Accepting the Unacceptable

It’s a typical Shabbos morning, but since there’s a Simcha there are more guests than normal. After finishing their Shemoneh Esrai, two guests close to you start to converse about politics and continue through most of the repetition. You’re upset at their unacceptable behavior in this normally quiet Shul, but you don’t saying anything because they’re guests.

What if one of the talkers was a very close friend who you respected greatly? The talking behavior would still be incorrect, but it would probably be a little less unacceptable. Maybe on other occasions our own behavior is deemed unacceptable in the eyes of others. Certainly we wouldn’t appreciate their condemnation in such a situation.

We had a case in Shul recently where someone exhibited what was deemed unacceptable behavior by some members. The Rav was asked if the incorrect behavior could be pointed out in a nice way. The Rav replied that unless the corrector was very close to the person, he would probably not accept the correction and therefore it shouldn’t be pointed out.

In the perfect Shul, everybody would behave acceptably all the time. But most Shuls are not perfect. If we want to collectively improve, the first step is to deepen our respect for each others and practice accepting the unacceptable. It is only then can we turn harsh rebuke into warmly received advice and create the better world for which we yearn.