The Matzav Shmoooze: Post-Tragedy Dumbness


levaya-of-rav-nosson-tzvi-finkelDear Readers,

I am writing about something which terribly pains my heart. Almost every time a tragedy occurs, without fail, there are some people out there who just fire away all types of “prophesies” as to why the tragedy has occurred and who is at fault. I believe this practice is terribly wrong, and may even be quite mean.

I would want to express my pain and hurt at seeing these “prophetic” rebukes, but I’ll try to write more methodically. HaShem has given us a Mitzvah oftochacha– translated as rebuke. When we see someone doing something that runs contrary to HaShems Will, we are commanded to “rebuke” them. It is a Passuk in the Torah “Hochaiach tochiach ess amissecha”.

What is the real definition of tochacha? Is it a free-for-all or does it have Halachos? The Sefer Chareidim says that the route of the word “tochacha” ishochacha– proof! Someone who goes contrary to the Will of HaShem is either unaware that he is doing so, or he is unaware and unclear of its ramifications and the extent of the damage he is causing. The Mitzvah of tochacha, explains the Charaidim, is to prove or enlighten the person to the words of HaShem. Hurting the rebukee or making the rebuker feel “good” through berating others is not mentioned. (In fact, the Sefer Chasidim, quoted by Chofetz Chaim, has some sharp words about such a practice.)

Additionally, there are some clear halachos about rebuke. As a general rule, one may not hurt other people, either physically or emotionally. There are times when we may. There are also times when one may eat on Yom Kippur. I think we would all agree, that when we may, we must be certain that a competent Possaik has been consulted and has also reached these permissible conclusions.

The Gemora in Yevomas 65b declares: “just as it is a Mitzvah to say something that’s heard [accepted] (like the passuk states “Hochaiach tochiach ess amissecha”; Rashi), so too is it a Mitzvah not to say something which is not [accepted]. Rabbe Abbe says chovah,…”

These prophetic comments of “rebuke” and sharp accusations hurled after tragedies will most definitely not be accepted. (Besides, how does anyone even know if they’re on target?) One thing is certain though – they hurt. They hurt the family members. They hurt friends, members of the community and anyone with a caring heart.

I once heard a beautiful vort said by Rav Chaim Stein ZT”L. The Gemora in Shabbos 119b that Yersholaim was destroyed because people did not rebuke each other.

Doesn’t this contradict the Gemora that tells us that the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash (and Yersholaim..) was due to sinas chinam– baseless hatred, which the Chofetz chaim clarifies as being mostly loshen hora? How can the Gemorah now state that it is due to a lack of rebuke? Horav Stein ZT”L answered and explained: rebuke is only effective if it is offered out of care and concern. When there is sinas chinam, people obviously do not care about each other. They either didn’t care enough to rebuke, or even if they would of liked to rebuke, they understood that their rebuke wouldn’t be accepted and therefore refrained from rebuking. But HaShem held them responsible for their lack of successful rebuke since they created the atmosphere in which their rebuke not be accepted (which was through their sinas chinam).

Please, please and please, comment with sensitivity. Comment with concern. And only accuse if you are certain. Chosed biksherim, lokeh begufo. But please, comment out of sincere care.

May we not suffer any more tragedies or pain.


A fellow Jew


The Matzav Shmoooze is a regular feature on that allows all readers to share a thought or analysis, long or short, one sentence or several paragraphs long, on any topic, for readers to mull over and comment on. Email submissions to

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  1. Your point is well taken. I agree, wholeheartedly. If everyone would be as sensitive as this author our world would indeed be a place where toichecha is accepted and relevant.

  2. to the author & everyone else
    after reading your letter i only have one thing i can tell you. Every tragedy that occurs R”L has a wake-up call messsage from Hashem-rather its 9/11, kletzky or why WWII happened etc….?-the problem we have with todays society (yidden or not) is something called FACING REALITY. whenever tragedy strikes the person blocks it from his face & convinces himself not to apply the message of Hashem to him,so that we can just continue our of fancy & happy lavish life.

    This leaves Hashem no other choice but to send another tragedy wake-up call with a message R”L-rather its about teshuva, bitachon or achdus etc…-HOW MANY TRAGEDIES HAVE HAPPENED RECENTLY? have we woken up & gotten the message of Hashem? Thus leaving Hashem no choice but to continue putting sadness on his loving nation Klal yisroel

    May we all do teshuva ASAP & say goodbye to the word tragedy & may mashiach come ASAP

  3. All fine & well but who are you preaching to, the foolish people on the blogs? Who cares about such an insignificant environment? Who is machshiv them? Whats important is to say this to REAL people in the REAL world if this is going on out there. The Gedolim speak to people not blogs or blogers. So my point is dont be Machshiv the few Laitzanim that have nothing better to do with their time & you wont need to stress this point in vain.

