Rebuke and Love

One of the most loving things we can do for someone is offer them rebuke. Not in the mean way, but in a way that says: I hear you and I care about you.

(יז) לֹֽא־תִשְׂנָ֥א אֶת־אָחִ֖יךָ בִּלְבָבֶ֑ךָ הוֹכֵ֤חַ תּוֹכִ֙יחַ֙ אֶת־עֲמִיתֶ֔ךָ וְלֹא־תִשָּׂ֥א עָלָ֖יו חֵֽטְא׃

(17) You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Surely rebuke (hocheach tocheach) your kinsman but incur no guilt because of him/her. (From the Torah)


  • The words in bold indicate an emphasized point, articulating that this idea is essential to the verse. What does it mean to surely rebuke someone? Why is that the essence of the verse?
  • This verse has three parts. What does each part teach us about rebuking someone? What does the last part (beginning with but incur...) add to the argument that is important for the community we strive to create at Or Ami?

ר' יהודה ליב, המוכיח מפולנאה

המוכיח צריך קודם כל לבדוק את עצמו
אם אין לו טינא שבלב, רוגז, או הקפדה
כלפי האיש שהוא עומד להוכיחו. רק
אם ברי לך שאינך שונא את אחיך
בלבבך, רשאי אתה להוכיחו.

Rabbi Yehudah Lieb, the “Rebuker of Polonia,” Hasidic commentary on Leviticus 19:17

One who wishes to rebuke must first of all check whether s/he has some hidden complaint, anger or compulsion regarding the one whom s/he is about to rebuke. Only after it is clear to you that you do not hate your brother in your heart are you permitted to rebuke.


  • What does this add to our understanding of rebuke?
  • How does this compliment what we learned about rebuke above?

ערכין ט״ז:

תנו רבנן: (ויקרא יט:יז) "לא תשנא את
אחיך בלבבך" יכול לא יכנו, לא יסטרנו,
ולא יקלקלנו ת״ל: "בלבבך," שנאה
שבלב הכתוב מדבר. מנין לרואה
בחבירו דבר מגונה שחייב להוכיחו?
שנאמר: (ויקרא יט:יז) הוכח תוכיח
הוכיחו ולא קבל מנין שיחזור ויוכיחנו?
תלמוד לומר: "תוכיח" מכל מקוםֹ. יכול
אפי משתנים פניו? ת"ל:"לא תשא עליו

Talmud Bavli, Arachin 16b

A. Our Rabbis taught: “You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart.” One might have thought one may not strike him/her, slap him/her or curse him/her, therefore Scripture teaches b'lvavecha “in your heart” --hatred in the heart the text is speaking of. From where do we know that one who sees something offensive in his neighbor, he is obligated to reprove him/her? As it is said hocheach tocheach “you shall surely rebuke.” If s/he rebuked him/her and he did not accept it, from where do we learn that he must rebuke him/her again? The Torah teaches tocheach (the second of the doubling verbs “rebuke”)--in every case/always. One might have thought one should rebuke even if one will cause his/her face to be blanched. Therefore Scripture teaches: “do not bear sin on account of him.” (Leviticus 19:17)


  • The very end of this passage says that we might have thought it good to rebuke if it causes someone else pain. But the text then says that is not the case. Why do we not rebuke someone if it causes them pain?
  • When and how might it be acceptable to rebuke someone, both based on this text and from your own experience?