In a recent article, The Psychology of Criticism, I wrote of the dangers of engaging in criticism, especially of what others may, or may not, be doing in the field of Hafotzo in general and publicizing the Rebbe’s Besuras Hageulah especially.
It makes us feel involved and gives off an aura of caring about the Rebbe’s inyonim without having to actually do anything about it.
To be sure, I was criticizing in that piece. I was criticizing myself and others for engaging in this form of criticism.
But truth to be said, criticism is legitimate and useful sometimes, when offered by the right person, to the right person, on a rightful problem, in the right way.
The Torah does give a mitzvah of Hocheach Tochiach Es Amisecha, to rebuke one’s friend when he sees him doing something wrong. The Torah only cautions that “lo sisa alav chet” — not to do so in a sinful manner. One such way is criticizing in order to create for oneself a “holier than thou” image.
Another form of sinful rebuke is failing to realize that if you can see evil in a fellow Jew, it is because it exists within you as well. When you criticize someone else, you must also criticize and scrutinize yourself to find — and eradicate — the same problem as it is within yourself.
We are taught by the Rebbe, both directly and by example, mainly about Shleimus Haaretz, Mihu Yehudi, and Moshiach, that there is an obligation to sometimes call out wrongdoing, but let’s remember that there is a price tag attached to calling out wrong — it requires the reprover to call out his own faults and fix them, lest you will sin while doing this important mitzvah, the lack of which was one of the leading reasons for the Churban Beis HaMikdash.
Another price tag that comes along with constructive criticism, is that when someone who is an object of your criticisms does something right, let alone acts upon your critique, you should point that out as well.
Failing to do so would be dishonest and deceitful. It shows one thing only: you criticized in order to exemplify your self-righteousness; not because you cared about the situation.
This is true between spouses, between teachers and students, and between community members.
I, maybe too often, use this respected platform to offer criticism on a host of topics. But almost always, directly or indirectly, I write about the state of affairs of the Moshiach-campaign inside Lubavitch.
It’s no secret that Beis Moshiach represents a certain school-of-thought, or more precisely, in a certain way of expressing the beliefs about the currency of Moshiach and the identity of Moshiach that were taught to us by the Rebbe – a mode of operation that some community members, especially shluchim, may be uncomfortable with.
But truth to be told, there can be many ways how to spread Moshiach awareness, and who is to say one is more correct than the other? Whatever works, works. If something doesn’t work for someone, then it doesn’t.
But I strongly believe backing out from it — intentionally, and even unintentionally – is not an option.
I think it’s not legitimate that overall, Lubavitch looks the same as it looked 30 years ago — just bigger and more professional — 27 years after the Rebbe gave over the mission to us to bring Moshiach.
This is not a criticism of what people do, it’s that they don’t do anything significant at all.
But if I’m ready to criticize, I should be ready to compliment and applaud too.
A few weeks ago, a friend with whom I had conversations about this matter sent me a message with a link to a new playlist on the Ashreinu App.
The Ashreinu App is an application developed by JEM, which contains all the Rebbe’s recorded sichos and farbrengens, a true treasure by all means.
One beautiful feature on the Ashreinu App, besides for the high quality of the sound of the Rebbe’s farbrengens is the “playlists” that are periodically posted on it that present selected portions of sichos and ma’amarim on timely topics, with a short headline and synopsis that invites you to take a listen, even if you only have a few minutes available.
JEM is an organization which I particularly appreciate. They do a tremendous Avodas Hakodesh in presenting the Rebbe’s Teachings and guidance to tens of thousands of Jews around the world in many languages.
JEM is an organization that I also have some harsh criticism on. Firstly, for the strange insistence to describe the Rebbe as a “righteous memory” on almost every beautiful program they produce, as well as for failing to impress upon the people they reach, how high on the Rebbe’s “priority list,” if we may say it so, is the inyan of Moshiach.
But I hope this will change, and this new playlist on the Ashreinu App, currently available only in Yiddish (audio only) is a good sign.
A few weeks ago, Ashreinu rolled out a new pre-Gimmel Tammuz series about Moshiach. It is meant to span six weeks, and cover key topics about Moshiach the Rebbe spoke about throughout the years and especially recently.
A pleasant surprise was to find on playlist number two (“The Time is Near”), several snippets of sichos from 5751 and 5752 like Yemos HaMoshiach (19 Kislev ’52) and The Table Is Set (10 Teves ’52).
This brings to mind the Rebbe’s instruction in the winter of 5752, that the Va’ad L’Hafotzas Sichos should add to the Likkutei Sichos B’Inyonei Moshiach U’Geulah recent sichos…
This is a great development, and I hope it will continue into the weekly Living Torah magazine, special feature DVD’s on Moshiach, and the other high-quality productions JEM does.
If you see yourself fit to call out wrongdoing, you should be able to give credit when it’s due.