  4. Regarding the use of the word “Dumbness” in the article’s title:

    It may be “dumb” to accuse specific people;

    but as #6 writes above;

    the Jews, as a Klal, collectively need to do Teshuva for their sins. What we do down here in the physical world affects the spiritual world above.

    If, heaven forbid, we just ignore the wake-up calls and go on with our lives as though nothing has happened;

    then, heaven forbid, Hashem may allow more tragedies, until we DO wake up.

  5. #6, the problem is when people make specific prophecies, usually without any basis in reality. You’re not a navi. You don’t know exactly why this happened or what klal yisroel’s exact future is.

  6. #2-the author is referring to comments in general. So many times people comment disgustingly false opinions which attack the articles or other’s comments.

  7. The following is from the 1982 edition of the Artscroll Sefer Yehoshua, footnote to Perek 7, pasuk 6 regarding the loss like 36 men at Ai:
    According to Rambam (Hil. Taanis 1:1-3), it is a positive commandment of the Torah for every individual to cry out and search his ways at a time of national calamity, for G-d visits calamities upon Israel to inspire each Jew to repent for his misdeeds. If someone fails to recognize that tragedies occur through an act of G-d rather [than] through happenstance, he is considered cruel, because he will not be motivated to improve his behavior. as a result, G-d will beset Israel with more troubles, until all are motivated to change their ways.

    This doesn’t mean that a particular tragedy is specifically BECAUSE of a specific transgression. But it does mean that we need to look and see what is happening that could have been bad enough to have brought the tragedy. For example, one of the tragedies this past week came right after a particular organization was crowing how one of its shul branches hosted a yeshiva that was forced out of its building by the snowstorm. Yet this same national organization has another branch in Nevada that abuses a widow! Yet no one speaks up for the widow and the organization’s National Council supports the abuser! This may not be the reason a particular tragedy happened to the boys who learned at the shul branch affiliated with the organization anymore than Yair ben Menashe perished at Ai for the sin of Achan ben Carmi. But why allow the abuse of a widow to continue since some other tragedy may come to pass?

  8. #8….are you reading your own comment? I don’t get you..Are you not a commenter. Do you consider yourself foolish and insignificant? You obviously read the blog and commented? What gives?
    Well…here goes…
    There are many educated, intellectual people who do visit the website, however being educated doesn’t guarantee you good middos.I have followed the blogs on many subjects, specifically the latest on R. Nosson T. Finkels ztl petirah. And we do have a serious issue regarding the commenters and how they interact with others (which is not only indicative on this issue, but all blogs)They also extent their “broader view” of things regarding why Hashem does this or that, I guess they know specifically what the tit for tat is regarding our tzoros.
    Your comment is well taken..
    We must be extremely careful with our Ahavas Yisroel and never under any circumstance use foul language or hurt our fellow man!!We are entitled to object to things but rebuke is only rebuke if it is said, as the blogger writes, with a caring heart. If it is coming from genuine caring…the right words will follow.
    May we hear only good news..
    May we be a light onto the nations…A SHINING BRIGHT LIGHT.

  9. The only reason we need people to write such articles is because we are nichshal in the avaira of using the internet!!! How sad that we have to endure all this before we learn our lesson???


  11. #14
    Did you read what i wrote?
    I simply said that the few foolish people that finger point on the web is not something to take serious. This is not the place that any mature, educated & sane person accepts such foolishness as Halacha Limaaseh! Chill out & enjoy your bloging.

  12. the explanation of Comment from LashonTov
    is incorrect- the comment contradicts the very quote from the Artscroll when the comment states: “This doesn’t mean that a particular tragedy is specifically BECAUSE of a specific transgression.”

    Wrong. The explanation is EXACTLY that the tragedy of the loss of lives in the battle of Ai was in the form of a public tragedy to Klal Yisroel specifically BECAUSE of the transgression of Achan which is for some reason imputed in some respect to the Klal’s imperfection.

    The general most mestaver explanation continues… each death of a yachid in the battle of Ai requires its own explanation for why Hashem was justified in taking the soldiers’ lives in the battle.

    The upshot is that tragedies happen in the form of a tragedy to the klal for purposes relevant to the klal, but each yachid’s death or pain requires its own explanation to justify the DIN for each yachid.