Effective Reproof (conclusion)

"אלה הדברים אשר דבר"-The posuk could have said אשר אמר or אשר
הגיד, with אמר representing a softer language and הגיד a harsher one.

We learn that Moshe gave reproof according to the objective
severity of each transgression. Not too soft and not too hard. An
over-exaggerated reaction to a transgression or the opposite, will give the
an unbalanced appreciation of the severity of his actions or will
cause him to doubt the balance of the one giving reproof. Thus אלה הדברים
אשר דבר משה. Moshe gave reproof in accordance with the severity of the

The Sefer Chasidim (Chapter 5) says that the type of
person receiving reproof should be taken into account as well. If he is a gentle
person, the reproof should be given in a gentle manner. If he is a hard person,
the reproof should be given in a way which can penetrate his defenses. The one
giving reproof should use parables, incidents and proofs in order to convince
his student or child to return to Hashem’s ways.

When giving reproof, it is very important to center on one
point and stick with it so as not to confuse the message or diffuse it. The
may feel, as well, that his Rebbe is not sure of the point he is
trying to make.

This is hinted to in אלה הדברים אשר דבר משה.
The addition of אלה הדברים teaches us that ‘these words’-that message-which
Moshe had planned to impart, is the one he actually imparted-אשר דבר. Thus, his
message was clear and effective.

Also, the use of אלה הדברים compares Moshe’s message here
with G-d’s Commandments at Har Sinai-הדברים האלה-(see Ba’al Haturim
here). Just as at Har Sinai Moshe relayed the fundamentals of Torah to Am
Yisroel, here too, he teaches us that reproof should, at first, be limited to
clarifying the fundamental laws at hand. Once these are understood, the
improvement of fine details can follow.

Timing is another important factor when giving reproof. A
well-worded and pertinent message can find itself without listeners if the
timing of the message is wrong.

Here we learn that Moshe chose to give reproof right before
his death. From whom did he learn to do so? From Yaakov Avinu, who refrained
from giving reproof to his children until before his death. As an example,
Yaakov told to his son, Reuvan, that he refused to give him reproof during his
lifetime so that he would not leave and join the ranks of Esav (Rashi Devorim
1:3). At the time immediately preceding death, a child will not rebel for he
feels close to his father for his time with him is limited. This is the time
when reproof has its maximum effect.

The Sifri brings another reason why not to give
reproof until one’s last days; for otherwise the reproof will have to be
repeated again and again. The Sifsei Chochomim explains that when one
receives reproof too often he feels that the one giving reproof hates him and
this causes him not to listen.

Also, according to the Sifri, one should choose the
correct time to give reproof so that it does not embarrass the listener and
cause him to stay clear of the rebuker and forever after not hear or heed his

From whom are people willing to receive reproof? From those
whom they have benefited from in the past! Therefore, Moshe chose, as Rashi
explains in 1:4, to give reproof only after he had defeated Sichon and Og and
Bnei Yisroel had began to inherit Eretz Yisroel.

"אלה הדברים אשר דבר משה" – The Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh
says that this phrasing alludes to Moshe’s absolute control over his speech.
Chazal explain the posuk "ודברת בם" ("and you shall speak in them") [Devorim
6:7] as a command to speak only words of Torah and Chochmoh – non other
(except in cases of need). אלה הדברים stresses this trait of Moshe to limit his

When students/children see that their teachers/parents speak
only as the Torah demands, they will feel that their words of reproof, as well,
are words which should be spoken and are worth listening to.

Limited speech has another benefit. As Rebbe Meir
says, a teacher should always teach in short form. Why? For the shorter, the
more compact the message, the more powerful it is. A lengthy message becomes
diffused and incoherent. "אלה הדברים" – alludes to the need for a condensed and
powerful message.

One who wants his reproof to be accepted should deliver his
message in an indirect manner. Why? For a person instinctively protects his
status and is on constant alert to ward off anyone who tries to tamper with it.

However, the wise person will be on the lookout to improve
his ways and when the reproof is said in a way in which one has a choice to
accept it or not, he will readily accept it (see Kli Yakar here).

Rashi explains that an indirect message keeps the listener’s
honor intact. And, when one feels his honor is respected, he is more willing to
accept another’s words. Thus, Moshe spoke to Bnei Yisroel, only alluding to
their sins and this helped them to accept Moshe’s rebuke.

In short, in order for a teacher or parent to give effective
reproof, he needs to follow these basic steps:

  1. To be a good personal example

  2. To develop a succinct and clear message

  3. To chose the right time to give reproof

  4. To know the characteristic traits of the child

  5. To show the child love and respect

May our reproof be effective, for ourselves, for our students
and our children.

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