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Partial Praise

There is a principle learned from Noach that one should not give complete praise directly to another individual. He should only give partial praise instead.

This is intended to keep a person from getting carried away with himself and becoming arrogant. The Torah emphasizes the importance of humility, or ענווה, as exemplified by the humblest of all men, Moshe Rabbeinu. The negative trait of arrogance, or גאווה, can be very destructive. It totally distances a person from Hashem. G-d says to this conceited individual that he must realize that he is not in control of anything.

The phrase in Hebrew is מקצת שבחו בפניו ולא כולו בפניו. Only part of one’s praise should be given, but not all of it.

The Torah describes Noach as צדיק תמים, translated by Artscroll, as righteous and perfect. Yet, when G-d actually speaks to Noach, He tells him that he is viewed as a צדיק, righteous person. The part of him being תמים, perfect in his generation, was left out, in order not to overly praise him.

This is a good lesson for all of us in our interpersonal relationships. It is certainly nice to compliment others. But we should not over do it. We can become flatterers and we may not be doing the recipient of the compliment a favor.

This is another example of practical teachings gleaned from the Torah.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for more than twenty years. He has been teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach, Old Katamon, Jerusalem, for the nearly seventeen years. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles.
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