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    A good telling off – Ki Tavo

    There is no accounting for taste, and so we should not be too surprised that some people actually enjoy hearing the curses of the Tochechah which take up a large part of the sidra.

    Nor is it a surprise when a rabbi utters a rebuke and some of the congregation get pleasure out of it and actually say, “He gave it to them today, didn’t he?”

    Note of course that it is always “them”, not “us” (or worse still, “me”). Somehow it’s always the others that are at fault and deserve their telling off. Likewise on Yom Kippur, which now is only a matter of a couple of weeks away, the sins listed in the confessions are always other people’s sins, never one’s own.

    Naturally, the one mitzvah which hardly anyone complains about is hoche’ach tochi’ach et emitecha, “You shall surely rebuke your fellow” (Lev. 19:17).

    A rabbi who administers a reproof is considered a great orator and a fearless man of courage, so long as it’s “the others” who are the target. When a certain minister singled out a certain lady’s favourite sin, she said to her neighbour in disgust, “Look, he’s stopped preaching and started meddling!”

    Of course one can go to the opposite extreme and feel guilty about every sin in the book, even those one could not possibly have committed.

    So the best approach is surely to have the honesty to say, “If something wrong has happened in our community, we all bear a share of the blame, and if I myself have been guilty of an occasional lapse, I am prepared to admit it to God and myself and to begin doing some repairs on myself!”

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