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How to give helpful criticism - Devarim

Monday, 5 August, 2019 - 2:01 pm

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What do you hate hearing most of all?

Many will answer criticism. A critical comment can take the wind out of sails and cause us to choose not to do anything at all. It discourages us from even trying.

On the other hand, we need the criticism. Because only then can we improve. A person usually doesn’t see what he needs to improve in himself...

Is there a right way to give criticism?

In this week’s Parasha Dvarim, Moses start his last speech to the Jewish people before his death. In this speech, he rebukes the Jewish people for their sins. Moses doesn’t describe the sins with details, on the contrary, he only alludes to them. He condemns the sin but shows understanding for the sinners.

For instance, in order to speak about the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses refers to a place that is called “Dei Zahav”, which means “Enough Gold”. Yet, such a place doesn’t exist. It’s clear that this is a reference to the sin. But Moses shows understanding: they had so much gold that it was difficult for them not to get carried away…

When the criticism is said with so much love and understanding, with truly good intentions, the other person accepts it.

Let’s try to follow Moses’ example. If we must give criticism, let’s think well before we speak and not hurry. Let’s think with love and understanding about the recipient of the criticism, let’s choose our words carefully in order not to shame or hurt him. In this way, our criticism will indeed be helpful.

Shabbat Shalom,


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