This week’s sedra is the beginning of Moshe’s final speech to Bnei Yisrael in the desert, prior to his demise. In this parsha, we read of a number of sins that the Jews committed in their 40 years of wandering, and Moshe’s rebuke to them. However, a number of these sins were committed in the first few years in the desert (the golden calf, the 10 spies etc), so why was Moshe just rebuking them now?
We learn earlier in the Torah, that prior to Yaakov’s death, he rebuked his sons for certain aspects of their behaviour. Moshe was following in Yosef’s footsteps and also knew that his time was coming to an end and therefore rebuked the people. The reason for this being threefold:1)He wouldn’t have to keep rebuking them – we all know what nagging feels like. 2) People would pay attention knowing that Moshe was dying. 3) People wouldn’t be worried/embarrassed about having to face Moshe again.
The word in Hebrew for rebuke is ‘tochacha’, which has the same root as ‘hochacha’ meaning proof. The provides clear proof that the most effective way of reproving someone is not by shouting or through arguments, but rather by providing clear proof, so they can see for themselves what they have done wrong. We all know the feeling of having done something ‘not quite right’ and then seeing the consequences play out, wishing we could change our actions.
In order to give effective criticism, we should remember not to put anyone to shame (criticise actions, rather than the person), phrase the criticism with love and keep the words short and sweet. For example, when mentioning the incident of the golden calf, Moshe merely calls it ‘di zahav’, the ‘place of much gold’. By going into a long drawn out speech, the opposite effect is likely to occur and the person is likely to ignore your words completely. Moshe teaches us that sometimes, less is more.