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The month of Elul has begun, and rabbis are already planning their sermons for the High Holidays. There are some who are convinced that it is their duty to viciously chastise their flock from the pulpit. They actually pride themselves in how harsh they can be.

The story of Isaiah tells us just how wrong this approach is. Isaiah referred to the Jews as a people of “impure lips.” He did so in private conversation with G-d, and only to be truthful before G-d. Yet he was immediately punished for speaking so about G-d’s children.

How much more so, should one never speak disparagingly of a Jew or a group of Jews in public. If your aim is to teach them right from wrong, then speak in a way that will be heard — in a gentle and positive way. Always focus on the goodness that Torah and Mitzvos bring.

30 Menachem Av, 5742 · August 19, 1982
Living Torah Program 309