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 click here to continue reading Chapter X: Teaching Torah

Please click here to purchase a copy of the Laws of Outreach.


Please refer to the archives below for the previously published chapters of the Laws of Outreach:

Preface to The Laws of Outreach

Chapter I: The Mitzvos of Kiruv

Chapter II: Kiruv as a Rescue Mission

Chapter III: Categories of Transgressors and Our Obligations Toward Them

Chapter IV:  Contemporary Non-Observant Jews

Chapter V: Halachic Applications of Tinokos Shenishbu in our Time

Chapter VI: Lifnei Iver

Chapter VII: Invitations for Shabbos

Chapter VIII: Kiruv Through Food

Chapter IX: Marriage



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