esteem. This will Iy”H help us overcome a lot of the tests & challenges that the Yetzer Hara sends our way.[Editor’s note: This was Shaya’s motto. Shaya lived and breathed this every second of his life. Always trying to find the good in every person no matter how far they may have strayed from the path. May we all try to find the good in everyone we meet, and thereby bring an aliya to Shaya’s Neshama.]
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