Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rambam on the Events of Galatians 2: Question 14

In Galatians 2, Paul rebuked Peter "in front of everyone" because Peter was being racist:  he refused to sit with gentiles because of their race.

Was Paul violating halacha by rebuking a fellow Jew in public and embarrassing him?

Rambam, in Mishneh Torah Hilchot De'ot Chapter Six, says the following:

"Halacha 7

It is a mitzvah for a person who sees that his fellow Jew has sinned or is following an improper path [to attempt] to correct his behavior and to inform him that he is causing himself a loss by his evil deeds as [Leviticus 19:17] states: "You shall surely admonish your colleague."

Halacha 8

From this, [we learn that] it is forbidden for a person to embarrass a [fellow] Jew. How much more so [is it forbidden to embarrass him] in public. Even though a person who embarrasses a colleague is not [liable for] lashes on account of him, it is a great sin. Our Sages said: "A person who embarrasses a colleague in public does not have a share in the world to come."…

When does the above apply? In regard to matters between one man and another. However, in regard to spiritual matters, if [a transgressor] does not repent [after being admonished] in private, he may be put to shame in public and his sin may be publicized. He may be subjected to abuse, scorn, and curses until he repents, as was the practice of all the prophets of Israel."



Do you agree with Rambam's articulation of the principles of confrontation?  When is it a good idea to confront a brother publicly?  When is it a bad idea?


  1. "In Galatians 2, Paul rebuked Peter "in front of everyone" because Peter was being racist: he refused to sit with gentiles because of their race."

    Ah, the race bating...a fine American tradition. False and very dangerous anachronistic judgmentalism on your part, Peter. Jews accepted Gentiles as converts, no matter what race they belonged to. For you to know that and still say stuff like that, it's shameful.

    Apostle Peter's issue was succumbing to peer-pressure, not racism - he shared food with former (or may be even current) idolaters and uncircumcised, something that was taboo for Jews (nothing to do with a race - remember the converts in synagogues?). Because of that some Jews pressured Peter to compel these Gentiles to convert to Judaism, which Peter knew was not G-d's plan. So, he would rather withdraw than to look like a bad Jew.

  2. Gene,

    Re: "Apostle Peter's issue was succumbing to peer-pressure, not racism"

    It says in Galatians 2 that Peter "separate[d] himself from the Gentiles." This is racial segregation. How are you not getting this?

    Perhaps someone else can do a better job of explaining this to Gene.

    1. Well we already know that Peter held a prejudice, which God corrects him for in Acts 10. The issue being that he believed it was unlawful for a Jew to associate with a foreigner and believed they were unclean... Whether it was racism or simply ignorance, it was wrong.

    2. Zion,

      You reminded me of something: I should've said the laws had a racially discriminatory effect rather than a racially discriminatory intent.

      You make a great point in mentioning Acts 10. The heavenly voice in Acts 10 says not to call impure that which G-d has rendered inherently cleaned. This might have applied to Abraham as well. Remember that Abraham was a proselyte. He was purified even in his uncircumcised state. Yet if the first century laws which prohibited social intercourse between circumcised and uncircumcised had existed during Abraham's day then the effect of the law would've been to discriminate against Abraham because of his race. This highlights the unfairness of the law and how it worked to impede the natural process of Torah learning and social integration.

  3. And how did things change concerning the state of being clean when we were made clean by "my word which is in you"?

    1. Anonymous,

      I've been contemplating this question for the last several weeks. I'm not sure how to interpret this passage in Acts 10. On some levels, it's clear; other levels, not so clear.

      Were the gentiles always clean? Were they only impure when they defiled themselves through idols? Did the cleanness only occur after Yeshua's sacrifice so that the Ruach could wash them clean? I'm not sure. If you have any insights then I'd love to hear them.

  4. "If I do not wash your feet, you have no part in me" was a picture. The master stooping willingly as a servant to wash the feet of those who follow him.

    I'm contemplating also...... but they were declared clean by the indwelling teaching (they heard the Duet 18 prophet)and this was before he died and before the Ruach.

    Interesting for sure :)