Yaakov escapes the wrath of his brother and makes his way to his uncle Lavan’s land. When he gets there he comes across a well where the shepherds are sitting and seemingly not performing whatever duties they had towards their flock. Rashi explains that Yaakov admonishes them saying that the day is still long. Why are you sitting around and not tending your flock? (Gen. 29,7)
This episode as described in the Torah invokes many questions. First, he was a stranger who had just arrived. How can he criticize the people there? Secondly, how come they accepted this stranger’s lecture of rebuke? The normal reaction would be that he was a stranger and where does he get the nerve to tell them how to act. Furthermore, when he came up to them the first word he uttered to them was ACHAI, ‘…my brothers…”.(Gen. 29,4) How can he call them brothers when he doesn’t even know them?
Perhaps the answer lies in the last question. He approached them in a friendly manner calling them brothers and asking them from where they come. His attitude was benevolent. He acted friendly and admonished them in an affectionate manner. This demonstrated to them that he had no antagonism towards them.
Much more can be accomplished if one approaches his relationship with others in a sociable and pleasant manner. There is a special technique in admonishing one, and for that matter, even in giving someone advice. It has to be evident that you mean well and are not criticizing but offering help. It has to be done in a gentle and caring approach.