Teaching Torah vs. Tochachah
Most outreach professionals teach Torah as the central part of their outreach efforts. The source for the mitzvah of teaching Torah to the unaffiliated is not the same as that for other
aspects of kiruv, such as inviting them for Shabbos. Determining the original source for these laws has practical ramifications. For example, there is a principle in the laws of tochachah that people who will not heed the message are better off remaining unaware transgressors than
knowing that they are sinning and doing so flagrantly. However, this principle certainly does not apply to teaching Torah. Thus, we may teach about Shabbos to a class of unaffiliated Jews even though we know that the students are not going to walk out of the class and start being Shabbos-observant.
Another illustration of this distinction can be seen in the case of a recent ba’al teshuvah. We know that it is in his best interest not to take on the observance of all the mitzvos at once. However, is it permissible to advise him to abstain from practicing a mitzvah now in the interests of ensuring that his long-term spiritual growth will be sustainable? Although there are many facets to this issue, at least one opinion contends that this clash of our obligation toward a person’s short-term growth versus his long-term growth is a clash between our obligation of tochachah and our duty to teach Torah. Tochachah aims for immediate behavioral change, whereas Torah study aspires for longer-term growth.
Since there is a principle that Torah study ranks supreme among the mitzvos, we favor the long-term growth over the unsustainable short-term change. In Chapter XIII, Section I, we will address the issue of whether one can fulfill the mitzvah of tochachah without producing any behavioral change in the recipient. This issue certainly does not arise in teaching Torah. Every word of Torah has intrinsic value even if it is not always obvious to us.
Please refer to the archives below for the previously published chapters of the Laws of Outreach:
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