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The source for the obligation to offer reproof to a neighbour is the verse: ‘Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt surely rebuke thy neighbour and not suffer sin because of him’ (Leviticus 19: 17). The plain meaning of the verse is: if you believe that your neighbour has wronged you, do not keep silent and hate him in your heart but rebuke him for his offence and have done with it. It is as if the verse is saying: if you bear a grudge against someone get it off your chest and then forget about it, instead of bottling it up inside you and going about with hatred seething in your heart. But the Rabbis extend the obligation to offer rebuke whenever a neighbour has committed or intends to commit any offence, whether ethical or religious, as the prophets rebuked the people for their shortcomings. Rabbis and preachers, especially, were called upon to offer constant rebuke to their people, although Hasidism was unhappy about the severe castigations indulged in by the preachers. The Rabbis were realistic enough to appreciate that a rebuke can all too easily encourage defiance, hence the Rabbinic saying: ‘Just as it is meritorious to offer reproof when it is known that it will be heeded, it is meritorious not to rebuke when it is known it will not be heeded’ (Yevamot 65b).

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies.

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