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Constructive Criticism Part Five - Setting a Personal Example
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

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5/5/10

SETTING A PERSONAL EXAMPLE

HONESTY ABOVE ALL

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, zt”l, offers an insightful point regarding the well-known statement of our Sages: K’shoit atzmecha v’achar kach k’shoit acherim, “Criticize yourself [first] and after that [you can] criticize others.”[i] The phrase is traditionally understood to mean that one should reflect upon one’s actions and self-evaluate before having the temerity to criticize others.

Rav Hirsch says that the first time that the term k’shoit is used in this phrase, it is related to the Aramaic word kushta, meaning “truth” (as in alma d’kshoit – the world of truth; a reference to the World to Come). In other words, be truthful with yourself before rebuking others.

Effective tochacha only occurs in an environment of intellectual honesty. Rav Hirsch implores us to look at ourselves honestly before we address the faults of others. We transmit best to others what we believe in ourselves.

PARENTS AS ROLE MODELS

Many years ago, when I served as an eighth-grade rebbi, I had the pleasure of teaching a grandson of Rav Shimon Schwab zt’l. At the bar mitzvah of my talmid, Rav Schwab zt’l related a beautiful dvar Torah on the topic of parents as role models, which he later published in his sefer Ma’ayan Hashoeva. He used an incident that took place in the months preceding the birth of Simshon Hagibor (Samson) to illustrate his point.

The Navi (Shoftim 13:3) relates that an angel came to Shimshon’s mother and told her that she was going to have a special child, who would be a nazir. That meant that for the boy’s entire life he would live as an ascetic—he would not be able to drink wine, cut his hair, nor come in contact with the dead.

When the woman related this incredible episode to her husband, Monoach, he prayed, (Shoftim 13:8) “Yovoi no oid ailaynu v’yoreinu mah na’aseh l’nar hayulod – Dear G-d; please send the angel to us again, and teach us what to do with this special child who will soon be born.” The angel then appeared to them a second time and told the father, “Mikol asher amarti el haisha tishomeir – Whatever I told your wife (the first time that I appeared); that is what you should do.” The angel then shared with Monoach some halachos about nezirus. Upon hearing these instructions, Monoach expressed his gratitude to Hashem for the additional directives.

Rav Schwab asked, “What additional guidance did he receive during the second visit of the angel?” Didn’t Monoach trust his wife? Why did he need the malach to repeat his instructions? And if, in fact, Monoach needed assistance as to the laws pertaining to a nazir, could he not have read them directly from the Torah?

SETTING A PERSONAL EXAMPLE

Rav Schwab offered a fascinating interpretation as to the request of Monoach and the response of the angel. He explained that Monoach was troubled by the fact that he was being asked to raise a child with a set of halachos that he would not subscribe to. He asked Hashem, “How can I raise my child as a nazir when I myself will be drinking wine? How can I possibly be mechanech my son when I am following a different set of rules?”

During the second visit of the angel, said Rav Schwab, the angel told Monoach, that he, Monoach, should also assume the role of a nazir. Mikol asher amarti el haisha tishomer – YOU should do all that I told the woman. Hashem agreed that Monoach would have great difficulty raising a child with different standards than he himself would ascribe to, and instructed him to take upon himself all the stringencies of a nazir.

Setting a personal example is the most effective manner in which to transmit our beautiful traditions and value system to our children.



[i] Sanhedrin 18a



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