Pirkei Avot, “Ethics of the Fathers,” states in chapter 6:6: “The Torah is acquired in 48 ways.” This week: Way #32, “Loving reproof”
Who likes to be told that he or she is wrong? One who seeks to acquire the Torah.
“The seal of G-d is truth,” says the Talmud. The Torah is the repository of G-d’s truth. If one seeks that, one needs to be reproved when one deviates from the truth.
But who is capable of administering rebuke?
When is the propitious time?
Rabbi Nosson Zvi Finkel (1849-1927), who supervised the Slobodka yeshiva, once reproved a student for smirking when another student slipped up.
Rabbi Finkel administered the reproof eight years after the incident.
Besides testifying to the incredible educational focus and memory of Rabbi Finkel — how many thousands of other incidents had he witnessed over eight years — why did he wait so long?
“Because the student wasn’t capable of accepting the rebuke until now,” he said.
To reprove effectively is to be wise and patient. To need reproof is to be human. But a smirk is hardly a major sin. To love reproof even for minor matters is to show great desire to acquire the Torah.
The 32nd way to acquire the Torah: Loving Reproof.
Way #1, Study; Way #2, Listen; Way #3, Articulate Speech; Way #4, Understanding of the Heart; Way #5, An Intelligent Heart; Way #6, Awe; Way #7, Fear; Way #8, Humility; Way #9a, Joy; Way #9b, Purity; Way #10, Serving the Sages; Way #11, Interaction with colleagues; Way #12, Exchanges with students; Way #13, Deliberation; Way #14, Scripture; Way #15a, Mishnah; Way #15b, Limited Business Activity; Way #16a, Limited Marital Relations; Way #16b, Portion Control; Way #17, Limited Pleasure; Way #18, All nighters; Way #19, Limited Conversation; Way #20, Limited Entertainment; Way #21, Slowness to anger; Way #22, A good heart; Way #23, Faith in the sages; Way #24, Acceptance of suffering; Way #25, Knowing one’s place; Way #26, Happiness with one’s lot; Way #27, Have a filter; Way #28, Claim no credit; Way #29, Being beloved; Way #30, Loving the Omnipresent; Way #31, Loving G-d’s creatures; Way #31b, Loving acts of charity