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Parsha Va’etchanan: Giving Constructive Criticism


In this week’s parsha we look at the value of speaking from the heart.

When the Mitteler Rebbe, Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch, was a young child, an elder chossid once rebuked him, saying, “You’re only the way you are because of your father, Rabbi Schneur Zalman!”

The elder’s words affected young Dov Ber so profoundly, that he ran to his father in tears.

Surprisingly, Rabbi Schneur Zalman expressed gratitude to the chossid:

“Thank you for finally giving my child an education,” he told him. “Your genuine rebuke humbled him – thank you for teaching my child what it really means to be a chossid.”

What a powerful story! Here was the founder of Chabad Chassidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi–and yet he credited his own son’s education to this chossid who had criticized his child.

In truth, the chossid had the audacity to rebuke the son of his Rebbe, and yet, because his care for the child was so real, his understanding of the child’s needs so genuine–his reprimand was truly educational.

But what I think is most impressive is how the young child received the criticism: he didn’t lash back, he simply cried out of recognition of the truth.

Our sages tell us, “Words that come from the heart, enter the heart.” Indeed, young Dov Ber reacted in this way because the chossid reproved him out of love.

For me, this poignant story holds a double lesson: the ability to humbly accept constructive criticism and recognize that there is always room to grow, as well as the importance of communicating from the heart so as to ensure that the receiver perceives your words as an aid to his growth, rather than mere chastisement.

Let’s ensure that our words of critique always come from a genuine place so that those we seek to influence are truly inspired.



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