Q: One Shabbos I saw a neighbor, who lives on the first floor, remove a window from its frame, put some items out into his yard, and then position the window back into place. Because this neighbor doesn’t have a typical yeshivah background, I assume he simply doesn’t know that what he did was forbidden on Shabbos.
I realize that it is incumbent upon me to reprove him in some way (tochachah), but I wouldn’t like to offend him. What can I do?
A: It is clear that you must draw your neighbor’s attention to his transgression on Shabbos. But it is also correct that you must do so without hurting or embarrassing him.
There are various ways to tactfully approach him. Following are some examples:
It is a good idea to shift the blame to his children, as in, “I think I saw one of your children take apart the window on Shabbos in order to put things outside.”
Find an opportune time to share a halachic discussion from your kollel regarding the type of windows you have in your building, and tell him how it was concluded that it is absolutely forbidden to remove them on Shabbos.
Write him an anonymous letter. You can thus gently make him aware of his mistake, emphasizing that he probably forgot the halachah, and that you’re writing instead of approaching him in person so as not to offend him. Sign it as an anonymous person who passed by while he was removing the window.
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