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Traditional Jewish text - Texts about Tokh'ha (rebuke)

b. Arakhin 16b

How do we know that one who sees something unseemly in one's neighbor is obliged to give tokh'ḥa to that person? Because it is said: You shall surely give tokh'ḥa. (hokhiaḥ tokhiaḥ) (Leviticus 19:17 )If one gave tokh'ḥa and the other did not accept it, how do we know that one must give tokh'ḥa again? The text says: "surely give tokh'ḥa" (in a double formation). One might assume [this to be obligatory] even if one's face is whitened (if one is embarrassed) as a result of the tokh'ḥa, therefore the text says, "You shall not bear sin because of another person." (ibid)

It was taught: Rabbi Tarfon said, "I would be surprised if there is anyone in this generation who accepts tokh'ḥa, for if one says to another: Remove the splinter from between your eyes, the other would answer: Remove the beam from between your eyes!" Rabbi Eleazar b. Azariah said: I would be surprised if there is anyone in this generation who knows how to give tokh'ḥa! R. Yohanan ben Nuri said: I call heaven and earth to witness for myself that Akiva was often punished on my behalf because I used to complain against him before Rabban Gamliel and all the more he showered love upon me, to make true what has been said: Do not give tokh'ḥa to a scorner, lest that person hate you; give tokh'ḥa to a wise person and that person will love you.

Devarim Rabbah 1:9

"These are the words." Our rabbis said, God said to Moses, "Since they accepted your tokh'ḥa from you, you need to bless them." Right away, Moses went and blessed them…anyone who accepts tokh'ḥa merits a blessing.

B'reishit Rabbah 54:3

Abraham gave Avimelekh tokh'ḥa. Rabbi Yossi bar Hanina said, "tokh'ḥa leads to love, as it says 'give tokh'ḥa to a wise person and that person will love you." This is the opinion of Rabbi Yossi bar Hanina, as he said that any love that is not accompanied by tokh'ḥa is not love. Resh Lakish said, "tokh'ḥa leads to peace, as it says "Abraham gave Avimelekh tokh'ḥa" This is his opinion, as he said "any peace that is not accompanied by tokh'ḥa is not peace."

Sefer Yere'im 195, d"h "v'asher amarnu" (Rabbi Eliezer ben Rabbi Shmuel of Metz [Re'em], France 12th century)

We have learned a caution against embarrassing another, even in the case in which the mitzvah of tokh'ḥa applies. The Torah said to be careful to give tokh'ḥa on matters that will not embarrass another; even the more so, one should be careful not to embarrass another needlessly.

Discussion Questions: 
  1. Why do you think the Rabbis make such a strong case for the necessity of tokh'ḥa? Do you agree that there cannot be real peace without tokh'ḥa? Why or why not?
  2. What do these texts suggest are the best conditions for giving tokh'ḥa?
  3. Do you think there are cases in which tokh'ḥa should not be given? What are they?
  4. Consider what you've studied about the Civil Rights Movement and identify examples of tokh'ḥa. In your opinion, were these cases in which tokh'ḥa was given appropriately? Was giving tokh'ḥa productive?
  5. Can you think of a contemporary example of tokh'ḥa? Can you think of a contemporary example where you think tokh'ḥa should be given but hasn't been?
  6. Do you think yours is a generation that knows how to give tokh'ḥa? Do you think your generation knows how to receive tokh'ḥa? Explain your answers.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Traditional Jewish text - Texts about Tokh'ha (rebuke)." (Viewed on April 23, 2014) <http://jwa.org/teach/livingthelegacy/texts-about-tokhha-rebuke>.