June 22, 2024
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The Prohibitively High Cost Of Poorly Delivered Rebuke And Ignored Rebuke

An Encounter That Went Very Wrong

It is a fateful encounter that shaped the course of Jewish history but went wrong. The unfortunate fact is that if either side handled the situation more constructively, we could have averted tragedy.

Shlomo HaMelech Went Way Overboard

Am Yisrael had enough. Shlomo Hamelech had gone too far with his highly ambitious building projects. Seven years were dedicated to constructing an exceedingly elaborate Beit Hamikdash, 13 years to building Shlomo’s remarkable palace. Now Shlomo Hamelech is building a monstrosity of a house for Bat Paroh! Even worse, her abode will block easy access from Ir David to Har HaBayit! Building a palatial home for Bat Paroh does not even serve the national interest at this time, since Shishak had overthrown her father and established a new Egyptian dynasty.

Yeravam ben Nevat Steps In

A high-ranking official in Shlomo Hamelech’s administration from Shevet Ephraim named Yeravam ben Nevat courageously decides to voice our nation’s discontent. He musters the courage to do the unprecedented and unthinkable—he publicly berates Shlomo Hamelech!

Shlomo Hamelech, unaccustomed to dissent, does not receive this criticism well. He seeks to kill the audacious Yeravam ben Nevat, who flees in haste to Shishak in Mitzrayim to save his life. On the way to Mitzrayim (see further in Radak and Da’at Mikra to Melachim I 11:26 and 29), the Navi Achiyah HaShiloni informs Yeravam he will lead a successful secession of 10 shevatim from Shlomo Hamelech’s son Rechavam’s kingdom. After Shlomo Hamelech dies, Yeravam returns, leads the revolt, and effectuates the permanent break between Malchut Yehuda and Malchut Yisrael. He then undertook steps that eventually led to the loss of the Aseret HaShevatim, the ten northern tribes.

Poorly Delivered Rebuke

Chazal (Sanhedrin 101b) capture the missed opportunity of Yeravam’s crucial confrontation of Shlomo Hamelech. Chazal teach that Yeravam ben Nevat deserved the kingship due to his courageous stand against Shlomo Hamelech’s heavy-handedness. However, all the male members of Yeravam ben Nevat’s family are murdered by the rebel Ba’ashah as punishment for Yeravam’s public scolding of King Shlomo (which led to much more severe sinning on the part of Yeravam ben Nevat).

Yeravam could have and should have called for a private meeting with Shlomo Hamelech and conducted a polite but frank discussion of the Bat Paroh project. Yeravam was a talented administrator, respected and valued by Shlomo Hamelech, and Shlomo Hamelech likely would have agreed to a meeting. He may have even considered taking his advice, delivered in private to preserve his dignity, to heart. The rebellion and secession would have been unnecessary, and the ten tribes would not be lost!

On the Shlomo Hamelech side of the equation, had he taken his advice (Mishlei 9:8) of “reprove a wise man, and he will love you,” immense tragedy could have been averted. Even though Yeravam ben Nevat delivers his mussar poorly, Shlomo Hamelech is sufficiently wise to recognize the truth inherent in Yeravam’s complaint. If only both sides made better choices, things would not have gone so awry!

Conclusion

Wise individuals take the lessons of this mishandled confrontation to heart and realize how poor choices lead to terrible results. How easily so much unnecessary suffering and loss could have been avoided! If we have to rebuke someone, we must do so with great caution and wisdom. When we are on mussar’s receiving side, we should take the truth to heart even if the mussar was not delivered kindly. In the long run, wise management of criticism can bring significant benefits and avoid severe consequences.


Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck. He also serves as a rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County and a dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth.

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