Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye?
The seventeenth verse of Leviticus nineteen carries the commandment to rebuke our stray brother. In English it is written in this manner, "You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him (Leviticus 19:17), but I would dare say that much in this verse is lost in translation, so here is a literal Hebrew from it, ‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart but you shall exhort him properly and not bear sin because of him’. The Hebrew is difficult to translate because it carries two conjugated forms of the verb exhort, that is why I added the word ‘properly’.
From this verse Jewish sages have derived two commandments; 1-To exhort one’s brother; 2-To not shame one’s brother. Here is how it works. Sages have wondered about the twice conjugation of the verb exhort and have connected it to the last part of the instruction which warns us about carrying sin because of our brother. Here is the commentary of the Baal Shem Tov about it, ‘The double expression teaches us how one should approach the difficult commandment of criticizing others. First (the first expression) reprove yourself! You cannot properly reprove others if you are arrogant and think you are perfect. You must recognize your own shortcomings so that you will feel empathy for the sinner. When he recognizes that you feel for him he is more likely to accept your criticism. After you have examined yourself, then (the second expression) can you go and reprove your fellow’.
It is very easy to get carried away in self-righteous indignation about others. Sometimes debates turn into arguments and we forget that the person in front of us is not just an opinion but a person made in the image of God and worthy of dignity. In our efforts to vindicate ourselves in our own eyes or those of others we may win an argument at the cost of shaming our brother through insults or making him loose face. What have we won then? We may have won the dispute but as we lay sin upon him, we also lay it upon our own soul!
The interpretation of the Baal Shem Tov of this Levitical instruction falls completely in line with the words of the Master in our attitudes towards other’s weaknesses when He says , Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye (Matthew 7:3-5).
How different was the attitude of the Master, instead of shaming and laying sin upon us, he justified us and carried our shame upon Himself. A tall order, but the example we ought to follow!