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Sukkat Shalom B'nei Noach



Develop yourself to the best of your ability

וְהַמֶּ֣לֶךְ דָּוִ֔ד שָׁמַ֕ע אֵ֥ת כׇּל־הַדְּבָרִ֖ים הָאֵ֑לֶּה וַיִּ֥חַר ל֖וֹ מְאֹֽד׃

When King David heard about all this, he was greatly upset. *Septuagint adds “but he did not rebuke his son Amnon, for he favored him, since he was his first-born”; cf. 1 Kings 1.6.(II Samuel 13:21)

There are two types of rebukes – one focuses on the evil others do…- The Baal Shem Tov gives an example of a king whose son left the palace and became involved in low behaviors such as theft etc. – two people came to report this to the king. The first came to tell him how low the son became – this aroused the king’s anger and he banished him; the other came with tremendous sadness for the king, over how low the king’s son had fallen. This caused the king to do all in his power to restore his son.[1]

The first person narrates bad things about the king’s son and how low, how bad, he has become. The focus is on the son, on the person. As a descendant of the king, this is also a direct attack on the king himself. Or as the saying goes: the apple does not fall far from the tree. If the apple is bad, then the tree must also be bad, or vice versa.

The second person tells the king that his son has fallen into bad deeds. about the potentials the son had that he did not live up to. Instead of being honest, he steals etc. Now the king does not feel attacked. Bad deeds can be changed because of the good potential that is present. So we see that the king starts using his potential and takes action and does everything in his power to change his son’s actions.

Two things we can learn from this are:

  • No one is inherently bad, only deeds can be bad. Every person has a choice between good and evil because Human beings are created “in G‑d’s likeness.”a This means that, like G‑d, we are endowed with the capacity to do as we please—despite what what our Creator would like us to do.b And indeed, after Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, we read that explicitly: G‑d says, “Verily, this human being is unique, that he has his own mind to choose between good and evil.”c [2]
  • When you rebuke someone, do not rebuke them for their wrong actions – certainly not for their essence – but point out their potential to make good choices. Put the focus on what can go right, not on what has gone wrong.

There is a third learning point. Look at the attitude of the second person who comes before the king. He does not come with an outstretched finger: “your son”…but he comes in tears.

It is easy to make judgements about people. Now look at what he does! We stand before the King and point at His creature: now look what he is doing! The King sends us away from Him, who are we to pass judgement.

However, if we turn to Him in prayer and tell Him about certain actions, deeds, that someone is doing and we tell Him that it grieves us that that person is acting in that way, then this touches Him and He WILL act according to His kindness.

By Angelique Sijbolts


[1] 850 Sayings of the Baal Shem Tov – Kesser Shem Tov .
[2] Will In Judaism
a Genesis 1:26. Ibid 5:1.b See Kli Yakar, Seforno and others ad loc. c Genesis 3:22 according to the translation of Maimonides, Shemoneh Perakim, 8:10. See also Rashi ad loc. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah 5: 1. Midrash Rabba, Genesis 21:5.

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