Minute 717: Like a Knife

“I can’t believe Jackie said that to me!” Ezra exclaimed. “Who does he think he is to talk to me that way? I’m so angry I don’t know if I’ll ever speak to him again!”

“Calm down, Ezra,” Mr. Edelberg said. “I’m not so sure you’re reading this situation correctly. I know Jackie very well and if he did, in fact, try to hurt you it would be out of character for him.”

“I don’t think it was very nice of him to say what he did, though,” Ezra persisted.

“I read in a very important sefer [Chochmah U’Mussar, vol. 2, p. 218] that one doesn’t get angry with a doctor who diagnoses one’s illness, because it opens the door to work on a cure,” Mr. Edelberg said. “So, too, one shouldn’t be upset when someone points out one’s faults because that can jumpstart working on oneself to remedy a character flaw.”

Criticism is like a knife — it can cut deeply and inflict pain. Sometimes the one delivering the criticism would like to hurt the subject of one’s derision. However, a knife may be used to cut in constructive ways, too. One should be prepared to accept well-intentioned criticism as a prompt for self-improvement. Having a weakness is acceptable; failing to fix it is not. If one drops one’s defense system to allow comments to penetrate, one will benefit like one who accepts a doctor’s diagnosis and follows the treatment plan. If one can say, “How lucky I am that this person suggested ways in which I can improve” rather than become angry, one will eventually become better.

One More Second: Another Thought for the Day

The essence of the words “And you shall tell your children” is buried in the words “at the time when matzah and maror are placed before you.” When a Jew comes to perform the mitzvah of “and you shall tell your children,” he does it by speaking words over matzah and maror and by demonstrating how he himself actually performs the mitzvot — how he himself actuates the commandments and how he himself lives with perfection as a Jew. (Rabbi Moshe Sherer, Bishtei Einayin, p. 51)


Rabbi Raymond Beyda serves in the Sephardic Community in Brooklyn, N.Y. He lectures to audiences all over the world. He has distributed over 500,000 recorded lessons free of charge. He is author of the book 1 Minute With Yourself: A Minute a Day to Self-Improvement, Sephardic Press, 2008.